Cards And More, With Style

Hallmark Card Studio 2004 (**** out of four) is much more than a card program--it has a vast selection of options for creating all types of print projects, such as note paper, postcards, scrapbook pages, calendars, certificates, stationery and more. And, you can use the included wonderful Hallmark card images, art images, or your own photos in whatever project you choose.

The biggest change in this version is that itís much easier to use and has so many more options. Whether you want to make a quick, personalized card, crop and change a photo to put on an invitation, make a personal calendar or scrapbook page--or whatever, the program gives you all the features you need to do it quickly and easily.

The deluxe version of the program now also includes the stand-alone, integrated photo editing program, PhotoPower, which makes it a snap to import and edit photos. And both the standard and deluxe versions now allow you to add recorded sounds or MP3 files to e-mail projects. In addition to these features, there are 4,500 Hallmark cards and projects (1,000 of them new), 10,000 art images and 85 fonts to give you all you need to make impressive print projects.

We first used the program to make a simple birthday card. Thereís a wide choice of images, which you can search by category and/or by specific theme, such as one using a car image and designed for a male relative. Navigating the images is especially easy now--click to enlarge the image, go back and look at another image, or to see the front, inside and back and change anything you want. One feature we especially liked is that the verse included with most greetings is in a complimentary font and color. But if you donít like the verse, color or font, itís also easy to change any or all of it.

After our success with a card, we then went on to make a scrapbook page, where we chose a cheerful background that included space for two photos. That project was equally easy to create. Just import the photo and use it as it, or follow the simple instructions for cropping, removing red eye, changing color balance and using all those other photo editing features that many of us avoid because theyíre usually so complicated. The photo editing program also includes a wide variety of selections for enhancing photos and for putting neat frames around them. You can put a photo in a choice of several mosaic frames, select just one part of the photo by using any of the included shapes, or use the freehand tool to make your own shape. If you need more help in using these or any features (you probably wonít), the included comprehensive manual explains what each features does and how to use it. The manual is available on screen, in an indexed page format, and you can print any or all of the pages. Thereís also an option for sending e-mail questions, which will be answered within 36 hours, or for accessing the most often asked questions.

Back to the projects: there are many more choices: calendars for day, week, month or year, newsletters, stickers, labels, photo frames, postcards, magazine covers, and more, and any project can be created by using the templates that are included or those you design yourself.

The program comes with a colorful event planner that includes a calendar, address book and event reminder features. So when you set the Event Planner to remind you of an anniversary, you can just click to go to the option for making a card and even a decorated envelope if you want.

The program comes in a regular or deluxe edition, with the deluxe edition including more cards and projects, images and the photo editing program. Either program will give you the ability to create a wide variety of print projects, all with that Hallmark quality youíve come to know and expect.

From Sierra Home, Windows 98/Me/2000/XP with Pentium, $29.99 Standard, $49.99 Deluxe.

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