Lately I've been trying out some different free and open source email list management software. Most have some issues though which makes going with a paid email service seem like a better option. However I have found a nice free email list manager most people will like, Dada Mail.
For those that follow my blog (you should because it is awesome) might have seen I tried using Mailman and phpList. The issue with Mailman was that it was just too time consuming for me to figure out how to setup and configure it to send out an email newsletter. It's clearly not meant for ‘regular people' if you know what I meant.
Rather than spending all my time configuring an email list manger nobody wants to use, I decided to give phpList a try since it pegs itself as the “Most Popular Open Source Newsletter Manager.” What I didn't realize when I installed is that the version I installed was several generations old. HostGator doesn't support the latest phpList version with their script installer QuickInstall and Fantastico doesn't either. I had to use another hosting account I have that had Softaculous which had the latest version of phpList. (QuickInstall and Fantastico also don't support the latest version of Dada Mail by the way.) I can manually install scripts I just don't usually feel like it.
When I got latest version of phpList installed I honestly preferred the older version I had used. I felt it worked better even if it was not pretty. There were also some things that annoyed me about phpList in general, but I'll save that for another post.
I decided that I would give Dada Mail a go since it seemed easier to use than Mailman or phpList. Besides from what I can tell nowadays you either go with phpList or Dada Mail if you want run an email newsletter from your own hosting account.
Dada Mail Pros
Dada Mail comes with a lot of great features which includes closed loop-opt-in, message archiving, sharing via RSS feeds, individual subscribers can edit their profiles, email analytics, and a lot of other cool stuff. Some features I like about is that you can invite subscribers from the dashboard and it is easy setup batch emails so your host doesn't get upset and ban your account for sending to many emails per hour.
What's great about Dada Mail is that the setup and install are relatively easy. It should not be too hard for people to configure email lists with Dada Mail. In addition the layout and interface is quite easy-to-use and understand. You should be ok figuring things out on your own after spending a bit of time in the Dada Mail dashboard.
Even if you are having trouble and need help with something Justin, the developer, is pretty good about answering support questions and helping people via the Dada Mail support forum. You will probably find most questions you would have there in the forums. Justin also has a service where you can pay him to install and configure Dada Mail on your server for you. Surprised more developers don't offer this service actually, as it's a great idea.
There are some, but not a lot, of Dada Mail tutorial videos on YouTube under the username “leaddadaist” which is the official channel. Unfortunately the videos are hot in HD and the resolution only goes up to 360p which can make it a bit difficult to watch.
Compared to phpList and Mailman I think Dada Mail is definitely an easier-to-use web based email manager.
Dada Mail Cons
Dada Mail is free and open source but the free version only allows for 3 email lists and up to 1,000 subscribers. After that you can either pay for a yearly Pro Dada Mail subscription which costs $34.95 or a Lifetime subscription for $74.95. Then your email list Quota is unlimited. Paying for a Pro Dada Mail license also allows you to remove links back to Dada Mail sites in emails generated by the program to my understanding. There are a few other benefits as well.
For those that like using WordPress, the CMS this site uses, there is no WordPress plugin. I emailed Justin and he said at this time there is not a plan to develop a WP plugin for Dada Mail. WordPress runs 18.9% of the web and 176,000 people download WordPress files everyday (this statistic only includes manual file downloads and not automatic script installs.) It would be a great for there to be a plugin to easily integrate Dada Mail with WordPress in my opinion. Maybe Justin can run a Kickstarter or IndieGoGo to raise funds for a Dada Mail WP plugin as I imagine he's gotten other requests for it.
One thing that concerns me about Dada Mail is that it is written in Perl. I honestly don't know anyone developing in Perl nowadays. Not saying it's a bad programming language but if you are having issues and need a someone to help solve a Dada Mail issue, they might have a hard time if they are completely unfamiliar with Perl. This is just my assumption though and not my experience.
Final Thoughts about Dada Mail
Even though Dada Mail has some shortcomings there are not that many other free email managers out there. Even if you have to spend the $74.95 for a Pro Data Mail license I imagine it would be worth it. (I haven't bought one but I am considering it.)
Between Mailman, phpList, and Dada Mail I strongly lean towards using Dada Mail. Some might argue that you should put in the money for a pro email service such as Aweber, MailChimp, GetResponse, YMLP, etc. Those can get pricey quickly and I know a lot of bloggers and non-profits on tight budgets and I believe Dada Mail would work fine for their needs.
Keep in in mind that it is hard to truly know how good an email list service is until you have actually built up an email list and sent a fair amount of newsletters via the program. That's why this isn't necessarily a review so much as a post about my initial thoughts about Dada Mail. There are a few other email manager clients I haven't tried like OpenEMM and Pommo but I am not sure how much time I want to invest in searching for an email list tool. I will keep people updated and post a more detailed review and even tutorials as I get more into setting up and sending emails through it.
Are you a Dada Mail user? Do you like the software and it's features? What do you think could be improved? Would you like to see a WP plugin for it too? If you used to use Dada Mail what are you using now and why? What did you switch to? I'd be happy to hear compliments and complaints and anything else people recommend.