Review: Business Card Composer v3

Belight strikes the balance between Word and layout applications. (May 27th, 2005)

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Product Manufacturer: Belight Software

Price: $39.95 boxed, $34.95 download

The Good

  • Includes tons of clip art and masks. Easy to get started with the assistant to design a good card.

The Bad

  • Not incredible intuitive to add text or counters to the card, takes a moment to figure out what the expected interaction is- but once learned, very easy to use.

It seems like such a silly thing. But the truth is that I never seem to have a business card to hand out when I need it. Or the one that I have isn't the one I want to hand out for the situation. In the past I've tried everything from expensive fancy layout programs that are overkill to simple word processors that can barely rise to the task of creating a decent looking business card that I can print at home.

So, it's at long last that I'm looking at version 3 of Belight Inc.'s Business Card Composer software. I've looked at version 2 and used it off and on, but version 3 makes some good advances. In order to really give version 3 a fresh look, I gave it to my wife to use. Within minutes she had created a new card and declared it amazing. Oh, and she wants me to take it off my computer and put it on hers. She wants to use it to create announcement cards.

And she can. All she needs to do to create an announcement card is to create a custom layout in the card properties. Then she can lay out the card as if it were a business card, and make it do just about anything she pleases. But more on this later in the review.

New features for version 3

2 cds of clipart containing 23000 images, 500 pro designs, and 100 unique masks. Take a moment to fathom those numbers.

The boxed version ships with card stock so that there's nothing stopping you from making an excellent looking business card within ten minutes of sitting down at the computer. For those who can't wait to get the product, a download version is available.

Layout functions

There is a background and foreground that you can switch between for more advanced control of the card. similar to layers in a product like Photoshop, only you are restricted to two of them. It also includes guides, so that as you move text and images around on the card, you can see when objects line up properly and with which objects they are aligning.

Image functions

Besides the layout features, Business Card Composer also includes some image manipulation features. A mask is the real-world effect of placing something over a surface and then painting the image through that overlay. Imagine if you will, I place a window screen over a background and then paint my image through it. When I remove the screen, I will have my image with a hash of white lines through it. Business Card Compposer allows of any image can be a mask, for making unusual effects. Several masks are included with the application when you install it.

Version 3 adds the ability to crop images that you add to the card, something that would normally have had to been done in a Photoshop-like program, or Preview.app. It also allows for resize and rotation. Between these three things, most of the image manipulation you would need to compose a card is covered. With all the clipart that the application ships with, you should be able to find an appropriate image for your card. If you cannot, don't despair, you can use any image in your iPhoto library, or search the internet, directly from the application.

One For All, All For One

There are three different printing methods, including multiple designs on one sheet. This works for my problem where I said at the beginning that I never have the right card with me. I can print out several different designs and be ready to hand out any of them. Other options are one card design for yourself, or one design for several people. For the person making badges for a convention, for example, you can import data from a text file and use Counters options to numerate the badges, and end up printing one design for multiple people, all with a unique number. You can also export the card to JPEG and share it with friends and partners by email and web.

But Wait, There's One More Thing

You aren't limited to just the standard business card size. The first clue that we have to this fact is that Business Card Composer also makes labels for business card CDs and full size CD and DVD discs. In the past, I've needed to make postcards and palmcards. Without further ado, How To work with a 3"x5" postcard size: You can create and use a custom layout in the Card Properties dialog. You can set " 3"x5" postcard size" as a Custom Layout once. The next time you need it, you can work with this size easily. To choose the newly created Layout you can select it when creating a new card in the Business Card Assistant or to use it with the existing card select the Layout in the Card Properties Dialog. I'm tempted to see if I can make a layout for use with the Badge-a-Minit button maker- between it and a page of circlular 'business cards' with counters on them, it should be easy.

Small Things Make The Difference

Business Card Composer isn't a layout application. It isn't a photo manipulation application. It is a little bit of both of these, with a large amount of convenience. I no longer have to bother with applications that do too little, or those that do too much. I have Business Card Composer.

by Victor Marks


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