Our Will o’ The Wisp
Sending text from Ulysses to MarsEdit

Using Tinderbox for Mail Merge

I have a handful of different email messages that I need to send out on a fairly regular basis, but most often, I’m only sending them to one person. For this reason, a regular “mail merge” setup is overkill and too cumbersome — they all assume that you’re sending the message to a many people that exist in a list, not just one person, perhaps only once.

For a long time, I’ve kept a folder full of “canned” mail messages. When I need to send one, I open the template in BBedit, change the salutation and a few other details, then copy the message into a blank email. It’s a manual and unsatisfying process, but workable.

I’m a longtime fan and user of Tinderbox, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized it could be the solution to my canned email problem.

Each template message is its own Tinderbox note. The body of the note contains boilerplate text with value substitution calls that insert data from the note’s User Attributes. If you’re a Tinderbox user, the concocted example below should clarify everything for you. (If you’re not a Tinderbox user, there no doubt I’ve already lost you.)

Tinderbox Screen Shot of Note

When I need to send an email, I duplicate the template note, alter the field data, then export the note to plain text. Then I delete the duplicate, just to keep things tidy. The contents of the plain text export are copied to an email message. Done and done.

The last step, copying to email, is still a manual process. Perhaps someday I’ll work on a way to automate it, but for now this works for me.

You might wonder why I duplicate and then delete the note instead of using a fancier approach that utilizes more of the Tinderbox capabilities. Well, by making a one-off duplicate I can add or delete info from the template. (Adding a postscript that only applies to this one recipient, for example.) I delete the duplicate after I’ve exported it because I use Mail’s “sent messages” for reference if I need to, in the future. This limits Tinderbox’s role to helping me generate the messages, it’s not also serving as an archive of what I’ve sent.


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