Tweet This
Email How-To Tip

Q: How do I hide superfluous database fields to reduce clutter?

One of the many features of LISTSERV Maestro is the ability to use data stored in a repository in mail jobs. Such data can come from various sources and can have any number of attributes. When connecting directly to an external database, typical database tables often contain columns that are used for special purposes outside the scope of performing an email marketing campaign. This tech tip shows how to ignore superfluous fields to reduce clutter and improve performance.

Using an External Database for Recipient Selection

The following screenshot illustrates a situation that you may see in the recipient definition wizard of LISTSERV Maestro:

As you see in this sample result, the query that was run against the source database yielded some columns that are irrelevant for your mail job.

You already know that you now have to pick the column that contains the email addresses and that you optionally also should pick the name column.

What you may not know is that you should also explicitly set unnecessary columns to "Ignore":

Operational Benefits

Explicitly ignoring certain columns in the externally imported recipient data has the main operational benefit of speeding up the delivery of your mail job. In particular when using personal tracking, LISTSERV Maestro has to import your recipient data into the system database for reporting purposes. So any column that you didn't set to "Ignore" is actually needed in the system database and must therefore be imported during the delivery of your mail job.

In other words, setting unnecessary columns to "Ignore" in the recipient definition wizard will speed up your mail job delivery.

An additional benefit of setting columns to "Ignore" is that this removes clutter from screens in LISTSERV Maestro that you are working with during the workflow of your mail job.

Visual Benefits

This section lists a series of screenshots that show how the fields in the source data are used in screens of LISTSERV Maestro.

The first visual effect outside of the recipients wizard is the Merge Fields section of the content editor panel:

Since database tables with 50 or even more columns are not uncommon, picking the correct merge field from the list of merge fields is a lot harder when unnecessary fields are included.

During test delivery, the unnecessary columns are also listed with input fields:

As you see here, if an important input field for the test delivery is listed after the unnecessary ones, the field may be hidden initially and you have to scroll to the right in order to reach it, which makes performing the test delivery much harder.

But also post-delivery, in the recipient details report, the unnecessary columns are included:

Even with the alternating columns in the report (which allow you to associate a value down in the grid immediately with its associated heading label on the top), if the grid contains lots of cells, working with this report is unnecessary difficult.

Comparison: Unnecessary Columns Ignored

To see what the same screens look like with unnecessary columns properly ignored, we first create a copy of the mail job and review the recipient definition, now ignoring the unnecessary columns.

With all unnecessary fields set to "Ignore", this is what the Recipients Details screen looks like:

Note that instead of what you see in the similar screenshot above, the screen now shows the full list of columns that are actually used for the mail job in one glance without the need to scroll.

With this recipients definition stored, the content definition screen now looks like this:

Note that the "Merge Fields" section of the editor panel is now much shorter and lists all merge fields on first glance.

With the unnecessary fields set to "Ignored", the test delivery step now looks like this:

Again, you see that only the relevant fields are shown, which makes filling out the necessary values for the test delivery much easier because you can reach all input fields immediately without scrolling.

And, finally, the post-delivery recipient details report now also looks much more compact:


Setting unnecessary fields to "Ignored" in the recipient definition wizard is a powerful method to not only reduce the amount of data that passes through LISTSERV Maestro (which, in turn, can have a considerable impact on the delivery time of your mail jobs) but also to remove clutter from various screens that you work with in LISTSERV Maestro on a daily basis.

Making the correct decision, however, may involve that you contact the administrators of the database from which the data originally comes.

Using this ability may be even more necessary if you are importing data from text or spreadsheet files because in this case, you don't even have the option to modify the SQL query text that is issued against the database to retrieve the data. Instead of asking the person who created the file to create a version of the file with only the necessary fields, you can use the "set to ignore" option in the recipient definition wizard instead.

Subscribe to LISTSERV at Work.

© L-Soft 2019. All Rights Reserved.