Burst Tool

The Burst tool is for Wheelock group coordinators who have many tens of contributors per assignment.  Burst simplifies the handling of email contributions by “bursting” a single email file into separate files, named by the initials of the contributors.  Its use is not necessary, and in fact Burst does not support all email reading software.

The rest of this page is organized as follows:

Downloading Burst

The Burst program is a Perl script, burst.pl, that may be downloaded in a zip file.

Supported email software

All email reading programs allow you to save individual messages to a file.  Some email programs let you save a group of messages in a single “batch” file.  The email programs that can create batch files and which Burst supports include:

Burst expands a single batch file into multiple files, writing the files into a directory to be read later by the collation script.  The names of the files are taken from their contributors' initials. If necessary, some rudimentary cleanup of a contribution may also be done. In that case, a file's name is preceded by a plus sign, for example, +ksl.txt.

Running Burst on Windows

First, make sure that you have installed Perl on your system.  You should have already done that as part of your collation software installation.

To run Burst on a Windows system, you may either double-click the file burst.pl, or run the script directly in a DOS Window with a command such as perl burst.pl.  In either case you will be prompted for an input file, and then an output folder.  The output folder should be a subfolder of your current folder.  Burst will create the folder if it doesn't already exist.  The script will then run, printing out a progress log.  For all mail readers except Forte Agent, this log will include a sorted list of “person” commands suitable for inclusion in the collation software's names.txt file.  This is a good way of setting up the personal names and initials in a names.txt file.

Running Burst on Mac OS X

There is no graphics interface to Burst. The following discussion assumes a minimal knowledge of the Unix shell, in particular the structure of directory names, e.g. /Users/kirk/Desktop, the use of the cd command to change directories, the use of pwd to print the name of your currently connected directory, the use of ls to list the files in a directory, and probably a lot of other things.

To run Burst on Mac OS X, you must run it from the shell provided by the Terminal application.  Let us assume that you log in as “kirk” and that you have created a directory /Users/kirk/Collation into which you have put the burst.pl script.  Furthermore, assume that /Users/kirk/Collation/Latin contains the files names.txt and header.txt and will (when we're done) contain the contributions to be collated.  Finally, assume that your batch mail file is in /Users/kirk/Collation/email.txt

After starting the Terminal application, issue the command cd /Users/kirk/Collation.  Then give the command perl burst.pl. You will be prompted for a input file.  Type email.txt.  You will be prompted for an output directory.  Type something like Latin/chapt1.  The Burst script will burst the email.txt batch file into individual files files in /Users/Kirk/Collation/Latin/chapt1.  The script prints a progress log while doing so, then finally ends printing out a sorted list of personal names and initials that can be used in a names.txt file.

If you're feeling adventurous, you can put the collate.pl script into /Users/Kirk/Collation.  When you give the command perl collate.pl Latin, the collation software will produce an output file in /Users/kirk/Collation/output.txt, printing any errors on the Terminal display.

Configuring Burst

At the top of burst.pl is a list of variables corresponding to email programs.  You must set one of these variables to 1 (the numeral one) and all the others to 0 (the numeral zero).  Use a plain text editor such as Notepad to make your changes.

Note that Netscape, Mozilla, and Thunderbird all use the $netscape format.

When burst.pl is launched on Windows by double-clicking, the progress log is lost when Burst finishes and the DOS window closes.  If you want the log you have two choices.  You can run Burst directly from the DOS window, in which case the window will not close.  In this case you can cut and paste the log.  Alternatively, you can set the $logfile variable in burst.pl to 1 (the numeral one) and a file called errors.txt will be written containing the progress log.

Creating batch files

Netscape, Mozilla, Thunderbird

Netscape, Mozilla, and Thunderbird store their mail files in different places on different systems.  Dig around in the appropriate directories and when you find the folder containing your messages, make a copy of it.  That's your batch file. Be very careful to make a copy of that file.  Dragging the original file out of your folder will confuse your mail reader.


Create the batch file by selecting all the messages and saving the selection as a text file (with a .txt extension).  Do not save Outlook messages as .msg files; neither Burst nor the collation script understand that format.

Outlook Express

You can't create batch files in Outlook Express, but thanks to Mike Kapinski, you can use Burst to massage those files into reasonable shape.  First save the contributions as individual .eml files in a directory, let's call it Chapter 1.  Then after launching burst.pl, you would enter the directory name that you put the eml files into, for example:

    Input File:  "Chapter 1/*.eml"

Important:  if the directory or file name has a space you must enclose the name in double quotes.  To reduce the chance of error, you should also tell it to pick up only .eml files with /*.eml.  If your directory and filenames do not have embedded spaces, the double quotes are not necessary.

Burst will then ask for an output directory, for example

    Output Directory: lesson
Forte Agent

The procedure for creating a batch file in Agent is to open the group's folder, Select All under the Edit menu, and Save Messages As under the File menu.


Sorry, I wrote the Eudora support without writing any documentation and I have completely forgotten the procedure for producing the batch file.  Bad software engineer.  No cookie.  But I did get it to work.  I think it is something like selecting all the messages in your mail folder containing the contributions.  Then select "Save As..." and give a file name.