Creating business cards with OpenOffice.org Writer

Exchanging business cards is a rudimentary form of networking (the people, not the server kind). However, to get the most out of the exchange, you need a card that attracts attention and reflects the image or values you want to project.

Unfortunately, OpenOffice.org Writer's tool for producing business cards does such a poor job of realizing both these goals that it is better avoided. However, if you know where to look, Writer also includes other tools that make designing business cards as easy as possible.

When you first click File -> New -> Business Cards, you may have a flash of hope that most of your work will be done for. However, click the Business Cards tab, and disappointment sets in. The five templates offered include only text and a few dingbats, and are as about exciting and distinguished as prime time television. Use any of them, and the image that you'll project will be unprofessional. Besides, unless you work for a company that's so big that you have no need to worry about image, like Macdonald's or IBM, you want your card to stand out -- and using a template from any off-the-net piece of software isn't going to help you do that. Even using the AutoText options isn't going to help.

Preparing to design

My suggestion is to avoid the Business Cards selection altogether, and click instead on File -> New -> Labels. You won't really miss the business cards' use of fields, or their format options, and can avoid the irritation of working around them.

In the Labels tab in the Labels window, make sure that the format is set to Sheet, then choose the Brand and Type for the sheet layout. This choice is usually hit or miss unless you have a particular brand on hand, but Avery Letter Size 5371 and Avery A4 L7413 are your best choices. Note that you are not necessarily going to use the designated sheet for printing your business cards -- it's just a template so that you can print multiple cards from the same page.

Then go to the Options tab, and make sure that Synchronize contents is selected. This option will allow you to add the design to only one card on the sheet, then populate the rest of the cards with the design.

When you are finished, click the New Document button. You'll see a Synchronize Labels button floating in the window, but ignore it for now.

Go to Tools -> Options -> OpenOffice.org Writer -> Grid, and select Visible Grid to give you guidelines for your design. You should also adjust the horizontal and vertical grid to 1-4 points, so that the grid is useful in the small space of a business card. Finally, select View -> Toolbars -> Drawing so that you can add graphical text, which will be easier to use than regular text in your design.

As you will soon find, you are limited to adding material only to the first card in the upper left corner of the document. For this reason, you can select View -> Zoom to get a larger view of the first card until you are ready to populate the other cards with your design.

Design considerations

Business card layouts are an exercise in minimalist design. With only six square inches in which to work, you have no space to waste.

For this reason, I suggest keeping the text on the front of the card to the minimum: your name, your company's name, and your main email address and telephone, and, perhaps, a company or personal slogan. If people really need more, you can always put it on the back of the card (see below).

In this minimalist setting, you'll find that the basic principles of design really come to your attention. You'll want contrast between your text and its background -- that is, dark text on a light background, or light text on a dark background. Possibly, you will have room for a third main color -- but not more. Your selection of colors may be determined by your company's, but if your company's colors were professionally selected, they probably provide a ready made contrast anyway. You can apply the background by placing a rectangle of the proper color over the entire card.

You'll want to place related items close together, which means that the card will have one to three blocks of text: all the information together; your name and company in one block and your contact information in another, and possibly a third for a slogan. Chances are, you'll also want to give related text the same alignment, providing a visual clue for readers of your cards.

In your limited space, you also want to keep the design simple, using only one typeface, or possibly two. If your company doesn't already have a specific font that it uses in its advertising, a sans serif or slab serif will generally maximize readability on the card. Whatever font you use, make sure that its size is at least 8 points, and 10 or 12 if possible. Remember, too, that, the smaller the font size, the more space you need between lines for readability.

These are simple principles, but they are regularly ignored by beginning designers. A surprising number of amateurs, for instance, think that putting one piece of contact information in each corner of the card is stylish. The truth is, such a design is only cluttered and hard to read.

For visual content, an already-designed company logo, or one of your digital photos are good choices -- either ensures originality and avoids any potential licensing problems. Another alternative is the Open Clip Art Library, or perhaps free-licensed photos from Flickr or another photo-sharing site. If you have trouble deciding on an image, a texture -- a closeup of rock or fabric, for example, often gives an interesting background. If necessary, you can use either OpenOffice.org Draw or the GIMP to edit the visual to suit.

Nowadays, an increasing number of cards are two-sided. This practice has the advantage of allowing the front to focus on creating a visual impression with a minimum of text. The back can be a reversal of the front's foreground and background, and contain more detailed contact information than the front. Another use of the back can be a form that allows recipients to quickly record where they met you and any actions they promised to undertake as the result of the meeting. Create a separate page for the back, using the same technique as for the front.

These are the basic considerations for designing your card. The rest is a matter of trial and error, of adding elements to the card and resizing and moving them about. When you have added the lines in each text block using the Text tool on the Draw toolbar, you can select Format -> Group -> Group to move all the lines of the block around together.

