Party season is almost upon us and for those brave or foolish enough to volunteer to organise one the first hurdle is sorting out the invitations. If you have a PC your problems could be over, or at least it can make them more manageable.


In this week’s Boot Camp we’ll be looking at how your computer can be used to look after the list, design and create invitations and even send them out, by post or email. The festive season theme continues next week when we’ll be tackling Christmas cards.


The effectiveness of homemade party invitations can be a bit variable and hard to predict. Some people may be put off by an obviously amateurishly effort; if the invites are naff, what will the party be like? Others may applaud your attempts to save money and creativity, or lack of it, so think about what you are trying to achieve, how formal or casual the event will be and the people involved, and keep the number of the local print shop handy, just in case…


Start by making a list of the people you want to invite, and this is a perfect job for a PC, whether or not you’ll be using it to actually make or send the invitations. If the names are already in your PC’s address book then you are halfway there. The technique varies from program to program but the simplest method is usually to create a new Folder or Group, which you call ‘Party’ or something similar, then copy the names into it. In applications like Outlook and Outlook Express all you have to do is highlight names on the main Contacts list, press the Ctrl key (to make a copy) and drag them into the new folder.


Alternatively if you’re a really organised sort of person use your word processor or spreadsheet program. Create a table or open a new worksheet, in the first column put recipients names and addresses, in column two enter the date the invitations were sent, column three could be for whether or not they’ll be coming and in column four jot down dietary requirements, any unusual habits, who they’ll be coming with etc. Names and addresses can be easily pasted into a label sheet or mail merge for envelope printing.


If most or all of the people you want to invite have email then that has to be an option worth considering. Logistically it makes the task a great deal easier and quicker, both to create and send the invitations and to collate replies. You might be tempted to dress the email up with decorative backgrounds or graphics but that could be a mistake. A lot of people, fed up with long download times, set their email programs to block or filter emails over a certain size. There can be problems with displaying graphics on some client software and people using non-PC based systems, such as email telephones, WAP phones, pocket organisers and email via TV set-top boxes can have all sorts of problems with non-standard messages (i.e. anything other than plain text). So if you are using email keep it short and simple!


If you want to design and create your party invitation from scratch then you could do worse than start with your word processor and its clip-art library. Here too you will find fancy fonts (make sure they’re legible) decorative borders and backgrounds. The trick once again is to keep it simple, don’t mix more than a couple of typefaces and avoids lots of bitty little images. This could be a good opportunity to put your digital camera or scanner to use. Why not include a photograph or a map of how to get to the venue. There’s a wealth of free clip-art on the Internet and plenty of material devoted to parties, we’ve included a small selection of sites below.


Aim to get at least three or four invites on an A4 page, or size them according to your envelopes. Don’t try to create them separately, work on just one  – not forgetting to save it every few minutes  -- and when you are happy with it check the size then highlight, copy and paste the whole thing on the page as many times as needed. If you are only making a few invitations you could personalise each one, with the recipients name, and don’t forget to include vital details, like time, date, venue and where and how to RSVP.


If you’re going to be printing the invites on your own printer, bear in mind the cost, especially if there are a lot of them and you’re printing in colour. Avoid heavily coloured backgrounds and text, print onto coloured paper or card instead. Talking of which, invites printed on ordinary 80gsm copier paper do not look very professional, check your printer’s paper handling capabilities and if possible use a heavy paper or thin card stock. You can also get colourful ready-made blank invitations from office and stationery suppliers. All you have to do is compose the text and run them through your printer


Most word processors have a good assortment of graphic and design facilities, but they’re not ideal and page layout functions can sometimes be difficult to master. You may find it easier to work with a paint box or DTP program, they’re often included with digital cameras and a lot of them include ready made party invitation templates.


Next week – Make your own Christmas cards





Copyright-free images, pictures and graphics included with programs and available from the Internet



Desktop publishing -- makeup and layout programs used to design pages in printed documents, magazines, newspapers and books



Wireless Application Protocol – new generation of Internet compatible digital mobile phones capable of sending and receiving email messages



As you know you can insert pictures and graphics into Microsoft Word documents, but did you also know you can add sounds? Try it, it’s fun! It works on most recent versions of Word (97 & 2000). Before you start select, create or record the sound you want to use with Windows Sound Recorder (Start > Programs > Accessories > Entertainment) or your preferred audio editing program and save it as a *.wav file. Open Word and position the cursor in the document where you want the sound to be then go to the Insert menu and select Object. Make sure the Create New tab is displayed then scroll down the list to Wave Sound and click on it. Press Okay and a speaker icon appears on the page and Windows Media Player opens. Go to Insert File on the Edit menu, select your audio file and it’s done. When anyone double clicks on the speaker icon the sound file will be played.

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