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Using Pegasus Mail to Manage Lists and Email

"Free Discussion Lists From Your Own PC"

by
Paul Myers 
Contact: arkham@buffnet.net
Site: just-business.com

From time to time people ask me about where to go for a good service to host an email discussion list. There are a lot of them out there, many very reasonably priced. There are a lot of reasons though that you might want to consider doing it yourself.

Overview of Pegasus Email  Client

The first is simply that it's cheaper. This article will show you how to run one absolutely free. Note that this will have some useful ideas for anyone who uses email, especially if you're in business. Even if you don't want to start a list.

The others? Cryptic commands for some programs are a lot of hassle for newcomers to the net. And quite a few old hands. If you don't want to mess with them, you need to pay someone else to do it. That's more expense. Then there's the person who just wants a private list. Or a very small list. Or a straight, one way announcement list, such as a newsletter or web site update list. Or a customer list. Etc....

Or you want to have complete control over what gets posted. With some list programs, it's possible for people to get around the moderator scheme and get their ads onto your list. And that can be a serious problem. Maybe you have seen people who would sign up for a list, get kicked off for abuse, sign up with another email address and start all over. It CAN be avoided.

The last are not common, by any means, but they are a concern for a lot of new would-be listowners, and they are legitimate concerns.

Maybe you just want to be able to back up your list files on a regular basis and don't want to have to mess with ftp or telnet.

(This article is about lists, but it also explains how to use Pegasus to create autoresponders, set up "kill files", filter mail, and just generally keep your email organized.)

So, what's the answer? A simple program that many of you have on your computers right now. Pegasus. (And about 10 minutes time.)

[Note: This is a lot easier to do than to read about. Don't be afraid to try it. It's VERY simple in practice.]

Pegasus is one of the most powerful and easy to use emailers I have seen yet. And it is free. No nag screens and no disabled functions.  It's not even shareware, although it's worth paying for. If you really like it, you can buy a printed manual from the author. (He says it's not necessary, unless you feel you *need* the manual. The online help files are really very good.)

You can download it from pegasus.usa.com.

We'll assume you know why you want the list. We'll use the idea of a discussion list for this example, but anything other type of list will use at least some of the same principles.

The first thing you need to do is to decide on the name. That part is up to you, but give it some serious thought. The name can be a big thing in how people react to your promotional efforts. The names "the junkmail list" and "SpamKillers" could be the same thing, but draw very different (and different sized) crowds. Think of the name as the headline for your list.

Next you need to get a separate email address for your list. If you can use Pegasus at all, this won't be a problem. If you only have access through Juno, this won't work.

For those who have their own domains and can set up aliases, that's the way to go. If you don't, check out http://www.iname.com They are an email forwarding service with over a hundred domains. Only ten of them are still "Free for Life", but you only need one name for the list. You pick a domain and a user name (the part before the @) and tell them where to forward the emails sent to that name. Voila. You're ready to go.

There are lots of email forwarding services. Best to pick one that doesn't add advertising to your emails, if possible. You may want to save the advertising for your own business.

So you're all ready. Now, how do you set this up?

First, open Pegasus and hit F6. This will open the distribution list screen. Click on New List. A small screen will pop up, with two spaces for entries. One will say "Enter Long Name For List". Here's where you put the list name you'll be using. The second will say "Filename (optional)". Don't ignore that box. Enter a name for the list, up to 8 letters. If you don't, it will decide on a name for you, and it's easier to find and adjust or back up the file if you have a descriptive name for it. Let's assume you use the word "demolist" in that area for right now. Enter that, and click on Save.

Back to the distribution list screen. Highlight the list name, and click Edit. You'll see (in our example) the word "@demolist.pml" in the To: field. Clear that, or when you send anything to the list it will show all the names on your list to everyone who gets the email. This is considered a Bad Thing.

Instead, you can put Demo List Subscribers <you@youraddress.com> in the To: field.  Never put the list address in this field. Or on the list itself. You'll send copy after copy of the same post to your subscribers. Also Not Good.

