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HOLIDAY SHOPPING SPECIAL | PC FOCUS / LAWRENCE J. MAGID

Making This a Banner Season

December 02, 1996|LAWRENCE J. MAGID

My wife and I have a running battle during the holidays. She likes to buy printed cards and I like to send out ones that I make on the PC. OK, I admit it. Companies like Hallmark and American Greetings do a better job than I do, but mine are personal.

Well, Patti and I are at peace thanks to a sleighful of programs that let us use our PC to create not only greeting cards, but certificates, banners and place mats. As if that's not enough, there's a program you can use to create Christmas ornaments. And for those cards that have to get there right away, it's now possible to send full-color greeting cards via the Internet.

American Greetings CreataCard Plus, from Micrografx ([800] 671-0144) lets you create personalized cards, certificates, stationery and invitations for just about every occasion, including Christmas and Hanukkah.

The Windows CD-ROM, which costs $29.95, opens with a screen that lets you choose between announcements, cards, invitations, stationary, awards, certificates and signs, then lets you pick an occasion. You can stick with the original design or you can add a name or two, or modify the design, or create a card from scratch using the drawing tools that come with the program. You can also import graphics, including scanned photos.

The product is relatively easy to use and the results can be excellent, especially if you have a good color inkjet printer. In addition to printing cards, the software allows you to upload them, via modem, to a service that will print and mail them (allow a week) for a charge of $3.85. Or you can have your card delivered by e-mail for $1.

Hallmark isn't letting cyberspace take away its franchise, either. The company has teamed up with Microsoft to create Microsoft Greetings Workshop (Windows, $29.95), which, like CreataCard, lets you make your own cards, invitations, announcements, banners, fliers, signs, awards and certificates, as well as newsletters and coupons.

I'm not thrilled with the program's user interface. It does so much hand holding that it takes longer than necessary to use, but it creates some very good-looking cards and documents. Cards can be printed or sent via e-mail.

Hallmark's Web site (http://www.hallmark.com) is worth a visit. You can click on "Seasons and Reasons" to read the story of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa (the holiday celebrated by many African Americans). You can also create and print a personalized letter from Santa and, by clicking on the Hallmark Connections link, you can create and send a free e-mail greeting card. You create the card online and Hallmark sends an e-mail message to your friend with the location on the Web where your friend or loved one can read the card.

One nice present, especially for family members, is a customized calendar with birthdays, anniversaries and special events. Calendar Creator, from SoftKey (Windows and Mac, $49.95) lets you create yearly, monthly, weekly or even daily calendars complete with imported graphics.

I made a calendar for my mom a couple of years ago with a picture of a different family member for each month. It's still on her wall even though it's two years out of date. SoftKey also publishes Key Greeting Card Designer (Windows, $29.95), which comes with 1,000 professional card templates.

Rather than buying a program specifically for greeting cards, you can opt for a multipurpose publishing program like Print Shop Deluxe III (Windows/Mac, $39.95), from Broderbund, or Microsoft Publisher. Print Shop is an appropriately named CD-ROM for all your home printing projects, including greeting cards, banners, signs, calendars, certificates, posters, business cards and more.

This venerable program (versions have been around for years) does it all, but you won't find as many greeting card options as you will with CreataCard or Microsoft Greetings Workshop. Nevertheless, it's a nice addition to any software library and makes a great pre-holiday present.

The same goes for Microsoft Publisher, a desktop publishing program for the home, which comes with templates for creating greeting cards, business cards, newsletters, fliers, brochures, paper airplanes and just about anything else you might want to "publish." The greeting card section has a few pre-made cards for Christmas, Hanukkah and most other holidays.

I've used Publisher for school newsletters and other tasks and have found it pretty straightforward and easy to use. If you have a free connection to the Internet and plenty of time on your hands, you can download a 60-day free trial version of Publisher from http:// www.microsoft.com/publisher/. The 15.1-megabyte file will take about three hours to download at 28.8 kilobits-per-second.

Looking for things to hang on your tree? I prefer ceramic and glass ornaments, but if you want to create your own paper ones, consider Holiday Ornaments from KittyHawk Software ([800] 777-5745). The program is designed to create origami Christmas ornaments that you print, fold and hang on the tree.

The program is very easy to use, but folding the printouts into ornaments can be a bit challenging--though my kids can do it with ease. For $24.95 you get this program plus the Greatest Paper Airplanes (with 50 planes that you print and fold) and Paper Animals.

*

Lawrence J. Magid can be reached via e-mail at magid@latimes.com. His World Wide Web page is at http://www.larrysworld.com

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