Quick Do-It-Yourself Greeting Cards
By Michael "Stibbs" Stibane
Late, budget conscious, and in a panic to get those Christmas cards out? Read Michael Stibbs' article and you can take care of all those cards in just a few minutes without spending a penny.
Did you, like me, forget to buy greeting cards in the midst and stress of the few weeks leading up to Christmas? If so, we have to come up with a quick solution. There are just four days left. I create my own cards with Scribus, a top-notch Linux desktop publishing package (DTP) and send them as PDF by email or printed and sent by regular mail.
If you want to read documentation about the program before you start, it's located at http://Scribus.net. This is a package you'll want to get to know better, but just follow along and you'll be able to create your cards without any extra help. The website also provides downloadable software packages for SuSE, RedHat and Debian based distributions. The RedHat packages should get installed on Mandrake as well. If you use a recent version of your distribution, it's possible, the Scribus packages are already on your distribution CD's. Install them with your preferred tools and start Scribus from the KDE Office menu.
In the Scribus toolbar under the File menu you find the button for a new document at the far left. In the resulting dialog you define the page size and measurements. I choose letter in landscape format and inches as the default unit. See the image below for an example (click the image for a full sized view). After clicking OK you will find the new document with blue marked borders and green help lines on your screen. It's usually quite big. Under the "View" menu you find zoom options to resize the workspace to your screen. You might find that selecting "Fit in Windows" is a good choice.
There is another menu you should drop down. Make sure, under the "Tools" menu, Properties are checked and shown as an additional small floating window. Back to our workspace. When you move your mouse, you see little red arrows moving on the horizontal and vertical ruler. They show the position on the screen. Additionally you can see the numeric values of X and Y position changing at the bottom of the Scribus Window in the status bar.
As any other DTP software you may have used before, Scribus is frame oriented. Every content you add to the document (text, shapes and images) goes into a frame. Let's assume that you already used Google's image search and downloaded some nice cliparts and have the photos from your digital camera in a directory on your harddisk. When you are ready with suitable artwork, we can start adding a picture to our greeting card. Click the "Insert Picture" button on the toolbar and draw a frame in the desired size on the document. It only holds a big cross in the beginning. In the Properties window click the "Image" button and check the "Scale to framesize" radiobutton. Then rightclick into the image frame and choose "Get picture" from the menu. In the resulting file dialog you can choose the image for this frame. You should be able to see it now, change the size with the little knobs on the frame edges and move the image on your document where you want it.
This way I added three more pictures. The rightclick menu holds some more goodies. For example with the "Level" menu you can raise and lower frames or you can adjust a frame to the picture size. Now we need some good text. Click the "Insert Text Frame" button on the toolbar and draw another frame. With a doubleclick into it you can start writing. Formatting your text is again done with the "Properties" box. Click the "Text" Button, mark your written text and you have font, size, color and so on available. If you increase the font size you will find the custom setting "Line Spacing" very useful.
Save your greeting card now. The Scribus filename extension is .sla. Nobody other than other users of Scribus can open the file, so we need it in a format everyone can read. PDF is the best choice here because Acrobat Reader (or some form of PDF reader) is installed on nearly every computer. You find the option to export the greeting card as a PDF in Scribus' "File" menu. Click on "Export" and then "Save as PDF". You just need to change the filename in the following dialog and click the "Save" button. You can email the pdf file as an attachment to your friends and relatives or print it and send it by regular mail. Now we are saved. We got a nice greeting card and nobody thinks we are forgetful. ;-)