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Print Labels for Your Holiday Cards with Apple’s Contacts App

Angie Schiltz

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If mailing your holiday cards (which you printed from Photos, right?) is made harder by having to write addresses on envelopes, you can skip the handwriting step this year with mailing labels. Although many people don’t realize this, it’s easy to print mailing labels on standard label stock using the Contacts app on the Mac. You can even add a personal touch by including a graphic and using a custom color and font choice. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. In Contacts, choose File > New Group to create an empty group into which you can collect your card recipients. Name the group something like Holiday Cards.
  2. Click All Contacts to see your full collection of contacts, and then drag your recipients from the center column to the Holiday Cards group. Note that you have to click and hold briefly before Contacts lets you start dragging a contact; if you drag too soon, Contacts assumes you want to select more contacts. You can drag contacts one at a time or select several at once and drag the entire selection. This doesn’t move contacts out of All Contacts—you’re just adding them to the Holiday Cards group, which functions much like an iTunes playlist.
     
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3. Once the Holiday Cards group is populated with all your recipients, click its name in the sidebar, and then choose File > Print to open the Print dialog.

4. To set up your cards, you need to see details in the Print dialog, so at the bottom of the Print dialog, click the Show Details button (if it’s already called Hide Details, you’re all set). You also need to see the special controls for Contacts, so make sure Contacts is chosen from the pop-up menu underneath the page range fields. Then from the Style pop-up menu, choose Mailing Labels.

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5. Beneath the Style pop-up menu, make sure Layout is selected, and then in the Layout view, from the Page pop-up menus, choose the manufacturer of your labels and the number associated with the labels. (Avery 5160 is the most common label type and is readily available at office supply stores and online.)

6. Click Label to switch to the Label view. From the Addresses pop-up menu, choose the type of address you’re using. Home is likely the most appropriate; if you choose All, Contacts will print both Home and Work addresses if available. You can also choose to print company and country here, and if you print country, you can exclude your own country, which makes it easy to include overseas friends and relatives without printing the country for most people.

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7. Although the defaults are fine, if you want, you can change the color of the label text, select a small image to print next to each contact, and change the font.

8. It’s time to print, but not on your label stock just yet! Click the Print button to print a draft of your labels on plain paper. You’ll use this draft for two things—checking the addresses for accuracy and verifying that the labels will print properly on the label stock.

To check if the labels will print correctly, stack a page from the draft on top of a sheet of blank labels, and then hold them up to a bright light or sunlit window. You should be able to see whether the positioning is right—it should be in most cases. If not, make sure you’ve chosen the right label in the Print dialog, and if all else fails, create a custom label with your own margins and gutters to make it work.

9. Once you’ve fixed addresses for everyone who has moved recently and verified your positioning, you can print for real on your label stock.

That’s it! Most of the work comes in selecting people, making sure their addresses are right, and updating those that have changed—actually printing labels takes only a few minutes. As you stick your labels on envelopes, you can revel in the knowledge that it will go even faster next year!

Make Your Holiday Cards with Apple’s Photos App This Year

Angie Schiltz

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It’s that time of year again, when we realize that if we’re going to do holiday cards, we should get started. You can take the easy way out and buy a few packs of generic reindeer cards at the drugstore, but with a little work in Apple’s Photos app on the Mac, you can instead send cards personalized with your favorite family photos from the past year. Here’s how.

  1. Select photos. Although you can add photos to your card project at any time, it’s easiest to make a new album and then spin through last year’s photos, adding 20 or so of the best candidates to your album. Don’t be picky at this point because it’s easier to choose the final images from within the card layout.
  2. Create the card. Select all the photos in your new album with Edit > Select All, and choose File > Create > Card. Then select one of the three choices: a 5×7 folded letterpress card for $2.99 each, a 5×7 folded card for $1.49 each, or a 4×6 flat double-sided card for $0.99 each. They all include envelopes.
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3. Select a theme. Photos loads themes over the Internet automatically, so if you see just a few themes, wait until more appear. Choose Holidays from the pop-up menu at the top, and click either Landscape or Portrait to pick the orientation before selecting a theme and clicking Create Card in the upper-right corner. 

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It’s easy to change your choices while working on the card by clicking the button next to Buy Card.

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4. Choose layouts. Although every card starts with a default layout, most have alternatives. Would you prefer a single image on the front, rather than a four-photo layout? Click the Options button below the card to open the Layout Options panel, and click the desired layout.

