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Software makes printing cards fun

ATLANTA -- If you are one of those folks who takes delight in making things like greeting cards, signs, banners, bookmarks, menus and the like, let me introduce you to Corel Print House Magic Premium.

All six discs of it.This area of computing has obviously become very popular. There was a time when Broderbund's Print Shop was about the only game in town for you folks. Now everybody's got one, but I've never seen the like of Print House Magic Premium.

It is, I think, the PageMaker of small-scale design.

The package consists of Corel Print House 4, Photo House 3 and a bunch of plug-ins, and a database for keeping track of events like birthdays and anniversaries. The discs are stuffed with 80,000 graphic images, both clip art and photos, more than 300 fonts and, in case you can't think of anything to say on Auntie Pood's birthday card, more than a thousand phrases. I was hoping for a nice collection of Middle Eastern curses, like "May a trolley car grow in your stomach," but nearly all of them are sweet and sober or rather silly.

Print House lets you manipulate text and images in just about every way possible. Of course, great power has its price -- complexity. For instance, you can position objects on a page just by dragging them around, and you can expand or shrink them by dragging their corner markers. But you can also size and position them precisely by typing in the measurements.

Toolbars abound. They're all over the place. Fortunately, the icons are fairly intuitive.

Much of the product of Print House is child-oriented. You can make party sets -- hats, masks, placemats, bags and so forth -- in a couple of dozen themes. Unfortunately, Print House Magic is likely to be rough going for kids young enough to want this sort of thing. Even with all the helper wizards, it's complex

The most frustrating thing is deciding upon, and then finding, the art you want to use.

The program comes with an inch-thick book, about 400 pages, less than 100 of which are the manual. The rest is a catalog of all the stuff on the disks.

It ranges from the dumbest kind of cartoon clip art to a nice selection of old master paintings. You want animals? It's got silly animals, cartoon animals, Audubon-style animals and photographic animals. Tigers? A couple of dozen photographs, plus all the clip art.

Unfortunately, I can't find any way to tell which disk contains which images. This means a lot of popping CD-ROMs in and out of the drive, aggravating enough for us old folks, torture for a kid.

On the upside, however, Corel Print House Magic Premium sells for $50 or less, which is only about $12 per word in the title, and less than $10 a disk.

It's hard to complain at that price.