Don't be surprised if getting a satisfactory design takes all evening, or even a couple of days of work. Any design, especially a minimalist one, is more effort than it looks.

Producing your cards

When you are finished the design, click the floating Synchronize Labels button. In a few seconds, the design on the first card will be replicated on all the others.

Whether you should print your cards yourself depends on the hardware you have on hand. The ideal tools are a color laser print with duplex (two-sided) printing, although you might get by with an inkjet and -- assuming your blood pressure is healthy enough to withstand some frustrations -- manually feeding sheets of cards back into the printer for two-sided jobs.

For paper, avoid the actual sheets of cards sold by label makers. If you compare these sheets with professional cards, they are far too thin to look professional even for a moment. They also tend to show perforations on their edges. Invest in a heavier card stock instead.

If you can afford to spend a couple of hundred dollars for printing, then consider using a professional printer. To prepare your work for the printer, select File -> Export as PDF.

As you can see, even though Writer's Business Card leaves a lot to be desired, you can sidestep its limitations to produce professional cards. The hardest part is the design -- and, even there, Writer has the tools to complement your ingenuity and effort.

______________________

-- Bruce Byfield (nanday)

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msn nickleri's picture

Thank you liked the site useful unshared

Any tips for creating free business cards?

cris2per's picture

I need some clean, professional business card templates, but I'd love to find a free site rather than paying for them. Anyone know of a great site for free business cards that won't make you print their logo all over it?!? What's the best info to include if you are advertising freelance work rather than a company?
Thanks :)

gourmet bags

The online company

susanlohan's picture

The online company printingexplorer also offers an easy and cheap way to create business cards, with lots of options for card quality (paper weight, gloss, etc.). i'm not associated with them in any way, but i've used them several times and have always been very pleased with the results and their prices.

Boston Printing

Small business savings

macaroni's picture

Small business need to save from anything in this economy. They are hit the hardest so everything from cutting personnel to discontinuing the free coffee is a common sight. I've seen businesses save a lot of money by using Google's document editing platform instead of the usual MS Office. Some have attempted to cut down their merchant account costs by lowering security. I can't say I'm a fan of this measure since it ultimately hits the customer and has a good potential to kill your business. My advice is save from anything which doesn't interfere with your client relations. If your clients are not happy your business doesn't stand a chance.

Using the appropriate accoutrement

Freddy's picture

Using the appropriate accoutrement can save you time and money. Templates accomplish activity easier back you use them for letters, documents, brochures, etc. but they absolutely accomplish activity easier back you use them for labels. The agreement for your characterization abstracts has to be abnormally absolute to accomplish abiding that the argument is printed absolutely area it needs to be design portfolio. This Howto will advice you use Openoffice.org templates to actualize abundant attractive labels.

Business card layouts are an exercise

Seo Trends's picture

Business card layouts are an exercise in minimalist design. With only six square inches in which to work, you have no space to waste. For this reason, I suggest keeping the text on the front of the card to the minimum: your name, your company’s name, and your main email address and telephone, and, perhaps, a company or personal slogan.

You made me laugh when you

DanielS's picture

You made me laugh when you said that many amateur business cards designers prefer placing the text in each corner of the card because it is stylish.. You remembered me of some particular business card, it was just too funny! The one who made it had split the card in two by drawing a line, and then wrote the same thing on each side, there was a slight difference though, one side was written up-side down , so no matter how you would turn the card you were able to read it. It looked confusing, and annoying and it certainly made me and my friends laugh for a long time. Anyways, keeping it simple and clear may be the best to make a good impression, your company's logo and contact details it's all you need for that. Just let the encore marketing professionals create a special business card design for you if you really want something special that would stand out of the crowd, after all not all of us have been born designers.

Table

Jay Mottern's picture

Your article got me started, but after printing a page I decided to find another way, one that also printed the grid lines to serve as guides when cutting the cards with a paper cutter. I'd already composed the card, text and all, in a graphics program and saved it as a transparent PNG, so I just created a 2-column table twice as wide as my card, with rows as high as the card and as many of them as I could fit one page of 13" card stock (5), then just inserted the PNG image, centered, into each cell. I didn't get to use the nifty synchronize feature and had to manually insert the image into each cell but there were only 10 of them. Now I have nice, thin 0.5px lines to cut along so I can get all the cards to come out the same size.

Thank you

Anonymous's picture

I also thank you for this easy to follow tutorial. I also thank the other respondents who suggest alternatives. I might try some of those too.

PM

Business Cards on Open Writer

Anonymous's picture

Thanks for the good instructions.

Us

cris2per's picture

internet marketing arizona
Just keep visiting us here!