Next is a field labeled Reply To. Put the list address here. Most people will then automatically respond to the list. Those whose programs aren't set that way can still easily redirect their replies, instead of typing the address in again.

There will be radio buttons to the right of these fields. The only one you might want to set as "On" is the signature button. If you do, click on the (-) next to the word "signature". This will bring up a field asking which signature to include. This should be different than your regular signature, if you also use Pegasus for your email. If you want to put a banner at the bottom of posts to the list mentioning your business or for sponsor ads, this signature is where it would be stored. Now click Save.

That's done. Your list exists. (Doesn't have anyone subscribed yet, but that's later.)

Now, let's assume you want the posts automatically forwarded to the list members. Go to the menu selection:
Tools |
Mail Filtering Rules |
Edit New Mail Filtering Rules |
Rules Applied When Folder Is Opened

Remember this menu option. It's going to be Really Useful. This determines what Pegasus will do with email automatically upon downloading it.

This will bring up the "Rule For New Mail" screen. Click on "Add Rule".
In the top section of the window that opens, click on the radio button next to the field To: In the space marked "Trigger text", type in the email address for the list.

At the bottom of the screen will be a drop-down list next to "Action to Take".
Select Forward. This will bring up a small requester, with an open field. Enter the filename of the list in this space. In our example, it's @demolist.pml To double check on this if you forget, you can hit F6 to open the distribution list screen. The word to the right of the list name, which ends with .pml (Pegasus Mail List) is the name you enter into this requester, after an "@".

Once you've entered that, hit return and click on Save.

Any emails coming into your mail box addressed to the list address will now be forwarded to everyone on the list. Congratulations. You are now the proud parent of a mailing list!

Now, you don't want the emails just sitting there. Believe it, you don't. You definitely don't want to just delete them either. So, we'll create a special archive just for them, and automatically move the messages into it after they are forwarded to the list subscribers.

Why don't you want to delete them? If someone subscribes and then forgets, or just doesn't like what is said on the list or in the newsletter, they might just accuse you of spamming them. Yes, this does happen. The worst case I've seen was one fellow who subscribed to one of my newsletters and got the Welcome File. He accused me of spamming him. Right then and there. Took less than 10 minutes.

I had the email he sent. He got nowhere. This can save you a lot of grief with your ISP if you do run into a nutcase. The ISPs know better than anyone just how many of these people exist. Show them you're doing things the right way, and they'll be on your side.

Select the menu item "File | Mail Folders". This will open the folders screen. Click "New". In the "Long Name for Folder or Tray" requester, enter the name of the list. Click on the radio button marked "Filing Tray", and click Okay.

Highlight the Tray in the folder list screen, and click new. Enter the word Messages in both fields. Choose the Message Folder radio button.  Click Okay. This has created a folder in the List tray. Later you can add folders in that tray for archives of old messages, subscription and unsubscribe messages, etc.

(This is a major feature of Pegasus that I really like. You can nest trays within trays, to create a logical and uncluttered filing system for email and message storage.)

Open the new filter rule section again. That's the part I mentioned above as being Really Useful. Click "Add Rule". In the top section,select the radio button for To: In the trigger text field, enter the list address.
Go to the drop down list and select Move. This will bring up the folder screen. Double click on the List Tray icon, and when it opens, double click on the Messages folder. That screen will close, and you'll see the filter rules screen again. Here's where you have to watch things. Notice that the Move rule is above the Forward rule.
This is no good, as it would just store the messages, rather than sending them to the list.
Click once on the Move rule to highlight it.  At the bottom of the screen are two arrows, one red and one blue, pointing up and down.
Click on the down arrow, and it will move the Move rule down one space in the list. Now click Save.

