Classic Computer Magazine Archive CREATIVE COMPUTING VOL. 9, NO. 6 / JUNE 1983 / PAGE 100

Listmaker, listmaker, make me a list. (evaluation) Gordon McComb.

Listmaker, Listmaker, Make Me A List

List management programs help you create and store--are you ready for this? --lists. More than that, they allow you to search through your lists to find specific information about the people, places, or things of which you are keeping track. And if the list program is a good one, it will allow you to do something such as create personalized form letters, print mailing labels, or develop an alphabetized phone directory, with all the information you have compiled.

The software publishing arm of Reader's Digest recently introduced an inexpensive program called Listmaker for the TRS-80 Models I and III, Apple II, and IBM Personal Computer that lets you do all of these things.

What sets ListMaker apart from most other list managers is that it can create "merge-printed' documents by automatically inserting a string of information into the proper places in a form letter. Merge printing is typically found only on expensive word processing programs or special "document handling' software.

How would you use ListMaker?

For a business, ListMaker can keep mailing lists of clients, employees, or subscribers; send personalized form letters to customers, vendors, sales prospects; print mailing labels; and develop customers, information files which can be sorted by zip code, type of business, alphabetically, by state, etc.

Schools and clubs can use ListMaker to maintain student lists and code them by bus route, grade reports, parent information, health information, etc.; send personalized letters; create inventory lists; and compile class, member, or group statistics for reports.

In the home, ListMaker can maintain a directory of frequently used services (repair, babysitting, etc.), develop a home property inventory, or compile a monthly bill register, complete with due dates and mailing labels.

In short, ListMaker can be used whenever a modest amount of data must be stored, sorted, and retrieved. Since you specify the way the information is to be presented, you can use it for just about any application, from simple list printing to completion of complicated forms.

Keep in mind, however, that businesses, schools, and clubs with over 500 names to track may find ListMaker a bit limited. ListMaker can handle large numbers of records, of course; its limitation is that it lacks the sophisticated multi-level sorting capabilities often required when working with long lists. A more highly structured database management program would be better suited for that job.


ListMaker comes on floppy disk only. For this discussion, we will examine the use of ListMaker with the TRS-80 computers.

The standard Radio Shack TRSDOS disk operating system is on the program disk when you receive it from Reader's Digest. You need only power up your system and slip the disk into the drive to start work. And since you buy the program for either the Model I or the Model III, there is no disk conversion required.

ListMaker is menu driven, and to a great extent, interactive. Upon loading the program, you are greeted by an option menu that allows you to perform ListMaker related functions, and some disk utility routines, including Format Data Disk and Disk Contents (otherwise known as a Directory).

After you have entered ListMaker, you can perform four basic


Entering Data

The first order of business in using ListMaker is to create the list itself. You must first set up a template with which to work; ListMaker will not accept data without it. To create the template, you simply enter the various fields or categories you wish to include in the list. A field is one specific item, such as a last name, a phone number, an area code, a bus route, or a business title.

When the template is finished, you can start to enter data. You enter data in records. A single record contains all the various fields for one individual. That is, a record will have the name, phone number, area code, address, business title, and so forth for one person. That way, when it comes time to add, delete, or change your list, you can do so on a per person/per record basis.

ListMaker makes entering information a snap: Since you have already created the data template, ListMaker asks for the information one piece at a time. Some systems lack this feature and require you to enter a stockpile of data without prompting. It isn't hard to drop an important bit of information this way.

After the data entry is complete, you can review your handiwork to make sure you have made no mistakes. ListMaker provides for a search and change feature to correct problems.


If your aim is to create a mailing list or a stack of mailing labels, you need only instruct ListMaker to print out your list. The program will print out only that information you tell it to: such as name, address, and zip code, omitting company affiliation and phone number.

If your aim is to create a merge printed document, you must write the form letter that you wish to send. ListMaker includes its own simple word processor, so you can create letters without additional software. Unfortunately, the program will not communicate with other software, such as Scripsit, so you must use the somewhat limited text editor to write your documents. There is no fancy underlining, boldfacing, justified printing, or line centering available.

Like most other merge-printing programs, when you create a form letter, you assign each variable within the letter a special number. That number corresponds to the fields found in your list. When the form letter and list files are combined, the program automatically inserts the contents of the fields into the marked sports in the form letter.


There are several ways you can create a sorted list, one that contains only records of a specific type (area code 212, for example). One way is to create a new list using the List Split Option. This is a roundabout way of doing it, but with practice, it works nicely. You get a permanently sorted list, which comes in handy if you need to print out the sorted version often.

The easier way is to answer no when the program asks "want to print the whole list' when you are setting up the printing options. On answering no, ListMaker displays its Search/Change menu and offers you the choice of a text string search, an exact match search, or a single character search.

You might use the exact match search to look for 212 in the area code field. You can search for such things as last names that start with M, clients that have a zip code with the 0 in the middle of the number (10017), or just about anything else. ListMaker searches on one key only; you can't (without creating sub-sorted files with the List Split Option) ask it to search for all sales people who have an area code of 212 and with whose last names start with M.

When printing labels and lists, you can format the way the data will appear on paper. For example, if you are printing mailing labels, the program assumes you are using standard 3-1/2 by 7/8 mailing labels and formats the printout to fit within these boundaries.

If you are just printing out a list, you can tell ListMaker to skip one or more spaces between items. When printing out form letters, you can specify: the maximum number of characters per line, the position of the left margin, the length of paper, the maximum number of lines per page, whether you want a heading printed on each page, and whether you want to print continuously (presumably on fanfold paper) or pause between pages.


It is obvious that ListMaker is a powerful program, especially when you consider that it costs less than $100. On the whole, the program operates without problem and is easy to learn. The documentation is much better than average, but it isn't quite as good as I had hoped. I felt that a product coming from Reader's Digest would be more complets.

The manual is written for the computer novice in a tutorial format, which is fine, but it offers no advanced information other than a sketchy flow chart. For example, use of the List Split Option as a sorter was not discussed in the manual; rather the feature is explained as a way to cut an overly large list down to size. A complete, if not totally separate, reference manual would be welcome.

On the positive side, the manual comes with a nearly complete glossary and a quick reference section. The quick reference section is laid out by menu and explains what each menu item does. The manual contains both a complete table of contents and an index.

One item I look for in any list management program is the ability to create a fully merged document file (a file in which completed form letters reside), in addition to the standard merged document printout capability. Alas, ListMaker does not offer this useful feature.

Finally, because the program is menu driven and interactive, it is extremely easy to use. Even when I tried to enter erroneous data, the computer did not crash, nor was I dumped out of the program. Error handling was excellent. When trouble occurs, the program displays an error message in plain English. A section in the back of the manual further explains the error messages.

Products: Reader's Digest ListMaker (editing equipment)