Newsletters made easy with Mail Designer

Most businesses, big and small, send out regular newsletters via email nowadays. Services such as MailChimp make it unbelievably easy to legally collect and manage subscribers and, best of all for the majority of small businesses, it’s completely free.

MailChimp do provide basic templates you can work with and, design-wise, they certainly aren’t bad. You can add your own images, edit text and choose different fonts. MailChimp offers you everything you’d expect a newsletter service to provide and a few nice surprises too.

But if you’ve gone this route before, you’ll know just how cumbersome editing templates actually is. You have to click each layout box individually, requiring almost an entire page refresh each time you change a font or add a word. You have to laboriously go through each section (header, body, footer, etc) setting background and text colours. If I were an HTML email expert, I would be mocking them up in TextMate and importing my newsletters into MailChimp this way. Unfortunately, I’m not an HTML email expert.

Enter Mail Designer. equinux are email experts and have been making Mail stationery for over four years now. It should be said, I used to work for equinux, but never got to see this product finish and left several months before release. It’s taken me some time to start writing a regular newsletter for Applingua and only used Mail Designer for the first time properly a few days ago.

What is Mail Designer exactly?

Mail Designer (MD from now on) is a WYSIWYG graphical HTML email editor. Think iWeb for emails. It lets you drag and drop elements into a page-style layout and includes some professional looking graphics to make your newsletter look a bit more authentic.

Graphics, Layout Blocks & Textures


Perhaps the most compelling reason to use MailDesigner is its design flexibility. I started with a blank template, although it is possible to start with a series of pre-made templates or even by importing one of equinux’s other stationery templates. Within minutes I had dragged and dropped a series of layout blocks and started writing my newsletter.

Changing font, sizes and colours is just as familiar as in any major document editor like Pages or Word. You can change background colours and, what’s more, equinux have provided a huge array of textured backgrounds to give your newsletter a more natural feel.

My personal favourite feature has to be the built in graphics. I used the “New” badge in this newsletter and I can see myself using the -10% star in the future. These can be added to any image area on top or behind your own custom images.

MailChimp ready


For many however, the most attractive feature of MD is its built-in MailChimp support. The process is so slick. With built-in MailChimp placeholders you can personalise your emails using information you’ve collected when users signed up, such as their first or last name. When you are finished designing your email, you just Share to MailChimp and it uploads seamlessly.

As soon as the upload has finished, you are taken to the MailChimp template page to review the uploaded template.

At this point there were a few inconsistencies between my document in MD and what I saw on MailChimp. Namely, some fonts hadn’t made the journey correctly. It wasn’t major and I’d always recommend you check over your template before sending it anyway. I did contact support however and they let me know they are on to it.

Here’s what the newsletter looked like in MailChimp:

But of course the proof is in the pudding. Here’s what the email looked like in Mail (how I wanted):


In a nutshell

It took me only a few hours to create and upload my very first Applingua newsletter to MailChimp. Designing it took very little effort and adding images was just a simple matter of drag & drop. If you’ve ever properly worked with emails before, you know how much of a nightmare they can be. I expected poorer results from the MailChimp export, but, apart from the one or two incorrect fonts, I was more than pleasantly surprised.

I will definitely be using it for my second newsletter next month.

Update: Promocode Available

equinux have been kind enough to provide an exclusive promo code for my blog readers. Simply buy using this link for a massive €10 off the total price! Thanks Guys!

Oh, by the way, subscribe to Applingua’s Newsletter


I would love to hear your thoughts…
  1. Gareth says:

    Would be interested to know how the template appears in different mail clients. Did you do any testing of that?

    • Rob says:

      Hey Gareth, I ran the email from MailChimp through to Litmus App. I’m really impressed by results. IE / Firefox / Chrome / Safari on all the major web-based clients (Hotmail, Me, Yahoo and Gmail) were at least 95% perfect.

      All desktop clients apart from Outlook 2003 were great too, oddly even Outlook XP (2002). No idea what’s going on there Microsoft…