To respond to messages yourself, all you need to do is open the List/Messages folder and respond as normal. Then clear the To: field and type in the list file name (in this case, @demolist.pml) Or add an entry to the addressbook, with an alias.
Open the addressbook, and in the alias field type "demo", or whatever you want to use to tell the program to send to the list. In the email address area toward the bottom of the entry screen, type the list file name (ie: @demolist.pml)

If you want to save copies of your own posts, make sure you check the "copies to self" option in the settings. This is reached via the menu selection File | Network Configuration. When the screen comes up, click on Message Editor Settings, and select the radio button marked "copies to self". Then just move the posts you sent to the List/Messages folder.

Another option is to simply send your own posts to the list address and run them through the system like any other. Using the alias is much faster, but saves needing to worry about saving copies. This will only be even a very small concern if you use another program as your main emailer.

There's your list, all ready to run, and pretty much automatic. Just download your email like normal, and it handles the rest.

What? Automatic subscription and unsubscription? You want a lot of options for free, huh?

Oh. Okay. Here's how you do that....

Set up another address for subscriptions. I recommend that you use Bigfoot for this. Why? You can also get one free autoresponder from them, which you could use to deliver your "welcome file". This is the file that is sent automatically to anyone who subscribes. See bigfoot.com for information on how to do this.

(You can send the "welcome file" automatically from within Pegasus also. See the mention of autoresponders at the end of the article for an explanation of how to do this.)

Create a folder called Subscriptions in the List tray which contains the Messages folder.

Now, go back to the Really Useful Menu Selection (the new mail filtering rule section) and when it opens the screen for new rules, click "Add Rule".
Select the To: field, and in the "Trigger text" field type in the Bigfoot address you just created. Or the alias that you created, if you have your own domain and can do that. Go to the drop down menu and select Move as the "Action to be taken".
When the folder screen pops up, open the List tray, and double click on the folder you just created, called Subscriptions.

This will return you to the filter rules screen. Click "Add Rule" again. Select the To: field again, and enter the same address in the"Trigger text" field.
(The one you created for subscriptions.) Go to the drop down list, and under "Action to be taken" select "Add user to list".
This will bring up the distribution list screen. Double click on the list, (Demo List in our example) and when it returns you to the filter rule screen, click Save.

Voila! Anyone sending email to that address will automatically be added to your list.

(Note that we did this in a way that keeps you from needing to move rules around in the list this time.)

While you could also filter on subject lines, using subscribe or unsubscribe, I recommend against it. Too many people don't follow instructions well at all. I suggest that you handle unsubscribe requests manually. You'll save yourself a LOT of headaches later....  Also, it will look sloppy if you have three domains listed for just one list!

The exception to this is if you can set up aliases in your own domain.  Then you can have addresses like subscribe@your.com and unsubscribe@your.com  This is much clearer.<G>

Want to run a newsletter? Set up the list and one address for subscriptions. Put your own address in the Reply-To field, and forget the forwarding part. When you're ready to email your newsletter, just open a new message screen, type in the alias you assigned to the list,
or the list file name, in the To: field.
Then use the menu selection "Message | Import into message" and load your prepared text in from disk. Click send, and away it goes.

Or just hit F6 and double click on the list name in the screen that pops up. Import your text, and send.

Want a moderated list? Skip the first rule for forwarding messages.Have them moved into the Messages folder, and when you have looked them over, click forward for the ones you want to approve, and enter the list alias or list file name (@demolist.pml in this case) into the To: field.
This has the advantage of allowing you to clean up submissions if you select the "Edit the Message Before Forwarding" radio button that appears on the requester that pops up when you hit Forward.

Note that this setting is "sticky". That means that if you select it once, it will stay selected until you turn it off.

Why would you want to clean up someone else's message? Trimming excess quoting, removing those nasty parts where someone left an entire post quoted after they put in one line of commentary, cutting excessively long signature files, etc.

Want a digest? Instead of forwarding the messages, use Append as the "Action to be taken" in the filtering rule screen.
This will prompt you for a file name. Call it current.txt. Leave the Move rule in place, as you'll want to keep the individual posts.

