The election is over and I've finally gotten back on my feet.

by Mark Panger6. November 2014 14:56


(Nonprofits, you can ignore this one) 94% Win Rate!

by Mark Panger6. November 2014 09:41

The results are in.  For our customers running in the general election this year, 94% of you won!


Does this ever happen to you?

by Mark Panger27. October 2014 11:47

I was working in the kitchen when I knocked over a small bottle of hand soap into the sink which then bumped a precariously balanced large mixing bowl full of water which then tipped away from the sink and onto floor which then got my socks wet which caused me to slip, but I managed to catch myself before hitting the floor, but in so doing I knocked a pan off the stove (not hot) that landed on my foot (ouch) and in my attempt to reach for my foot, I didn't notice the open drawer that my head then bounced off of and when I put my hand to head I forgot I had been working with hot pepper sauce (which is why I was reaching for the soap dispenser) which was then transferred to my eye.

It felt a bit Rube Goldberg’ish (rubenesque?)

Well that’s what happened with the mail merge template system.  While making improvements to one area of the program, it negatively affected other parts of the program.  

So if you opened a template and your letters lost all their margins...

...then today's version fixes that.


Our Limited Release Email Editor Has Had Some Updates

by Mark Panger27. September 2014 07:38

Email Campaigns and Templates are now saved allowing previous versions to be viewed or restored.  This means you can return to an earlier iteration if you manage to totally mess up your design.

Template SaveAs function will now NOT allow an overwrite of an existing template.  An existing template must now first be deleted.


The 'subject' line has been removed from the SaveAs template dialog.  The value saved for subject will now always be the subject of the originating campaign, template, or email message.


The new email editor now provides an auto-save option for generating the text version.  When this flag is set on, the text version is always generated during a save operation.  The auto-save option is on by default for new campaigns, templates, and messages.


We fixed an error that occurred when a displayed hyperlink exceeded 255 characters.





Got International Addresses?

by Mark Panger26. September 2014 10:43

You can now display more than just the nation code:


Use the Format button to add this column:



An update to the Email Editor is in Limited Release

by Mark Panger2. September 2014 13:25

We have replaced the existing email editor with a new editor that better handles tables and corrects a few of the issues with the prior editor.

It's currently in limited release and you can get an update ahead of the general release by emailing and requesting it.


Current version (or legacy if you have already been upgraded): 


 New version:

Some of the enhancements include:

  • Publish your email on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus and/or Twitter

  • A preview button
  • A working Undo button (YEAH!!)
  • Search and Replace and Spell Check
  • Better formatted and thus more easily read source code


What's New Today

by Mark Panger15. August 2014 12:11

Contributions - Added virtual field to contribution table to compute the non-monetary rate by dividing the Amount/nonmonetaryItemQty.  This new column is available in Format and is named NonMonetaryRate.

Enhancements to pre-import check.

FEC corrections - The deposit process was setting the FEC type id incorrectly in the contribution records.

Committee or Organization card - Combined the tabs for Notes, Options, and Filter into a single Settings tab.

Contribution Query Panel - Election/Cycle combination box replaced with Checkbox.  This allows for multiple cycle selections.


Payee card - fixed inability to create new invoice immediately after creating (and saving) a new Payee.

Candidate can now be specified.

You can now link directly from the Payments list to the Payment card.

The invoice number column within the Payments list is now linkable.

Numerous other changes...


Deposits - the deposit process was setting the FEC type id incorrectly in the contribution records.  Fixed.

Fixed issue with financial disbursements by time report - payee names were not aligned with the date and amount. 


FEC reporting deadline 7/15/14

by Mark Panger11. July 2014 13:53

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) would like to remind you that the 2014 July Quarterly Report is due on July 15, 2014 (for quarterly filers) and the 2014 July Monthly Report is due on July 20, 2014 (for monthly filers). 


Comments on Deposits

by Mark Panger10. July 2014 14:08

Yesterday a customer requested a comment field be added to deposits.  Her wish was our command (sometimes they are really easy):



Time Traveling?

by Mark Panger10. July 2014 13:58

If recently you have been unable to set the exact time for your email to be released, that is now corrected with today's release.  The ghost of H.G. Wells somehow entered our systems and removed that feature temporarily.  All better now.



Doing the Same Thing Over and Over?

by Mark Panger19. June 2014 09:48

I occasionally get a call from a customer where they tell me they are painstakingly opening each record to make a specific change.

