Revnet's GroupMaster software eases e-mail list management

E-mail is putting an end to envelopes
and phone tag, but it tends to fall apart when you need to get a message to more than a
half-dozen people regularly. Enter Revnet's GroupMaster 1.4 mailing list software.

You might consider mailing list software the oldest push technology. It has been around
for years in the form of public-domain programs such as Majordomo and ListServ.

GroupMaster changes the rules with its World Wide Web front end and list manager's
manual. Even someone who doesn't know a mailing list from Schindler's List can set up the
basics in less than a day.

The setup, though, is a little too simple. It spends almost no time explaining how to
set up the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, and because GroupMaster gives you the option of
using its own SMTP mechanism or piggybacking on a mail server's SMTP, most installers will
need an explanation.

You won't find one in the packages's documentation or at Revnet's Web site. On
GroupMaster's home page, the only technical support that appears is a phone number. Let's
hope Revnet will post basic installation information and a frequently asked questions

If you know what you're doing on networks, though, installing GroupMaster won't take
more than a few minutes.

The program makes list setup a cinch. In other group mail programs, signing on or off a
list takes work.

With a properly organized GroupMaster list, you go to your list's Web page and click.
You're done.

GroupMaster lets you customize messages to users. You can automatically send a message
to new users with the latest list information. You can configure the program to send
messages and to set up and administer its own archives. During the list start-up
procedure, you can make up sets of messages for users who don't want a constant stream of
list mail.

As with the standardized messages, the conditions under which an archive is sent out
are under your control.

Behind the scenes, the program is a delight to administer. GroupMaster automatically
reports membership requests and bad addresses. It produces dandy reports on membership
statistics and traffic. Other programs do this, too, but GroupMaster doesn't demand that
you be a mailing list guru.

System requirements are modest. GroupMaster will run as an application under Microsoft
Windows 95 or Windows NT, but for reliability, you should run it as a service under NT 4.0
Service Pack 3 or higher.

The program worked extraordinarily well on Win95 and as a service under NT 4.0. There
were some small bugs on the Win95 shakedown cruise, most of them easy to fix.

The only persistent problem was that, running with AltaVista Mail Server 97, the
combination of servers refused to date and time-stamp messages. Revnet is working on this
and probably will have fixed it by press time.

I've found Revnet responsive to problems. A 30-day working copy of GroupMaster is on
the company's Web site.

If you and your colleagues don't work in the same office, this mail software will free
you from the burden of trying to have everyone available at the same time. It can help
dozens or thousands of people communicate without having to maintain address lists

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is a computer journalist in Lanham, Md.

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