When you have enough good posts to be worth sending a digest, edit the file current.txt in a text editor, add an appropriate header and footer, (and sponsor message if applicable) and use the sending method mentioned for newsletters.

If you prefer to send digests in MIME digest format, you can do that also. When you have selected the messages you want to include in the digest, highlight them all, and hit Forward.
You'll be presented with a screen that asks how you want them forwarded. Select "Forward As A Single MIME Digest".
Then, fill in the appropriate info in the next screen. Essentially it asks for the Subject and the To: address. Remember to use the list file name. (@demolist.pml)

Unless you are using this as a way to automate brainstorming or discussion among people you know, you should stick with a moderated format. If you try it unmoderated for a while, you'll see why. If you go with an automatic system, at the very least check the Messages folder whenever there are new messages in it.
(The folder will be highlighted in green if it contains unread messages.)

So, how much does this slow things down? A few weeks ago, when the list this newsletter is usually delivered on was down, I used Pegasus and the list system to send the note telling you that you could get the latest issue from an autoresponder. It took all of three minutes to send 1500 people the message.

This was under absolutely perfect conditions. In reality, when you hit 500-1000 members, you'll want to go to a listserv. Still, this is not only a great way to handle new lists, it's a very useful backup for emergencies. Like when your list service is down.

You can probably set something up like this in Eudora or other emailers, but I doubt they'd be as easy. Eudora chokes on large lists if there's just one bad email address in it. It doesn't create major problems, but it will stop sending, and tell you where the address problem is. This can slow things down, but also lets you correct the list as you go. A matter of choosing which way you prefer to work.

There are a lot of other ways you can use the features mentioned here.  One of them is in creating your own autoresponders. Use the Really Useful menu option and set it for a Subject line, which you tell people to include when they email you. The "Action to be taken" is "Send Text File".
Then, of course, you move the email to a folder for those requests. Or, if it's a request for product info, add them to a list for updates.

Note: Use the mailto: format to make sure people get the subject right. That is the form used when you see mailto:you@your.com?subject=whatever.

**Editors Note:  Watch this as it doesn't work in all browsers and results in undelivered mail without anyone realizing it.  I believe some mail clients don't support it either.  If you wish to do it use a cgi form.**

What this does, in MOST email programs that have clickable links, is to create a new email, and insert the whatever part in the subject area. All the person needs to do then is click Send. Don't leave spaces in the part after the '='.  All you'll get is the part before the space. If you MUST use a space in the subject line, insert %20 in the mailto: code. Example:
mailto:tips@just-business.com?subject=Subscribe%20JB%20Tips

The subject would read "Subscribe JB Tips" Please be aware that not all emailers will handle this properly. Unless there is a very strong reason for requiring the spaces, avoid them.

Let's say you have encountered someone who is just really annoying. (I know, people like that don't exist online ... Humor me.)   Use the Really Useful Menu Item, and for the Trigger Text, enter their email address. Check the From: option in the menu headers) For the action to be taken, select Delete. Voila! No more annoyance!

This can also be used for spam filtering, if you want to start getting into domain names, etc. I recommend that you learn to use wildcards and practice sequencing your rules before trying this. Otherwise, you're liable to delete email from Aunt Tillie by mistake!

I hope this information will be handy for you in your online efforts.  If you find it useful, let me know. And if you have any other ideas, pass them along, and I'll include them in future versions of this article.

I would also be interested in additional ideas for ways that people can get extra mileage from their email programs. Any ideas, comments, or suggestions are welcome.

Happy Listing!

Paul
mailto:arkham@buffnet.net

This article first appeared in VirtualBusiness.News. To subscribe to VBNews, VBNews@just-business.com

**Editors Note**
Use the information in this tutorial!!  It is truly amazing!  Within ten minutes of finishing the article I was able to finally use the filters properly and manage the 700 emails I receive daily separating what needs immediate action from what can be left for later.  Thanks Paul!!!!

 

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