Email Newsletter Software
Should I create my newsletter in a word processor or email program? Which email program should I use?
Those two questions came from a visitor to the Manager's Guide to Newsletters website. She planned to start an email newsletter that would go to parents of students at her school and wanted to know about the software she would need.
In response, we'll look at these two important questions for newsletter publishers.
Word processor or email program? This can be one of the simpler issues, at least if your mailing list is not too large at start-up. You can write your newsletter in any email program, or any word processor that allows you to save your work as plain text (ASCII). Most writers prefer to use a word processing program for at least the first draft, since it provides more text manipulation features and saving options.
Once you've written, rewritten, spellchecked, and proofread your newsletter in the word processor, copy and paste it into the body of your email program (we'll discuss how to handle that text in the next article in this series).
Of course, you'll need an email program of some kind to send out your newsletter, regardless of where you wrote it. Among email programs, check both those stand- alone programs and those integrated with browsers.
The most common program is Outlook Express, which comes bundled with Internet Explorer, and that in turn comes bundled with Windows. But, don't overlook the possibilities in the Netscape and Opera suites. In addition, there's also a new challenger, Mozilla Thunderbird, which is associated with the Firefox browser.
Turning to stand-alone email programs, take a look at Eudora (which offers an advertising-supported version and a version you can buy). It has a solid reputation among many email newsletter publishers, and I consider it the best all-purpose email client for my PC (however, I don't like it on my Mac, where I use the built-in program, Mail).
I've used all of these programs at one time or another, and each has advantages and disadvantages. In considering them, review the strengths and weaknesses of their address books as well as their message composition capabilities.
Once your mailing list grows beyond a certain point (depending on your personal inclinations), you'll need to move it out of the email program and into something more flexible.
In my case, once the list got to something like a hundred subscribers, I found the management of it frustrating. For example, adding and deleting email addresses from an email program takes more time and trouble than doing it in a word processing program or, on a more sophisticated level again, a database program.
In managing a list of several thousand, I use the Find feature to quickly pick out and delete someone who wants to unsubscribe. Similarly, it's easy to get the list back into alphabetical order at any time by using the sorting feature of a word processing program.
Another growth issue: As your subscriber list grows, you may want to move away from your email program and use an independent mailing service. In that case, you go to a provider company and upload your list one time. After that, you simply paste your newsletter into a form they provide, and click the Send button. Then, the service sends out your email using its servers.
But, to get started you need only an email program, and you have many free and worthwhile options. Try each one out for an issue or two of your newsletter, to find what suits you.
Robert F. Abbott, the author of A Manager's Guide to Newsletters: Communicating for Results, writes and publishes Abbott's Communication Letter. Read more articles about Internet communication, as well as email and printed newsletters at: communication-newsletter.com/ic.html
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