From the Kenosha News on 1-30-05

Send an e-card to say hello - for free

     With plenty of "lesser holidays" coming up, take the opportunity to send an e-card an electronic greeting card or post card.  Now, if the occasion really merits a real (paper) card or the recipient is expecting a real card in the mail, then an e-card probably won't cut it.  On the other hand, kids and teens love e-cards because they're not just a picture and a poem; many are animated with cartoons and sound.  Some e-cards even feature games the recipient can play.  (For most animated cards, the recipient must have Flash player software on their computer, but this is a very common utility that usually comes with newer computers.)  No matter what, an unexpected e-card is bound to be a hit.

      To send an e-card, go to a web site that offers that service.  You then enter the name and e-mail address of the recipient, your name and e-mail address, and a personalized message.  The recipient will receive an e-mail instructing them how to view their e-card.  Most sites offer the option of specifying a different date for the e-card to be delivered.  There are sites that require you to pay for e-cards, but many offer them at no charge.  I will only discuss the free ones.  Of course, you'll encounter quite a bit of advertising along the way; that's how these sites can afford to offer this free service.

      My favorite site for e-cards is Hallmark.com.  Click on the link to Free E-Cards under the Products heading.  Select from any one of the card categories listed.  Preview as many as you like.  When you find the right one, click the Personalize button.  Fill out the next screen with all the required information.  You can send the same card to more than one person by entering multiple e-mail addresses.  You may want to un-check the box that says Hallmark can e-mail you about special offers; leaving it checked will put you on their e-mail mailing list.  When finished, click Preview to see how it looks.  After the preview, click Send.

      A site I recently discovered is 123greetings.com.  They have a dizzying number of cards all free.  Also unique is the ability to customize background colors, fonts, and sometimes the music.

      For more options, Bluemountain.com and Americangreetings.com also have some free e-cards, but they are mixed in with the ones you have to pay for, so look for the "free" label to the left of the card icon.

      Finally, there are many sites usually tourism sites that offer free e-postcards.  To get a list of these sites, go to Google.com and type in the search terms "tourism send postcard".  You can only see 10 hits (sites listed) per screen, so click Next at the bottom of the screen to see more.  Click on a site, e.g. "Maine Office of Tourism", and select the postcard you like.  The rest of the process works much like regular e-cards, but the cards themselves don't move or have music.

      So, surprise someone for Groundhog Day, Chinese New Year, a birthday, Valentine's day, or just say Hello.

By Carol Sabbar from the Kenosha News on 1-30-05