Or you could just...

burs's picture

Or you could just go to avery.com/brc and download free word templates. Worked like a charm for me. opened right up into openoffice.

Step by Step Business Cards

sb7777's picture

Here's a great eHow article about making business cards with OpenOffice.

http://www.ehow.com/how_5012544_make-business-cards-openoffice.html

Couple of Hints

Ben2K's picture

First, the "Options tab" to Synchronize contents is part of the Labels selection window, not the usual Tools->Options menu.

Second, I found it much easier to design the cards using the OO Presentation app. Lots more options. When I had what I wanted, I exported it as a jpeg. Then using the OO Writer app to make the card, I just pasted the jpeg into one of the card spaces, used the Synchronize button, and I was done!

hard to follow and inkscape as an alternative

Maurice Cepeda's picture

I find using Inkscape more intuitive, if only because I've used it before.

I wrote a long winded HowTO make you own buss card ages ago. Since then, I haven't used the Scribus OS X port, but found a fast and efficient way to tile the card onto a OO template --once I've produced the card as a high quality image in Inkscape. Mind you, I could probably tiled it onto the right page size from within Inkscape too.

I haven't given glabels a go yet.

The old HowTo is at http://mauroandres.wordpress.com/2007/04/18/buss-cards-with-gpl-apps/

I'll be sure to write an updated straight to the point in the future at some time.

Lastly, you should really separate your instructions from your narrative text. I know magazine editor in chiefs don't want HowTos, but it really makes it hard to follow your steps when trying to duplicate by going through the steps in the app in question.

Maurice

Thanks for the help

briandicks's picture

I found this very useful.

I am currently changing the look of my small business. In less than 40 minutes I have new great looking business cards.

It tool about 15 minutes to make them, and 25 to print and cut them out (I use a photo cutter to cut them out). The only thing I added was a few lines between the cards to show me where to cut to get even size.

Work arounds are the straightest path

Lee Shipley's picture

The handling of business cards is appalling in Open Office, just as it is in MSWord or most other wordprocessors.

I was yet again disappointed when I opened the new 3.0 version: despite so many advances elsewhere all the old problems with the wizards and templating not only persisting but seem to be getting more abstract and obscure.

It is a good example why people aren't converting to OpenOffice at anything like the rate they should be. By aping the complexity of MSOffice we get the same potential for flaws in programming and mistakes in using--with an overlay of complexity introduced by conversion of templates from MSWord and the older OpenOffice and StarOffice formats.

Too much time is wasted in business trying to undo the damage done by tricky wizard software in these applications. Overly complex templates try to cope with too many variations in formats. The worst is the regular updates to the means of macro manipulation which means that templates start throwing errors and suck up hundreds of hours of reprogramming. It is often better to avoid templates altogether and start afresh each time by cut and pasting from a previous example. It is the ultimate but usual workaround for people in the real world.

This article is good example of the simple methods that should be adopted by programmers and users alike in reaching their goals. Just as in cooking where a little skill and fresh ingredients will always beat following instructions on a packet mix, good clear instructions based on solid, general tools will always give the best results.

My complements to Chef Bruce Byfield for his trick of the trade in dealing with Business Cards. It is not just a workaround. We need more admission that attempts to make WP easy by upping the complexity of the programming remain an abject failure.

Great tutorial

Carbone's picture

Thank you, this tutorial was really helpful!

Or just go to avery.com

Anonymous's picture

Or you could just go to avery.com/brc and download free word templates. Worked like a charm for me. opened right up into openoffice.

OOo Business Cards

jg's picture

Thanks, I just tried this and it works great. (Now if only my business card design skills were a little better...)

Business cards

apjjr's picture

I use OpenOffice.org Draw. Create a design of the right proportions, usually 3.5 wide by 2 high. Place it 1/2 inch down from the top and 3/4 inch in from the left. Then copy it to the right 3-1/2 inches. Then copy those 2 down 2 inches, four times. Then you will have 10 cards. Print them and cut apart. This is the layout I use for print shop production.
If you want to bleed an image off the edge of your card, leave a gutter between the columns and rows for overlapping edge of the image to go into. This takes more cuts, but you get a good result.
You can also create a design in Inkscape and do the same thing.
Best to all,
Alex

gLabels is better

jhansonxi's picture

This is one of those cases where a specialized app like gLables is an easier and more flexible solution (creating business cards in Word is also tedious). Perhaps a comparison?

another option

Stephan Beal's picture

The online company VistaPrint also offers an easy and cheap way to create business cards, with lots of options for card quality (paper weight, gloss, etc.). i'm not associated with them in any way, but i've used them several times and have always been very pleased with the results and their prices. http://www.vistaprint.com (If you don't speak German then scroll all the way down to the bottom to select your language.)

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