A messaging Swiss Army knife

Happy New Year! We hardly can believe we're saying that already. Seems like only yesterday we were marveling at the arrival of 2005.

We've heard from a couple of you who requested the brined turkey recipe, and it seems to have worked well for everyone who tried it. Reader Tim Harrington wrote to say, "I prevailed over my wife's reluctance to attempt a recipe from a geek source. We enjoyed the brined turkey, cooked on a Weber charcoal grill. We are now enthusiastic believers."

Anyway, this year we're determined to get organized, so future requests for the recipes most likely will be handled by a utility we've been experimenting with called Gammadyne Mailer from Gammadyne.

You could think of Gammadyne Mailer as a Swiss Army knife for e-mail. It can automate the processing of incoming messages, run mail lists and bulk-mail operations (including handling bounce-backs, sign-ups and opt-outs), and integrate with databases; it even can be driven from the command line.

Importantly, Gammadyne Mailer is specifically not intended, enabled, or simplified in any way for spamming. As Gammadyne notes: "Gammadyne Mailer . . . contains no features for hiding your identity."

Gammadyne Mailer supports variable substitution in outgoing messages, handles both text and HTML-formatted messages, and is multi-threaded and capable of load balancing across multiple SMTP servers. It even includes scripting through the product's proprietary G-Merge language, which can be used to create intelligent message templates.

This is a remarkable collection of services built in to a single interface. And therein lies the problem: Gammadyne Mailer is pretty complicated. It does so much that shoehorning everything into a single package makes for a daunting user interface, although one that isn't beyond the abilities of most serious IT people.

Gammadyne Mailer's user interface is also "skinable." Using the built-in editor you can change any element of the interface you please, which is totally unnecessary for a utility such as this. Unfortunately the default Windows scheme isn't available, and we couldn't find a skin configuration that we thought looked particularly good.

Aesthetics aside, this is a powerful piece of software. One of its strengths is its truly exhaustive help file. Help covers not only the functioning of the program but also the pros and cons of each choice where multiple options exist for a feature (such as whether to embed images in HTML-formatted mail or reference them on a Web site).

You start using Gammadyne Mailer by defining a "project" that specifies the various messaging operations you want to perform. The project is laid out as a tree of options with suboptions and sub-suboptions as branches. Selecting a branch displays the various parameters that can be configured. For example, selecting the Incoming branch allows you to specify how often the point-of-presence servers are to be polled, the limits on the number of messages to process and the maximum message size accepted, along with how operations are to be reported and logged. Under the Incoming branch are Source, Criteria, Processing, Explicit and Script sub-options, each with its own set of options.

Once you have configured all the functions a project requires, you save it, then either run it or have Gammadyne Mailer run as a command-line program and execute it.

Gammadyne Mailer also has the concept of "pseudo-projects," which, unlike regular project files, are plain ASCII files. These files define operations and parameters and can include G-Merge scripting. Pseudo-projects are another powerful feature, because they can be generated easily by other applications.

The Gammadyne Mailer's underlying messaging engine also is available as a COM interface; Gammadyne even provides a C++ example to show how to integrate the engine with your applications.

If you use Gammadyne Mailer, be sure to test your projects thoroughly because the sheer number of options and features easily leads to mistakes (we wound up forwarding ourselves a lot of mail that would have been no problem had we not started a project and then gone for lunch).

Gammadyne Mailer is fascinating and worth a serious look if you need e-mail automation. At $150, the software shouldn't break the bank.

Mail enhancements to gearhead@gibbs.com.

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