About Mail.dat & Mail.XML

Mail.dat began in 1990 with the introduction of the Production Container Summary File and expanded to contain all the details of a mailing with the publication of the first specification in 1995.  Over the past 23 years mail preparers, software developers, and the U.S. Postal Service® have developed an entire mailstream ecosystem upon Mail.dat.  Mail preparation tools across the industry, including the USPS PostalOne! system, utilize the specification to create a playing field for all mail partners and speed mail make-up data to the U.S. Postal Service. In 2008, Mail.dat was adopted as an XML-based business transaction framework called Mail.XML. Mail.dat and Mail.XML have been developed by IDEAlliance, a non-profit industry association, providing an open forum for users to develop and maintain the specifications in cooperation with the U.S. Postal Service.

Mail.dat is the standard embraced by a significant portion of the mail production industry and the US Postal Service. Mail.dat is a relational database of nineteen "connected" files describing each characteristic that can exist within a mailing. As such, the standard has contributed to important gains in efficiency, economy, and strategy enhancement.

The key to Mail.dat's impact has been its ability to facilitate efficient and process-enhancing communications. By sharing comprehensive data readily, recipients and/or end-users can accept data, interpret the data for their own purposes and benefit from the resulting information; all with an ease and in a manner not thought possible until recently. The flexibility of Mail.dat permits users to share those files that are necessary for their purpose; thus, basic users will not be as inclined to use the "optional" files as those who will be accommodating more complex applications.

Mail.dat is designed for efficient support of those activities associated with or driven by the presort inherent within a mailing. Mail.dat consists of data elements representing any conceivable variable that might be present in any USPS or Canada Post mailing (and some other elements supporting mid- and down-stream processes). The US Postal Service accepts Mail.dat as an electronic representation of the mailing and as a replacement for the traditional hardcopy documentation.

Postal presort creates packages and containers. Those containers may be viewed collectively as single or multiple jobs. The comprehensive data set can then be used for planning and execution of manufacturing, transportation, and postage payment, to name but a few opportunities.

The History of Mail.dat

IDEAlliance's (then GCA) first effort, the Production Container Summary, detailed a mailing by container, content and rate to facilitate Third Class transportation pool planning for destination entry.

The concept was soon expanded to all classes as The Enhance Production Container Summary. During that period, the mailing industry further recognized a need for package level detail. The mailing industry had learned that the relatively simple environment of a few years ago, and it's specific solution, had been quickly outdated by rising expectations of what can and should be.

While developing Mail.dat, a single criterion defined the outcome: account for each possible preparation and presentation variable that could exist within a mailing.

Therefore, excluding addresses, Mail.dat summarizes all information for a given mailing. Any analysis of a mailing can be fully satisfied, except analysis unique to an address.

The specification has continuously evolved since the first Mail.dat format appeared in 1996. As with its predecessors. the current Mail.dat specification is defined by circumstances as perceived at this time, but built-in flexibility makes it possible to readily adapt to new requirements, as they are recognized.

The Mail.dat Committee is constantly attending to the viability, currency, and accuracy of the Mail.dat specification. Each user and potential user stands as a critical contributor to the quality, efficacy, and history of Mail.dat.

Mail.dat is a registered trademark of International Digital Enterprise Alliance, Inc.

© 2001-2011 IDEAlliance Incorporated