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5. Add photos. To add a photo to a spot on the card, drag it from the photo collection at the bottom of the screen, which shows the contents of your album. Dragging a photo on top of an already-placed image replaces it, or you can drag a photo from the card back to the collection at the bottom. Buttons let you clear placed photos (helpful when starting over with a new theme), auto-fill photos for quick placement, switch between showing unused and placed photos, and add more photos to the project.

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If Photos didn’t bring in all the photos from your album automatically, click the album in the sidebar, select all the photos, and drag them to the project entry in the sidebar. That’s much easier than adding them piecemeal via the Add Photos button.

6. Edit photos. When you click a photo on the card, the Photo Options panel appears so you can apply filters, edit the photo with all of Photos’ editing tools, or zoom and crop. After zooming a photo with the slider, you can drag it within its spot on the card to position the subject properly.

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7. Add and edit text. Some text boxes in the layout can be edited; just click inside and type. Others can’t be changed. If you need to tweak the font, size, color, or orientation of text, select it and make your adjustments in the Text Options panel that appears.

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8. Buy your card. Once you’ve adjusted everything to your liking, click the Buy Card button in the upper-right corner of the window. Click Add Shipping Address, select a contact (likely yourself) to send the cards to, and then enter how many cards you’d like. When you’re done, click Place Order.

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Apple prints and mails you the cards, usually within a week or so. The print quality is, as you’d expect from Apple, top notch, and overall, the cards are a step up from those available from other photo services.

The hardest part of designing your own cards with Photos is figuring out which themes and layouts best match the photos you want to share. Some themes offer spots for only one or two photos, whereas others let you include a lot more, at the cost of making them much smaller. Similarly, some themes let you write a full letter, but others have room for just a few words of holiday cheer.

When you have a few minutes, sit down with a cup of eggnog and play with Photos’ card-making capabilities. Stay tuned, since we have another article about how to print labels for your cards coming soon!

What Is a Fusion Drive, and Why Should You Care?

Angie Schiltz

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There are two basic types of storage devices available today: hard disk drives and solid-state drives. For the lowest cost per gigabyte, you can’t go wrong with a hard drive, and they come in truly massive sizes—up to a whopping 8 terabytes. However, they’re relatively slow.

For speed, you want a solid-state drive, also known as an SSD. Because SSDs rely on flash storage, a type of non-volatile memory whose chips retain data without power, they’re lightning fast. But chips are more expensive than hard disk platters and read/write heads, so the $250–$300 that will get you an 8 TB hard drive is enough for only a 1 TB SSD.

In 2012, Apple came up with a compromise: the Fusion Drive. As its name suggests, a Fusion Drive melds a hard disk drive with flash storage to provide the best of both worlds. The user sees just a single volume, but behind the scenes, macOS automatically and dynamically moves frequently used files—notably those used by the operating system—to the flash storage portion of the Fusion Drive for faster access while keeping infrequently used files on the hard drive.

In essence, the Fusion Drive provides much of the speed of an SSD along with the capacity of a hard drive. What’s not to like?

There are some caveats. Good as a Fusion Drive is, it will never be as fast as a pure SSD, and you’ll probably notice that most when working with older files. Try editing some photos from last year in Photos and you’ll likely be working entirely on the slow hard drive.

Also, Apple provides the Fusion Drive as an option only for the iMac and Mac mini; there’s no room it in a modern MacBook. But not all Fusion Drives are created equal. They come in 1 TB, 2 TB, and 3 TB sizes, although not all iMac and Mac mini models can accept the larger Fusion Drives.\

Originally, all Fusion Drives had 128 GB of speedy flash storage alongside the hard drive, but in 2015, Apple reduced the amount of flash storage in the iMac’s 1 TB Fusion Drive to a paltry 24 GB (the Mac mini’s 1 TB Fusion Drive still has 128 GB). The company subsequently increased it to 32 GB, but if you’re buying a new iMac and want better performance from a Fusion Drive, go for either 2 TB or 3 TB, both of which have 128 GB of flash storage.

One final note. As of this writing, macOS 10.13 High Sierra will not convert a Fusion Drive to Apple’s new APFS file system. We anticipate that will change at some point in the next year, and APFS might make Fusion Drives even a bit faster.

All that said, if you want the best performance and can afford the cost, get an SSD. If you need more space than an SSD can provide, consider using the SSD internally and adding an external hard drive connected via USB 3 or Thunderbolt 3. Barring that, a Fusion Drive—particularly one with 128 GB of flash storage—remains a good compromise. Honestly, we can’t currently recommend a hard disk drive as the primary storage for a Mac unless low cost is paramount. Hard drive performance just isn’t good enough.