Friday, October 8, 2010

I am a Computer Genius. Appreciate My Skill!!

Ok, so I have spent the entire day teaching myself how to do something that I told my boss I thought I could do it even though I have never actually done it before. However, I did feel like I had a fair enough knowledge on the software I thought I would need to do it. That coupled with Internet tutorials, and I believed I could figure it out.

Since about 8:15 this morning I have been trying to figure out how to send a mass email to about 160 of our customers. Add more layers of complexity when I must include graphics that are embedded (vs. attached), use fields to have the computer fill in unique data about each one in each email, and on top of that, actually send the dang email. Preferably I wanted to get this done with just the click (or two) of the mouse and not have to copy and paste 160 different emails. Don't get me wrong, I would have done that and it probably wouldn't have taken as long as it took me to figure this out today, but humor aside, I taught myself how to do something (and found about 10 ways that wouldn't work) and removed the risk of my dyslexic typos that automation would save me. And perhaps the ultimate reason: the tension that builds up in my clicking fingers after so many routine copy and pastes.

So, if you ever find yourself in the position of wanting to do mass emailing for annoying marketing purposes (just kidding I'm sure your marketing will be welcomed by all of those targeted individuals!), here is a simple way.

You DO NOT need a mass email subscription like Constant Contact (as one of the tutorials taught me after I had already completed the previous 10 steps)

What I used:
• Photoshop CS3
• Word 2007
• Outlook 2007
• The Internet

1) Open Photoshop.

• New -- Width = 640, Height = 480, Resolution = 72 -- OK

• Design your graphic with text and all. Get everything placed just right. Go crazy with the graphics, but try to get your text in clean blocks because you will have to make it fit in a table later. So just remember that.

• Use the Slice tool and drag a box around all of the texty content. The best way to do this is to get your grid as simple as possible. Basically, unless you really like puzzles... just keep it simple ok?

• Hide all of the text layers. You can leave the text that's part of your main header if you have one, and text that you are sure won't need to move or change later, but other than that you'll probably want to hide those layers. They were just placeholders for the text you'll actually put in later.

• Now go to File -- Save for Web & Devices...
It will show you your email with all of your slices. Kinda redundant but go ahead and just click Save and move on with life.
When it asks you where to save it, pay attention and put it someplace where your short-term memory can find it. If you want to save those clicking fingers, just put it someplace shallow like My Documents or even on your Desktop.
It'll make a file called "images" or something like that. If you look in there you'll notice that your big image has been broken up into those slices you made and are now like pieces to a puzzle. If you were smart you made it easy on yourself... (c;

• Leave Photoshop and your beautiful creation up in the background while you move on to the next step.

2) Open your Internet browser.

• Go to You're going to upload each of those little slices, so go ahead and do that. Save yourself some clicks, select all of them and upload them at once because Image Shack is cool and lets you do that.

• It will show you thumbnails of each image. Right click on each of them and open them in a new tab until you have a string of tabs open in your browser. Make it quick now, let's get past this boring part. Right-click on the your image in each tab and tell it to "View Image." This should show you just the image all by itself with nothing else on the page. I like it like that, you know what you're getting. Just keep that up in the background for now.

3) Open Word. Insert -- Table.

• Go back to Photoshop and count the max number of columns and rows you're going to need. Just get a good estimate, you can always insert or remove rows and columns later, and cell merge is your friend.

• Once you've got your table, tell it you don't want any of those stinkin borders. Make them 0 fatness. Select it all and say NO BORDERS!

• Put the blinky cursor in the first cell (if you can find it now that it's invisible). Go back to your web browser to your first image and Copy Image. Paste it in the cell it goes in. Continue until all of your images are in their correct cell. This is the puzzle solving part. You'll have to drag table borders around, merge cells here and there, maybe add or remove rows or columns. It could be really frustrating, but keep working with it, you'll get it. If you're like me, you'll go back and re-do your slices in Photoshop to simplify them. But you're learning, so just enjoy. You'll probably redo this whole process a few times before you get it.

• When you're done, your image will be placed back together and you'll want to share your accomplishment with the world! But you're not there yet, so just don't get excited so fast. Now you put your text in. You may have to format your images so that they are "Behind Text." In my project I didn't have to, I just put the text of white space.

• Go to the "Mailings" tab to set up your Mail Merge. You should have a spreadsheet in mind with all of your data in it. I made a test spreadsheet with my own email address in place of customer email addresses to run the experiment - this is something you definitely want to do! The horrible thing is that you can't have the spreadsheet you're using as your source and your Word document with your beautiful pieced-together creation open at the same time. I had to keep closing one to tweak the other. Bummer, but you'll get it.

• Click "Select Recipients" under the "Mailings" tab and find your test spreadsheet. Then go to the Insert Merge Field button and put your merge fields in your text wherever you need them to go.

• Check out how it looks by clicking Preview Results. Make necessary tweaks.

• Here's the magical part that I found by happy mistake. Under the Finish & Merge button, it says "Send Email Messages." And it knows that you want to use the email addresses in your spreadsheet and it's AWESOME!

Well, it's so 5:00 on Friday ya'll. I am out of here!

1 comment:

  1. Neat! I feel like I might actually use this someday....