Creating Personalized Thank You Cards with Publisher 2003 (Part 1 of 4)

Well, it’s spring time again, and of course that means one thing: Tech Ed. But rather than focus on the definitive Microsoft conference for building, deploying, securing, and managing connected solutions, I’d like to take a few entries and address another industry that gears up every spring.

That’s right, it’s wedding season.

So over the next few entries I’d like to discuss something very cool my wife and I came up with for our wedding: using Publisher to create personalized Thank You cards for wedding gifts. We created an individual Thank You card for everyone who sent us a gift. Printed inside each card was a picture of us holding that person's particular gift, along with printed comments specific to that person.

We personalized the Thank You because we wanted people to know how important they were to us and how much their gifts meant. Also, since our registry was online, and we had family and friends all over the country, a lot of the gifts got ordered online and shipped directly from the store. In many cases, the people buying the gifts had never really seen what they were sending us.

Pretty cool, huh? Trust me, people loved these cards.

And the best thing was, using Publisher’s catalog merge functionality, it was easy. We did all this through the user interface; I didn’t have to write a single line of code to customize or extend Publisher’s functionality. (So consider this a warning: the following entries don’t contain a single line of code.)

Unnecessary Backstory

Anyway, about six months ago, I got married. (That in itself is a success story, but not one in which Microsoft products played a large part. I assume. Maybe she created a mathematically-weighted list of my pros and cons in Excel and the balance sheet came out in my favor. I don't know. But if that's the case, she should probably check her math.) No, the cool thing we did with Publisher was to create personalized Thank You cards.

Once we decided to be married, we actually realized that we’d have to go through the process of getting married. For some unknown reason, we decided not to elope, and instead opted for a simple wedding. ‘Simple wedding’, of course, being equivalent to ‘military intelligence’ on the oxymoron rating scale.

Simple as our wedding was, most of the planning fell to my fiancée. Once I realized the incredible stress and pressure she was under from dealing with the marital-industrial complex, I resolved to help and support her in any way humanly possible that didn't involve actually dealing with any aspects of the planning process that didn't interest me. In short, I began looking for those activities that would let me continue to dink on the computer while giving the appearance of being an active participant in planning my own wedding. I spent long hard hours on such tasks as generating facility expense comparisons, keeping our invitation address database current, maintaining our website, and much more. I did this incidentally to move our plans for the blessed day forward, but primarily just to avoid being dragged into interminable discussions of floral arrangement plans and linen design options.

(And trust me, the wedding was much better for my lack of involvement. One of the few times I actually rendered an opinion, it nearly doomed the whole damn thing. Just remember: at weddings, people want and expect cake. Any cake. People do not want wonderful and expensive lemon torte with fresh-picked organic berries--unless it is served on cake. If you tell people ahead of time there will be no cake, they will revolt, and threaten to bring their own cake and serve it tail-gate style out in the reception parking lot. Seriously. Cake.)

Publisher 2003 was great for stuff like this. I created our website in Publisher; I designed our Save the Date cards and the wedding program in Publisher. I even used Publisher's mail merge feature to address the invitations. Those all turned out looking professional and pleased my fiancée immensely. But the one thing I'm particularly proud of was our Thank You cards.

We used Publisher's catalog merge functionality. It was easy. Here's the basic steps, each of which I discuss in more detail later:

· Take digital photos of the happy couple with each gift

· Design the outside of your Thank You card

· Create the data source for the catalog merge

· Design the inside of the card as a catalog merge area

· Perform the catalog merge

· Print the cards

In my entry tomorrow I’ll cover the first two of these steps.