Mailshot

Reviewed by Les Ellingham

 

Issue 32

Mar/Apr 88

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Digita International

24.95

There have been surprisingly few programs for the ST to produce labels or mailing shots, in fact I can think of only one, LabelMaker (reviewed last issue) and that was written because there were no other programs available. Digita International have now, however, converted a popular Amstrad program over to the ST and Mailshot should be able to handle almost all your mailing requirements. It is also quite suitable as a mini database.


Mailshot does not use GEM but it does use the mouse and gives you full WYSIWYG with a unique system of scrolling labels up and down the screen. Each label is entered exactly as it would be if you were typing directly onto paper but of course with the added facilities of a computer database that allows sorting or searching of records and manipulating of labels. The program comes with a manual/tutorial but the tutorial could have been a lot better. The program is, however, quite easy to use after having glanced through the manual once or twice.


Let's assume that you have a list of names and addresses that you want to store for mailing. Just click on ADD (or use the keyboard) and type in the first label. Arrow keys can be used to move about anywhere within the label and the label is terminated by hitting RETURN on the last line. Hitting RETURN again will take you on to the next label and so you keep adding as many labels as you wish. Simple. The completed set of records can now be saved, sorted or  printed. Saving the labels is straightforward and several sets of the same labels, sorted in different ways, can easily be saved.


One of the major problems with many databases is the inflexibility of sorting and you often have to plan quite carefully when setting up database fields to ensure that you can sort as required . Mailshot has a unique system of markers which make sorts infinitely flexible. If, for example, you wish to sort on a surname, many databases force you to have a separate field for the surname or to type surname first followed by initials. With Mailshot you simply press a function key to place a marker before you type the surname and then perform a sort on this marker. Up to four markers can be used in any label so that several different sorts or levels of sort can be made. The markers can also be inserted on labels already entered so there is no problem if they are missed out as you type and, of course, you can go through a list and put the markers in another place thus allowing different types of sort. With this system it is quite possible to sort in almost any fashion you wish, a very powerful feature. Sorting is done in memory and is extremely fast.


 

Printing is also straightforward and flexible and you can set up labels in a number of ways. Margins can be altered and the user can choose the number of labels across as well how many of each label to print. A message can also be added to the label before it is printed. Normally the whole file is printed at one go and this is where one of the problems with the program arose. If your printer goes wrong or jams part way through a printout there does not seem to be an easy way to start printing again at a particular label. It is possible to get around this but it is not as simple as it should be.


There are several other features such as being able to add 'memo' lines to a label (which are not printed), there is automatic detection of duplicate labels and conventional searching on any line. The program caters for up to 3,000 labels per database and these can easily be broken down into 'subsets' so that different types of mailing can be performed from one set of records. This makes it possible to perform a mailing in an almost totally arbitrary fashion, which is seldom possible on conventional databases.


Mailshot is excellent value at 24.95 and will probably satisfy the labelling needs of almost every home user. An enhanced version of the program called Mailshot Plus is also available at 49.95 but the few extra features will probably not be needed by most home users. If you have a printer you almost need Mailshot and you will probably find untold uses for it. Because the program is called Mailshot you might think that it can only be used for long mailing lists but it can just as easily be used for labelling disks, schoolbooks, membership cards, photographs, bottles of wine, video tapes and much more. It could end up as one of the most used programs you buy!

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