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    Mail Merge Experts?


    2012 - 02.08

    The need for this has actually passed, as we solved it (or got around the problem), but thought I’d throw it out to the internet and see if anything came back.

    So one of the problems with having an online magazine is that you’re going to publish content written by other people, which means that you need the rights to publish that content, which means that you need contracts which give you those rights.  Because Karin’s had Abandoned Towers open for submissions essentially since she took it over, she’s got a bunch of submissions that she has accepted and which needed contracts (so that we could have content to publish for launch and going forward).

    I made up the nice template for the contracts, and thought that it might be possible to use a mail merge in order to make the individual contracts.  However, I didn’t find any way that I could do what I actually wanted which was this:

    • Use the Word 2010 document that I’d created as a template (this is easy)
    • Use an Excel 2010 spreadsheet as the source list of fields (this is easy)
    • Merge the source fields into the template document to create unique contracts (this is also easy)
    • Instead of printing, emailing or generating a PDF, I wanted to generate individual Word documents for each contract (and ideally which allowed me to dictate the logic that was used for the file names of those documents).  The key reason being that we need the people who receive the contracts to be able to enter some data into them. (this as far as I was able to tell was impossible)

    Anyway, just throwing it out there that this seems like an oversight and an incredibly useful feature (especially in the current digital environment).  In the long run this probably isn’t a big deal for us, as Karin will going forward be making only a couple of contracts at a time for content (instead of the giant number created just before launch).

    As a second question, anyone know of a way to create a custom Document Information Panel with InfoPath for a Word document without having to use SharePoint?  I suppose I don’t actually care if InfoPath is used to create the Document Information Panel, realistically I just want to customize it and include additional fields (specifically for the contract) without having to resort to using SharePoint (which I don’t have easy access to at present).  All the steps in the process are pretty simple as far as I can tell (and remember) but in InfoPath 2010 at least, the first thing you get prompted to enter when trying to create the custom Document Information Panel is the SharePoint location, and it just seems like this should be possible without using SharePoint (at least technically, if not practically or being worth the effort).

    Craft Project: Guitar Picks


    2011 - 11.20

    This craft project was actually from Thursday night.  Karin has many superpowers, this particular one has been used lately: the ability to lose guitar picks.

    We did a quick check at the mall to see if anyone happened to have guitar picks, we didn’t find any.  Before we started scouring all the stores however, it occurred to me that guitar picks don’t appear to be fundamentally complex items.  I could be wrong, and maybe there is a significant difference in how they are made in terms of an impact to your playing, but if there is I’m blissfully ignorant of it, and either so is Karin, or she hasn’t noticed that difference in her playing yet.  Regardless, we decided that we’d try to make our own and see how that worked.

    I did a quick search to see if this was something that other people were doing, and there’s lots of hints and videos and such out there for how to do it yourself.  At the mall I was thinking of using used gift cards, and the internet suggests that as well as used CDs (which we haven’t tried yet).  Overall the process is pretty simple, although you’ll find that the vast majority of the instructions out there are not necessarily helpful if you’re starting from a “have not” situation.

    The reason they aren’t helpful is that they instruct you to trace an existing guitar pick onto your chosen medium.  But I don’t have a guitar pick, which is why I am trying to make some you observe.

    “We can’t help you then”

    “Huh, there must be some other way!”

    So grabbing an image of a guitar pick from a location which allows you to order custom artwork on guitar picks, past it into a document, print it on card stock and now I have a template that I can use to trace a guitar pick like shape onto the gift cards.

    I was able to get 5-6 guitar picks per card, depending on how tightly you group them, and how big your need them your experience may vary.  So it’s just a matter of tracing, then cutting them out with good scissors, sanding or filing down the edges so that they are smooth, repeat.

    For anyone who wants to try this themselves you’re welcome to use the Guitar Picks Template (pdf) that I did, enjoy.

    Wine Tasting Cards


    2010 - 12.24

    So a little over 14 months ago Karin did a double blind wine tasting at her birthday party, and in order to do that we came up with some wine tasting cards.  Surprisingly a search for Wine Tasting cards still doesn’t produce much in the way of results.

    As part of their Christmas gift we gave Karin’s brother and girlfriend-in-law some of the cards that we created for the birthday party, as they have started hosting their own wine tastings.  So given that we’re already sharing the cards with others, I figured what the hell, let’s release them to the world, and see if anyone else finds them useful. 

    So we can only take partial credit for these cards, as they are heavily based on the score cards from www.finedinings.com and their suggestions on how to host a wine tasting.  Another viable alternative score card is available from Better Tasting Wine, but for now we like ours better.

    One thing that is probably worth mentioning in case people from all over the Internet happen across the post, is that I essentially typeset the existing cards that we found, I’m not a wine connoisseur, in truth I don’t drink at all.  Essentially, I claim no wine expertise, and don’t in truth understand all of the criteria used for rating the wines on the cards.  That said, feel free to offer feedback or suggestions.