Open Source Holiday Letter

January 27, 2009 at 8:00 am 5 comments

For the 2008 Holiday Season, I sent out a custom-made Holiday Letter. I’m particularly pleased with the outcome, so I thought I would share.

I think a picture really does say a thousand words, so I knew I wanted to share a lot of my Flickr images. I decided to make a border around each page of the letter and fill it with some of my favorite 2008 pictures. Inside was content typical to the genre– paragraphs recapping the past year and wishing everyone well…only my content was in a font I made of my own handwriting. I also felt it was important to identify the pictures, so at the very bottom of each page, I made a footnote explaining each picture. Finally, I purposely left some white space at the bottom of the last page, so I could squeeze in personalized messages.

Here’s what I ended up with:

Holiday Letter Screenshot - Page 1
Holiday Letter – Page 1

Holiday Letter Screenshot - Page 2
Holiday Letter – Page 2

And here’s what I did:


I made that font of my own handwriting at least five years ago. I don’t remember the name of the software I used, but it was free and intuitive. Pretty much I wrote out all my letters and punctuation marks on a piece of paper, I scanned it in, sliced it up into little bitmaps and imported it into the software. Now I have my own TrueType Font.

Vicky Font

If you want to make your own font, a good starting point may be So You Want to Create a Font, Part I.


All my layout work was done in good ole Microsoft Word (2003). On each page, I just made a 3 column, 3 row table. The center area was content. Each corner cell hosted one picture, everything else was filled with multiple pictures. I will admit it took a lot of patience and trial and error to get all the images sized right.

Holiday Letter Screenshot - Word Table


Once I was satisfied with my content, I wanted to prepare it for printing. Since I didn’t have my own color laser printer, I was going to have it printed for me. Both OfficeMax and FedEx Kinko’s allow you to upload documents to their website and then go pick up the printed work at a local store.

DO NOT USE OFFICEMAX. Their interface is horrid. You can’t get an online preview of your work, the order status page shows nothing of value (not even the estimated cost), and there is no convenient way to find contact information to inquire about your order. I waited five days for my promised PDF proof and it never arrived. At that point, I started calling all the numbers I could find until I was finally able to cancel my order.

OfficeMax Sucks
OfficeMax’s Online Printing Interface. Click on image to see the Flickr version with notes

DO USE FEDEX KINKO’S. I have now been extremely pleased by them two years in a row. They deliver impeccable work (last year they exceeded my expectations) and they have a great online interface. You get a full preview of your project with zoom in capabilities and every step of the way you can see the cost. And they are fast. As soon as I cancelled my OfficeMax order, I placed my FedEx Kinko’s order during a layover in Atlanta. By the time my flight landed in Roanoke, my order was ready. So I placed AND received my order on the same day.

And OfficeMax made me wait five days for nothing.

FedEx Kinkos Rules
FedEx Kinko’s Printing Interface. Click on the image to see the Flickr version with notes

FedEx Kinkos Rules
FedEx Kinko’s has an online preview tool so you don’t have to be emailed a proof

PDF Conversion

If you are using a typical font such as Arial, all you have to worry about is uploading Word document to the FedEx Kinko’s. In my situation, I was using that special font. It is so darn special that even a powerhouse like FedEx Kinko’s doesn’t have it. So I had to convert my document into PDF format first before sending it off. For that, I used the free PrimoPDF. No complaints.

And there you have it. My 2008 Holiday Letter. Let’s see if I can top it for 2009!

Entry filed under: Christmas, Christmas Card, Photography, Word 2003.

Frozen Falls Ridge links for 2009-01-27

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. geekhiker  |  January 27, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    Damn, I never sent you my address, did I? Bummer, I missed out, obviously…

  • 2. serenity  |  January 27, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    What a clever idea! I love it!

  • 3. tgaw  |  March 16, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Ha! This morning (March 16th, 2009), OfficeMax called me about my order…. the one I placed in DECEMBER… to see if I still wanted it.

    Three month response time. That’s service.

  • 4. Sheer  |  September 17, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Ooer. Can I have a copy of the font? I want to see what your emails look like in your handwriting.. I promise not to use it for anything identity-theft-ish 😉

  • 5. tgaw  |  December 16, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    Wow! Three years later I have to retract these findings. OfficeMax’s interface has some tremedous improvements. Their online ordering is much better than FedEx Kinko’s now. (And they are 10 cents cheaper per page!)


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