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Outlook Express stationery comes in great variety. It ranges from the very basic stuff supplied with your operating system, through to works of art, such as those made by PSP groups all around the world.
The stationery that I make and use myself is fairly simple and it's all built on a similar pattern: a textured background and a plain writing area. There may or may not be a picture of some kind as well, and the writing area may have a border or not, and it might be the same color as the background or a different color.
All of these are things you can quickly learn to change yourself. Start by saving and assembling this piece of stationery, then proceed to change the picture, the background and the styles. Take it step by step and you'll find it easy and great fun.
Here are a few variations. If you click on one of the thumbnails, you'll see a bigger—although not full-sized—picture of what I'm talking about. When you click away the larger picture will close.
The picture on the left shows one piece of stationery as it looks when first loaded into Outlook Express. On the right you can see how the writing area stretches downwards as you write your email on that piece.
You can make the writing area either a particular width, by using something like 800px, or a certain percentage of the window, by writing, say, 80%. How to do this is explained on Change Stationery—Width.
Borders, of which you can make dozens of variations—or which you can leave out altogether—are explained and illustrated on the page about Stationery Styles.
It's a good idea, if you're going to use a picture in your stationery, to choose colors from the picture for background tiles and the writing area. A few different background tiles can be copied from the Change Stationery page, and you'll find some others listed on the Tile Finder page.
When I first became interested in Outlook Express stationery I searched the Internet for lessons and examples. There were lots, but in almost all cases they were written by someone who assumed that I already understood the basics. There were give-away scripts, with cryptic messages like "insert image here"—but I couldn't quite tell where "here" was.
Most of the scripts that I found were "advanced"; it was a bit like trying to learn long division without being able to count by ones. Another problem was that some of my searching led to pages that gave lessons in making lovely pictures, but said little about how to use them. Just what the bits of the html meant was seldom explained.
OK. So what I've tried to do is to answer the questions to which I wanted answers. I've written out a couple of scripts that can be copied and pasted and I've tried to say what each part of the script does or controls and how you can change it. That should give you a launching place for experimentation. I really hope it'll be useful.
The other problem that I've approached is background tiles. In the introduction to his help file, the author of Harm's sTile reminds us that the best way to obtain a seamless tile is to begin with a seamless tile. He has ways of hiding the edges, but points out that there are limitations. ByLight's 20/20 will do amazing things with some images, but not with all.
OK. My method won't work with a truly complex existing image—unless you're a skilled artist—but it makes a fair fist of designing your own from scratch. Once you see the how of it, you'll find hundreds of ways to implement the technique—and it's just so easy!
You could imagine that I'd deliberately set out to advise you not to spend big heaps of money on top-of-the-range graphics programs. Gosh! Where did you get that idea? The fact is that a top flight program is only useful if you put time into learning it. No program is magic. Techniques that work in basic programs work in the big ones as well, but there are so many menus and options to wade through! And no program can turn you into an artist or designer—believe me; I've tried a lot of programs! Start low, learn everything you can and you'll be better able to decide which big program you really want to buy. Of course, there are quite a number of free programs too. One of them may be exactly what you need.
Questions or comments? I'd love to hear from you. My email address is here.
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