Business Card Composer
Business Card Composer intro: a cool tool for creating business cards. This is an old review (circa 2003), but I'm happily amazed that the product still has been maintained and is used. Most software doesn't last this long, but I guess everyone needs business cards, and a decent little app for creating them has survived the test of time.
As a professional, and with years of dabbling in graphic arts and graphic design, I have collected quite a few professional packages. Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, not to mention quite a few other graphics, drawing and illustration packages. I've designed many dozens of logos and business cards for friends. So I can use may tools. Still, the other day I was sent a friendly solicitation to try a new package, called Business Card Composer from BeLight Software. I figured, "what the heck, I'll give it a shot".
The power of omnibus (do everything tools), or very generic tools like Illustrator or Photoshop, is that you learn them once, and you can do dozens of things with them. But the downside is that they aren't very specialized for what you need to do; and they have learning curves that can make them prohibitive for just getting something simple done. Not to mention the price; spending $400-900 for a package to create business cards and a few other things just isn't very economical.
BCC (Business Card Composer) is the opposite of all that. It was a small, very focused package, for creating business cards. It was simple to setup, and even easier to use. It has lots of sample cards and clip-art; a wizard for helping you create cards, and some tools for helping you print them out on your home printer using many different precut (perforated) cards that you can buy for your inkjet or laser printer.
BCC is designed for OS X and uses the power of Quartz imaging to lay together really nice and clean effects with minimal effort. It is especially good at doing high quality photographic and all color cards. And by using your home printer, you can whip out just a few, or a few dozen (or even a hundred) cards, with minimal effort. I also liked the ability of BCC to pull information from the Address Book in OS X, so if you were making cards for more than a few people, then it would be a breeze.
I played with BCC, and in 5 minutes had some nice looking cards, and in another 20, I had pretty much learned the strengths and limitations of the tool, all without cracking a manual. The simple templates gave me some good ideas for improving card designs, and helped me get something done so I could get back to doing real work. While I'm fast with both Photoshop and Illustrator, I couldn't have really done something faster, and that's with years of training. Of course I didn't have the power or versatility either, but then sometimes that power and versatility just gets in people's way, and distracts them from the task at hand.
Some people might consider $39.95 a little expensive for really simple or focused software. It doesn't do logos or letterhead, and it doesn't have a lot of little shortcuts, special effects and other features that I've come to expect from higher end graphics packages. And you can design cards in Microsoft Word, in Apple Works, and in dozens of other packages. But what BCC does, it does well. How much is your time worth? For me, $40 to save myself an hour or two of time, and get back to doing real work is certainly a bargain. And for many people, they just would never have the expertise to do a good looking card with the more professional packages, or have the patience to get something looking reasonable in the more generic packages. And there's the whole design abilities or illustration capabilities required that BCC guides them through. So if you compare BCC to the costs of outsourcing the design, it is certainly a bargain.
Business Card Composer is not going to replace Illustrator or Photoshop for professionals. But even pros (or hobbiests) can save some time by blasting together some card designs quickly with BCC; or even just using the templates to print a library of designs to narrow down what a client is looking for.
If you want to print thousands of really high end cards, for dozens of different people, and you want foil stamped, embossed, custom cut cards, and other really high end things; then Business Card Composer is probably not the tool for you either. You can pull some of that off on your home or business printers; but realistically, you'll want to outsource to professionals who have the tools to do this better. Foruntately, most of our requirements are more modest, and that's what BCC is for.
What BCC will do, is allow Small Offices and Home Offices, or hobby businesses to quickly create nice looking cards, for a fraction the cost and effort than they would otherwise, and it can be a fun experience just playing with these simple and focused tools and tinkering until you get what you want. There's always something extremely satisfying about handing out cards that people say, "Nice Card", and being able to reply with (or just think), "Thanks, I made them myself". Not to mention the economics of being able to whip out in home-designs for a fraction of the cost of oursourcing. For those things, Business Card Composer is a nice little product, and a bargain at that price.