A lot of e-mail is business correspondence, and it should be crisp and simple. However, for special occasions when one wants to spice up e-mails with, say, travel photos or get well wishes, e-mail templates are a welcome touch. The Stationery Pack 2 from e-quinux has hundreds of customizable templates in an application that is brilliantly simple and beautifully designed.
Using an interface like iPhoto, Stationery Pack 2 presents the user with a grid of templates. A slider bar dictates the size of the templates: either more detail or more templates viewable.
Three Panel Browser
One can just hit the space bar to invoke Quick Look, but, in addition, one can perform actions within the Quick Look, such as cycle through related templates or just trigger an e-mail with that template by clicking on the small icon at the bottom.
Alternatively, select a template and hit CMD-N to launch a mailer. Or one can click the Stationery button Apple Mail and select one of e-quinux stationeries that become available after installation.
It's that simple, but the added features make the tool a delight to use.
Stationery Pack come in two versions. Version 1.1 has about 100 stationeries that are static. Version 2, which requires Leopard, ads new templates, but many of them are customizable resulting in over 660 variations in design. A red quarter circle in the template icon indicates how many variations are available. (See the grid above.) The purple "1" or "2" in the lower left corner indicates whether the template belongs to version 1 or version 2. They are sold separately, but can be installed together.
Version 1 Template
Variations are not just background color. For example, in one sunshine template in version 2, one can click to cycle through the temperature, for effect.
Keep clicking to raise the temperature displayed.
Temp Jumps by 10 degrees on each mouse click
The app's three panel browser not only has the major categories, which also become visible in Apple Mail, but are conveniently organized as keywords. If the user is still in doubt, a filtering search field can winnow the field down to just the right ones.
Once the template is installed in a sender, there are often place holders for photos. All one has to do is drag a photo into one of the place holders, and it's automagically resized and rotated if necessary. To help, a Photo Browser button in the sender can bring up all the photos in the iPhoto Library. It couldn't be simpler. Here's a demo e-mail from my wife's collection of South Pole photos. (Yes, that's -79 degrees Celsius on the Website screen shot.)
South Pole -Gram
It's a credit to the application that the documentation is so simple. The application looks, thinks and acts like the perfect Mac application with a design so intuitive that hardly any documentation is necessary. A slim booklet guides the user through installation and activation in English, German and French. When launched, a demo video comes up that steps the user through the typical use. The paper booklet is duplicated as PDF after install. The Help function accesses the PDF and the intro movie.
Unlike many applications that use a license key, Stationery Pack is activated on-line after the user registers within the app and then enters the Activation code printed on the booklet or on-line purchase confirmation. This seems like an irritating extra step, but it went smoothly, and serves the purpose of getting the product properly registered as well as activated. The app will still launch and create a mail sender with the template even if the Mac is disconnected from the Internet.
One small glitch was that my signature showed through the templates, so it would seem like a good idea to use a sender without a signature when using these templates. Oddly, it didn't show up when printing to PDF.
From the Cayman Islands With Love
One of the metrics for a good app is the utility to simplicity ratio. If an app is powerful, highly useful, yet simple in installation and use, then that ratio is high, and the joy of using it is high as well. Stationery Pack meets that standard, and he ratio is high indeed.
Finally, e-mail is often done in a rush. Bad spelling, mixed upper and lower case, and bad grammar are rampant. E-mail is often swiftly done, and that's the whole point. But if one has a Mac and the time and inclination, some very special e-mail messages can be created that have impact -- assuming the recipient elects to receive richly formatted messages. And there's the rub.
For all the reasons cited above, I've generally ignored templated e-mail, but this app extends the few built-in templates in Apple's Mail so well that the possibilities will be on my mind from now on. My consciousness has been e-suitably expanded.