In almost every case there are two possibilities for making this easier.  One, we may already have a tool in TB to help.  Two, we here on the support team have a few tools that are not in the application that we are able to execute.

Example.  Yesterday a customer called and wanted all the county names updated on his address records.  There were some inconsistencies.  This change can be done by you:  There are several columns in the database upon which you can change en masse.

Also, yesterday a customer had imported a large set of contributions with a date of 1/1/1900.  Obviously incorrect.  They were supposed to be 4/5/2014.  We do not have a utility to bulk update the dates on contributions.  I mentioned to her that I could fix that in just a minute or so.  Upon her approval I did.  

The lesson here is if you find yourself spending a lot of time making the same update to a large set of records, let us know.  We likely have a really fast, 

, less labor intensive, way of completing the task.


BTW, the June 9th Post is Related to the June 5th Post

by Mark Panger10. June 2014 08:11

For those who have requested the household report mentioned on June 5th, if you decide you need to re-household some of your records, the June 9th post has some of the info needed.

Of course, for some of you this will be a bit mind numbing.  We are here to help.  Our support information is at the top of this page.



Advanced Technique for Querying with Multiple Voter/Donor ID's

by Mark Panger9. June 2014 16:20

I frequently need to query for a list of voters/donors based on their Trail Blazer ID.  Usually this information comes from an Excel spreadsheet that I have modified.  Trail Blazer has no easy way to query a list of ID's and have the list returned. 

Some time ago I created a tool that allows me do this.  It will take a columnar list of ID's (usually copied from Excel) and turn them into a comma separated list that I can then paste into the SQL tab.  

This is an advanced technique so only those who are willing to devote a little time to learn the process should proceed.

In the video below, I have created an example where I export data to an Excel file, add data to the file, and query for those records I updated in the spreadsheet.  I have also placed the tool referenced in this video on our website.



Let me know if you find this useful.


Use Households? You May Be Interested in This.

by Mark Panger5. June 2014 17:22

In my troubleshooting travels I often see areas of data that need to be corrected.

One of those areas is Householding.  Frequently I find people who live at the same address who have different households.  That means if you are using Household Salutation or Household Envelope Name in your merge letters, you are often missing someone.  It also means you may be sending more than one letter to a single address.

I'd like to make an offer to you.

Here's what I will do.  If you email me at I will return to you a report (for free) in Excel 2007 format that will show you where you have more than one person at the same address, but they are not householded together.

I will need two things:

  1. Your database name or customer name and,
  2. Your email address.
The report will come back looking something like this: 

In the sheet above, you can see that the house with AddressID of 162 has two different HouseholdID's.  This is an indication that house should be reviewed to see if it should be re-householded.  This will likely lead to a discussion regarding whether or not people with different last names should be householded together (see HomeAddressID 184 at the bottom of the sheet and notice the last names).  



Entering an Event Order Manually - New Video

by Mark Panger30. May 2014 10:28

Usually your donors are completing their orders for tickets or other event purchases online and little further data entry is required by you.  What about those that pay by check?  This video will teach you how to enter the order and complete a payment for that order.



Version 6.2.5256.xxxxx (released 5/23/14)

by Mark Panger27. May 2014 09:41

International Configuration

Do you live in France?  We found our customers using Windows configured for international had some issues with the use of a decimal point in contributions.  This has been corrected.


Event Attendance

The Summary tab within Events has been updated to allow you to filter by attendance.


FEC Contribution Memos

Manual FEC contribution memo capability has been added.  In the past the program made all the determinations regarding the memoing (Apparently 'memoing' is not a word. Maybe it should be.) of a contribution on the FEC report.


Sloooooow query

If you were running queries to find people who opened or not opened specific emails, the query ran somewhat slowly.  We have improved that query's performance.


Notes on tickets

Each ticket within the event can now have its own note.


Loan improvements 

Loan balances are now correctly updated upon update.  It's been like that for 13 years and no one noticed that until now?!  We also added a loan payments column when you have the Lender card open.






Importing was fixed today

by Mark Panger22. April 2014 14:00

If you were having a problem with your import stalling, it was due to Tom installing an anti-import switch in yesterday's code.  Tom figured if no one could import then he could take a few days off and maybe enjoy some sun he hasn't seen since last Halloween.  We gave him a sun lamp and had him turn off the anti-import switch.  

You can import now.


