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Choosing your e-Holiday Greeting Cards

Hey! Far be it from me to tell you what your Grandma — or anybody else on your e-greeting list — might want to see by way of images, sentiments, gift certificates, or whatever. This part may be challenging because of the many options involved, but at least can surf in the comfort and privacy of your own home and stay out of the holiday crush. Get back to me when you've chosen the sites, picked the images, penned the sentiments you wish to communicate, and I'll follow up with some other salient information in sections to follow.

See you soon, I hope...

The Post-Selection Process

Where the good e-card sites begin to separate from the not-so-good sites (and remember, nothing is "bad" around the holidays), is in their addressing and delivery options. Many of the better sites — at least, in terms of recipient designation and delivery options, that is (be ready to wade through lots of e-advertising, and other attempts to turn your visit into a source of Christmas cash for the vendors and organizations who run these sites) — offer features that will be useful to those who really want to replace paper cards with e-cards, or who have large mailing lists they wish to reach.

Such features include the following:

  • Cut'n'paste e-mail addressing: open a window into your e-mail address book while your Web browser is on an e-card's address page. Then you can toggle back and forth between the two, cutting and pasting to your heart's content. Really organized e-card senders can build text files that use whatever separator the card engine recognizes to distinguish among multiple addresses — commas and semi-colons are the most commonly recognized such separators — within text files that can then be pasted into the recipient address box with ease (and, better still, re-used on other occasions).

  • Timed delivery: You can pick your cards today, address them, personalize them, and get them ready to send, then instruct the card engine to mail them for you on a special day (or the week before, or whenever you want). This is particularly useful for birthdays and big holidays like Christmas.

  • Preview features: Once you put all the pieces of an e-card together, don't forget the quality control. Better e-card engines include a preview feature that lets you see the card exactly as it will be delivered to its intended recipients. The more people you try to reach with a single e-card, the more important such a review becomes. It's not nice to muddy your warm and wonderful sentiments with typos or misspellings!

  • Special delivery mechanisms: Better e-card sites warn you when they use special delivery mechanisms like Flash or multimedia files and formats to enhance their content. If you know Grandma has an ancient 486 with no sound card and limited memory, there's no point in sending her a jazzy but resource intensive 3-D animation, complete with the latest rockin' hip-hop beat! Pay attention, and make sure your content suits your recipients' capabilities, as well as their tastes.

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