Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 49 / JUNE 1984 / PAGE 66



Elizabeth Deal

MailPro, by Pro-Line Software Ltd., is a general filing system for Commodore computers. Versions are available for PETs with 4.0 BASIC as well as the Commodore 64. The Commodore 64 version is reviewed here. I believe that other versions have comparable features.

MailPro works well with WordPro, Pro-Line's word processor, and may well be compatible with others, since it outputs normal sequential files.

MailPro on the Commodore 64 uses one 1541 drive and just about any kind of printer. It is up to you to describe the configuration.

A General Data Manager

MailPro is designed to handle mailing lists, but can just as easily handle any kind of information you need to store: catalogs of records or books, bibliographies, student records, or any kind of business files.

The manual is complete. It takes the user from the beginning of setting it all up, through all its variations, to the results. It is both tutorial and descriptive. The only thing I miss in the book is an index of all available keys and functions: A summary would be nice to have. But a list of contents is clearly shown up front, so finding information is not difficult.

The best illustrations are at the end of the book, where a complete example is thoroughly worked out. If anything is unclear in the manual, it becomes easily understood when you go through that example.

MailPro is a pleasure to use. The screen prompts are well done, and it is difficult to botch a job—the computer helps you while you're creating and retrieving files. Setting up the original file is easy; just specify what sort of information will be stored: alphabetic, numeric, yes-no type, sorted, not sorted, etc. The maximum length of each variable is specified next, and so on; you design the screen as you go along. The screen can scroll side-ways if any field is larger than 40 columns.

Simple Data Entry

Entering the information is simple, too. Cursor keys act as they normally do on the Commodore computers, with some elaborations. For example, you can jump from field to field easily by using the cursor keys. You can edit the information, and easily abort any function.

Mailpro permits manual entry. It also works with existing files, and allows the user to combine the two processes to manually fill in missing information during file entry. It's a well-thought-out, flexible system.

In addition, MailPro can process an existing WordPro sequential file. This worked very well in my PET-64 system. MailPro just gobbled up the whole WordPro file in no time, filling in the variables I defined. The computer did all the tedious work a million times faster than I could have.

Excellent Search Features

Retrieving information by a selected name, number, or category is easy and fast. Retrieval can be keyed to one or more variables at a time, and ranges can be set up. You may ask for information that falls within or outside a certain range of values (who hasn't paid my bills? who owes between $50 and $100?).

Changing information also is easy. You can add records at any time, of course, and change the information in existing records.

For straightforward data retrieval, use the screen. If you ask for JONES, all the records (one at a time) containing JONES are displayed. You can ask to go forward or backward in the file, of course.

Fancier retrieval involving complex search criteria can be performed on the printer (or disk). Here you define the output format. It can be a simple list, or it can be a fairly complex report with headings, paging, and extra text.

A Report Generator

The versatility of the system really shows up in the report generator. Instructions for producing reports take up about half of the entire manual.

MailPro writes relative files. The total record length can be 254 bytes; the total number of records on one 1541/4040 floppy is over four thousand. A batch of 127 records can be entered at one time, and the information is sorted during entry. It's a complex system of sorting, and an elegant one, with unlimited key fields. The manual warns that the original sort can take quite awhile, but I haven't run into any serious time delays yet.

Several files are set up, including descriptive files of each field, field sort information, and, of course, the data you enter. In addition, there are output descriptor files, which allow the user to define and redefine up to ten different output formats (printer or sequential disk files). The output format files are of the USR type, but they are created as normal files, so that the disk VALIDATE (COLLECT in BASIC 4.0) does not erase them.

File Conversion

The relative files can be read by MailPro, but the program can output sequential versions of those files. They can contain all of the original information (in sorted order on the variable of your choice) or any selected portions of it—perhaps only addresses of people who live in a certain zip code area. Those files can then be easily read from another program such as WordPro or a BASIC program of your own making.

MailPro's main options include looking at the disk directory of existing files, creating new files, editing field names, adding records, recalling them, entering new records (manual or merging), and printer or disk output.

The editor options include use of the cursor keys and function keys.

To create a new file, these options are available: specifying number of fields, their sizes (maximum 99 characters per field), and type (alphabetic, numeric, yes/no, sorted/unsorted, etc.).

File Management

To manage an existing file, you can display and print a record, change the information, delete a record, and add records, in a variety of ways.

To specify how a final report is to look, you can ask for a simple listing of everything on a file (such as mailing labels) or you can ask for output of records that match specific criteria. The formatting features include right and left justification, aligned decimal output, compressed output (no spaces), page headings, page numbering, overall margins, sequencing, and tabbing. Print formats can be stored for later use, and up to ten can be defined. They can be redefined at any time. The existing screen image can be dumped to a printer at any time.

Overall, MailPro is fairly easy to set up, use, and maintain. It permits easy report generation. It is flexible for use with any kind of data. The sequential files written by Mailpro can be read into WordPro or used as standalone files for other systems. The disk management is excellent, errors are trapped, and the files can be copied or duplicated by normal procedures. The whole system is solidly built. If you need a versatile data manager, this one is worth looking into.


Pro-Line Software Ltd.
755 The Queensway East, Unit 8
Mississauga, Ontario LAY 4C5