Making Postcards from Your Photos: A Fourth Way

Posted Monday, July 17, 2006

Summer is a time of travel. I'm on the road right now, typing this in a Southwest Airlines jet that's parked at the gate awaiting the arrival of its flight crew. Sigh. Good thing the WiFi at California's Oakland International Airport extends to the tarmac.

Travel means postcards, and postcards are the subject of this dispatch. I've already sung the praises of Photojojo, a cool e-newsletter containing digital photography tips. The latest Photojojo covers three techniques for creating postcards. They're swell tips, but as iLife users, we have a fourth option: iPhoto 6.

The latest iPhoto lets you create postcards with a few mouse clicks: select a photo in your library, click the Cards button at the bottom of the iPhoto window, and then choose Postcard in the subsequent dialog box.

You can choose from several postcard designs; I like the Picture Card theme, which simply fills the card with your photo – no little hearts, flowers, or geegaw graphics for me, thank you.

Refining Your Card's Design
After you choose a theme, you can order your card by clicking the Buy Card button. But you can also refine your design in several ways. (As I describe in my book, the following design options are also available when you're creating calendars and books in iPhoto.)

Refine the photo. Want to crop the photo to better highlight your subject? Double-click the photo on your card, and then zoom in by dragging the zoom slider that appears above the photo. (If you see what I call the Yellow Triangle of Doom, you've zoomed in too far to get acceptable print quality. Back off until the warning triangle disappears.)

To reposition a photo that you've zoomed in on, drag within the photo.

Optional: add text. You can add a short snippet of text, such as "Greetings from Jersey City," below your photo. From the Design pop-up menu at the bottom of the iPhoto window, choose the design containing text. Next, click the placeholder text on your card and type your missive.

To have your text appear against a black background, use the Background pop-up menu at the bottom of the iPhoto window. I'll describe how to fine-tune the text's font and other formatting shortly.

Finessing the flip side. As with arguments, there are two sides to every postcard. Once you've refined the front of your card, turn to its flip side.

Travel-oriented postcards -- the "wish you were here" variety -- typically don't have envelopes. Other types of postcards – for example, party invitations and birth announcements – often do include envelopes. iPhoto lets you create both kinds of cards.

First, tell iPhoto you want to focus on the flip side of the postcard by clicking anywhere within the flip side of the card. Now turn your attention to the Design pop-up menu. To create what's sometimes called a self-mailing card, choose the lower option from the Design pop-up menu. This gives you a design containing a space for your message and a space to write your recipient's address.

You can type text in the message area or leave the area blank so you can hand-write a message. For a blank message area, there's no need to delete the placeholder text that iPhoto displays.

By the way, if you create a self-mailing postcard, Apple still includes an envelope -- a nice touch that you'll appreciate if your message ends up being, well, a bit personal.

Text formatting tips. You can change the text formatting of your postcard in a couple of ways. The easiest way is to click the Settings button at the bottom of the iPhoto window. A dialog box appears that lets you specify a font and size for each of the elements of the card – the headline that optionally appears on the front of the card, the title and body text that appears on the back, and even the text that appears within the "place postage here" box.

You can also format text by using the Fonts panel: just choose Choose Edit > Font > Show Fonts (or use the Command-T keyboard shortcut). Then, select text that you've typed and choose options in the Fonts panel.

The Fonts panel gives you formatting flexibility that the Settings dialog box doesn't. Using the Fonts panel, you can mix and match fonts and styles within a headline, change the color of text, and even summon alternate ornamental characters that some fonts provide. (I discuss these advanced formatting options at length in my book.)

Postcard Postscript
Apple charges $1.49 (US), plus shipping, for each postcard you order. (If you order 25 or more cards, prices go down.)

Don't want to wait for your card to arrive? Print it yourself. You can print postcards – and indeed, iPhoto book and calendar pages, too – on any printer. To print a two-sided card, be sure to use photo inkjet paper that's capable of two-sided printing.

There's more to iPhoto cards, and I cover it all in my book. Now if you'll excuse me, the flight attendants are arriving with beverages here in sardine class.

Why the Latest Edition of My Book Lacks a DVD—and What I'm Doing About It

Posted Friday, July 07, 2006

It's time we had an honest conversation.

I've heard from many of you—through email, through Amazon reviews, and through calls to Peachpit Press—about the fact that the latest edition of my iLife book does not include the instructional DVD that accompanied every previous edition.

I've responded to some of you, and my friends at Peachpit Press have asked me to write a note that they could send to others.

Many of you saw iLife '06 "First Look" booklet that mentioned the book's DVD or saw a mention of it online. Neither I nor Peachpit Press intended to create false expectations. At the time, we were indeed planning to again include the DVD with the book.

So what happened?

Last year, not long before I began work on the latest edition of my book, I suffered a catastrophic loss in my world. The details are personal. Suffice it to say that the latter part of 2005 was the hardest period of my life.

When iLife '06 came along, the book revisions were tough-going at times. But with time and the encouragement and inspiration of friends both old and new, I got back into the groove and completed the biggest—and, in my honest opinion, the best—edition of my book yet: every page updated, every tip tweaked, and completely new sections and chapters to cover everything in iLife '06.

But something had to give. In past years, the first few months of each year were filled with 18-hour workdays: I'd write book revisions from sunrise until about 5 pm, then I'd edit my DVD's video until well into the night. (I edited every frame myself, and then authored the DVD myself in DVD Studio Pro.)

I couldn't do that this year. My responsibilities and priorities had been forced to change. This finally dawned on me about a week before we were to shoot the new DVD, at which time I made the hardest business decision I've ever made: to cancel the shoot and kill the DVD.

My friends at Peachpit Press could not have been more supportive or understanding. I am lucky and proud to be a Peachpit Press author.

The decision to kill the DVD came during a time when the new book was already being marketed, and Amazon's site and others still referred to the book's companion DVD. Believe it or not, it can take a frustratingly long time to make changes to massive e-commerce Web site. You would think that pixels and bits could be changed instantly. You would be wrong. As a result, some of you pre-ordered the new book thinking you were getting a DVD along with it. Talk about making a bad situation worse.

Where does this leave us? With a gorgeous, complete, full-color guide to iLife '06 and a companion Web site—together, the best single resource for iLife that there is, in my (honest) opinion.

I've contracted with Textura Design, a Seattle-based Web design firm, to develop a new design for my site that will allow me to add dedicated topic pages for GarageBand and iWeb. I'll be publishing more frequent updates to the revamped site, with plans for podcasts and movies in the weeks to come.

So, to my long-time readers who are disappointed about the DVD's demise, I ask for your understanding. I'm happy that you found the DVD a fun and interesting way to learn. I'm sorry that it's gone. I'm even sorrier that life throws awful curve balls sometimes.

That's the truth, as is this: I remain determined to keep this book and its Web site the best iLife resource on the planet. Stick around. My commitment to and affection for Apple's amazing creative suite is as strong as ever.

Feel the Omega Love

Posted Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Luke Williams
Originally uploaded by jimheid.

My nephew Luke is an incredible guitarist and is part of a band called Omega Love.

I heard them play at Pittsburgh's Thunderbird Cafe last week, and they smoked.

To read more and link to tracks from their latest CD, click the photo.