Avanquest – Hallmark Card Studio Deluxe review

card and paper project creation software
Photo of Avanquest – Hallmark Card Studio Deluxe
£29.99

With Christmas looming in the not-so-distant future, one’s thoughts turn to last-minute panic, desperately late gifts bought from the local garage and frantic scrabbling through kitchen drawers to find a final card so you can reciprocate the one that – curses – arrived unexpectedly that morning. Enter Hallmark Card Studio Deluxe, a card maker for all occasions which can even be pressed into service for those genuine Christmas Eve-type moments, thanks to the feature which turns printed cards into animations that can be attached to an e-mail.

Card Studio Deluxe comes with 9,000 cards and other customisable projects (like foldable gift boxes, certificates and calendars), 16,000 pieces of clip art and, in this version, 200 extra greetings cards including a selection from the popular Forever Friends catalogue.

In addition, the latest version ditches the traditional Windows-style interface in favour something much more fluffy and animated and although we’re notoriously suspicious of programs that don’t follow Windows design conventions, we love this. Anyone should be able to work out how to find and personalise a greeting card in moments and then go on to add clip art or photos, shapes and other simple graphic elements, move stuff around, set up margins, and so on. Interestingly, the emphasis on simplicity and the fact that it’s not overloaded with customisation options and fancy graphical extra features makes it much easier to crack on and produce a decent card.

Projects are divided into birthdays, holidays, special days, day by day (get well, missing you and – trés modern – today’s step-families) and there’s a built-in event planner so you can enter birthdays and other special occasions straight into the program. Finished cards can be spell checked before printing or you can turn them into animated AVI movies with background sounds (applause, laughter, wolf whistles, that kind of thing) and music: there’s a selection of built in sounds or you can use any WAV file stored on your PC. Remember, though, that these attachments can get pretty big, pretty quickly.

It’s also got a password protected kid lock because ‘Portions of the content in HCS might be considered unsuitable for some users’. These turn out to be a selection of genuinely funny cards with gentle adult language at the level that wouldn’t be out of place in an early evening TV soap; not too much to worry about there, then.

With Christmas cards so cheap (or being sold in support of a charity) a program like this is unlikely to be used to churn out 100 cards, but for special occasions, close friends and family – or if you’re in a last minute panic – it’s just the job. Invest in some pre-folded quality cards and matching envelopes to go with it (don’t skimp or the cards will look rubbish) and you’ll be covered for pretty much every occasion.

Company: Avanquest

Contact: 01480 496666


Verdict
The simplified interface is active and engaging and anyone who's ever scratched their head over traditional graphics software will find it rather wonderful; it's also refreshing to see one or two genuinely funny cards in there amongst all the usual saccharine. Add literally thousands of designs to choose from, simple layout tools, photo editing, a reminder calendar and a range of other interesting project templates and you've got an excellent piece of software.