"Undo" fixed and tweak to the Call Book Report

by Mark Panger21. April 2014 14:01

As we have been tightening security on the system, that has necessitated some changes to how some things work.  One of those was the roll back feature where you could "undo" a recent activity. However, increased security caused that to break for our customers.  That has been fixed now.

The call book report now has an option to print log notes in reverse date order.


Trail Blazer does not use OpenSSL and is NOT vulnerable.

by Mark Panger10. April 2014 07:59

Do you get your news via TV, radio, or straight off the internet?  Hard to miss the conversation around the OpenSSL vulnerability.  The website  offers a way for you to determine if the sites you visit are vulnerable.  They gave us a clean bill of health.  We have two domains in use; and  Here are the results:





Java Got You Down?

by Mark Panger3. April 2014 09:24

Our FEC customers running on a 64 bit machine will sometimes get a message when attempting to run an FEC report that they need to install Java.  I usually hear them say "but I already have Java installed!"

True. You do.  But the default Java installation is a 32 version.  Unless you have a pretty old machine, you are likely on a 64 bit machine that needs a 64 bit Java to run the FEC reports.

It's FREE and easy to install.

Click here:

Click the link shown below:



Printing problem has been corrected in this version

by Mark Panger21. March 2014 07:43

If you were experiencing a printing problem this week, this version will correct that.  We recently ran some upgrades to our servers.  One of those upgrades seeped into our application that required all our customers be upgraded as well.  For those on Windows XP this upgrade is not compatible.  We have downgraded the software on the server and all should be back to normal (whatever that is).


Say Goodbye to Windows XP

by Mark Panger17. March 2014 08:34

I wrote about this last year letting you know that Windows XP would be deprecated in 2014.  It's happening.  This article in USA Today says the date is April 8th.   


"Since the end of Microsoft's security updates is big news, hackers and scammers are going to be targeting computers still using XP. You're going to be very, very vulnerable."
             Kim Komando



If you are still using Windows XP, you are not alone.  A survey of our customers shows about 20% of you are still running on Windows XP.


Pledges - Thank You Dates - International Address Support

by Mark Panger14. March 2014 08:26

Security has been tightened in the Contribution Allocation, Match, and Notify lists.

Pledges - weekly pledges are now supported.  This means if you have a bi-weekly payroll deduction, you can now enter them into the pledges.


Expiring Pledges - would you like to know the date the last pledge is due?  We've added a couple of columns to assist in determining pledges that may be expiring soon.


 Add these columns from the Format button:





Thank You Date - you asked, we listened.  The date you set the Thank-You-Sent check box is now displayed.


 International Addresses are now better supported.

Within the application: 


Labeling will adjust:



If you are using version 2 of the donation page you can now include international addressing as well:



Your iframe text to support this would look something like this:

<iframe src="" style="width:800px;height:1200px" frameborder="0" scrolling="yes" onload="scroll(0,0)" ></iframe>




New Menu (just to mess with your heads)

by Mark Panger11. February 2014 17:06

We restructured the File and Edit menus on the Voter/Donor Search tool strip.  They have been moved into sub folders.  ALL menu items were retained.  Just moved to sub folders.





BANK RECONCILIATIONS (for our political customers)

by Mark Panger3. February 2014 09:36

I don’t normally harp.  Ok, yes I do….  constantly...  Just not in writing.  Today I’m changing that up.  The past couple of weeks helping customers complete their year-end FEC filing had me noticing something.  

Many of our customers do NOT reconcile their Trail Blazer accounting with their bank accounts and then ensure that balance reconciles with what’s being reported to their campaign finance authority.

I’ve had a few folks say they reconcile with Quickbooks.  Great!  But….  Quickbooks does not do your FEC filing.  On many occasions I have found missing transactions in Trail Blazer even though their Quickbooks accounts were reconciled.

Some do reconcile, but don’t ensure that the bank numbers are then reconciled to what is being reported to their campaign finance authority.  Again, too frequently, I have see an unexplained difference between the reconciled bank balance and the reported number.

Why reconcile?  You cannot know if you have captured all on your contributions and payments unless you are reconciling.  Reconciling increases your confidence that what you are reporting is much more accurate.  Reconciling on a timely basis ensures your books do not get out of control.

Interestingly I don’t get enough requests from customers asking for training on how to do the reconciliations.  Training IS INCLUDED with your subscription.  Take a look at the curriculums page.




About the author

Something about the author

Month List

Page List