The other day I was trying out Mailman, a free email manager written in Python. I've also been playing around with another well known email newsletter software known as PHPList.
UPDATE: This post reviews the old version of PHPList. What is pictured here is PHPList version 2 actually. The reason is I installed it is I used a quick installer which doesn't support the newest phpList version 3. It only had the older versions for some reason. The newest version of PHPlist look much cleaner and has a seemingly more well thought out user interface but I think version 2 was actually easier to use. If you are reading this I recommend you use the latest version of phpList so you have the proper security updates and the latest features.
PHPList pegs itself as “The most popular Open Source Newsletter Manager.” This does seem to be the case as they are not that many open source email newsletters programs out there besides Mailman and Dada Mail. At least these are the only 3 that I am aware of that are currently supported by developers and free to install and use on your own server. (Dada Mail requires you to purchase a license fee if you are over 3 lists with 1,000 emails.)
After playing around with PHPList I can see why it has a significant amount of downloads every month and why it's popular. It's not super easy-to-use but at least it has a layout that I think most people can figure out and understand. I had an email list up and running fairly quickly without having to look up too much. I'd say the learning curve is medium but the PHPList forums along with the documentation and a decent amount of video tutorials on the internet should help anybody trying to get started.
As you can see the backend of this email manager isn't going to win any design awards, but it is functional and I can at least understand how to use it. Mailman… not so much and Dada Mail is easy but there are confusing aspects about it as well. It didn't take me too long to send out a test email to see how PHPList works and what you could do. What's nice is that it has an advanced text editor so you can use different fonts, bold words, change colors, etc. and you can attach files. With Mailman you can't attach files which is kind of a big downside.
One big issue with PHPList is that the WordPress plugin that used to be supported for PHPList, WP PHP List, has not been updated for several years. You probably can use another WordPress newsletter plugin to integrate WordPress with PHPlist but I have not tried had time to mess with WP plugins yet to see. It seems like the Newsletter Sign-Up plugin will integrate according to this WP forum post.
What's surprising to me is that PHPList doesn't support an official Worpdress PHPList plugin. Wordpress is the most popular content management system (CMS) and blogging platform on the face of the earth. Matt Mullenweg said at the 2013 State of the Word that 18.9% of websites in the world now run on WordPress. In addition checkout these impressive WordPress stats back when I wrote about the WordPress 10th Anniversary. Bottom line if you want your software to be really successful, you should code a WP plugin for easy integration.
Also there does not seem to be a way to remove the footer image that links to the PHPList site at the bottom of emails. Honestly I don't have a problem with it as it is free and open source software, but I wish I could pay a license fee to remove it. This would be a good money maker for the developers in my opinion. The point of an email newsletter is to promote yourself or your own websites.
Overall I think PHPList is a great way to get an email list started if you are on a tight budget and want greater control over your email lists. You will have to be careful not to send out to many emails and check what your web hosts limits are for sending bulk emails. They will not want to get hit with spam complaints from you sending too many emails and risking getting a blacklisted IP address.
PHPList does have a nice service called PHPList Hosted, which gives you the option to send emails through their email servers. PHPList Hosted currently in beta but the pricing is quite attractive when compared to other email management providers.
For those that want to learn more about this open source email software you can order the book PHPList 2-Email Campaign Manager by David Young. I haven't bought the book but I am it considering it as it is recommend on the PHPList website and includes step-by-step instructions. From what I can tell it will have PHP coding, so you should be aware of that before you buy it.
I will probably post a in-depth review and some tutorials as I get more into using PHPList. Open source is all about sharing your knowledge! 🙂
For more information and to learn more about PHPList visit the official website: http://www.phplist.com/