If mailing your holiday cards (which you designed in Photos with a plug-in like Motif or Mimeo Photos, right?) is made harder by having to write addresses on envelopes, you can skip the handwriting step this year. Although many people don’t realize this, it’s easy to print mailing labels on standard label stock using the Contacts app on the Mac. You can even add a personal touch by including a graphic and using a custom color and font choice. Follow these steps:

  1. In Contacts, choose File > New Group to create an empty group into which you can collect your card recipients. Name the group something like Holiday Cards.
  2. Click All Contacts to see your full collection of contacts, and then drag your recipients from the center column to copy them into the Holiday Cards group. Note that you have to click and hold briefly before Contacts lets you start dragging a contact. You can drag contacts one at a time or select several at once and drag the entire selection. This doesn’t move contacts out of All Contacts—you’re just adding them to the Holiday Cards group, which functions like a playlist in Music.
  3. Once the Holiday Cards group contains all your recipients, click its name in the sidebar, and then choose File > Print to open the Print dialog.
  4. To set up your cards, you need to see details in the Print dialog, so at the bottom of the Print dialog, click the Show Details button (if it’s already called Hide Details, you’re all set). You also need to see the special controls for Contacts, so make sure Contacts is chosen from the pop-up menu underneath the page range fields. Then from the Style pop-up menu, choose Mailing Labels.
  5. Beneath the Style pop-up menu, make sure Layout is selected, and then in the Layout view, from the Page pop-up menus, choose the manufacturer of your labels and the number associated with the labels. (Avery 5160 is a particularly common label type and is readily available at office supply stores and online.)
  6. Click Label to switch to the Label view. From the Addresses pop-up menu, choose the type of address you’re using. Home is likely the most appropriate; if you choose All, Contacts will print both Home and Work addresses if available. You can also select the checkboxes for Company and Country here, and if you print the country, you can exclude your own country, which makes it easy to include overseas friends and relatives without printing the country for most people.
  7. Although the defaults are fine, you can change the color of the label text, select a small image to print next to each contact, and change the font.
  8. It’s time to print, but not on your label stock just yet! Click the Print button to print a draft of your labels on plain paper. You’ll use this draft for two things—checking the addresses for accuracy and verifying that the labels will print properly on the label stock. To check if the labels will print correctly, stack a page from the draft on top of a sheet of blank labels, and then hold them up to a bright light or sunlit window. You should be able to see whether the positioning is right—it should be in most cases. If not, make sure you’ve chosen the right label in the Print dialog, and if all else fails, create a custom label with your own margins and gutters to make it work. You may also want to increase or decrease the font size, making sure that even your longest addresses will fit.
  9. Once you’ve fixed addresses for everyone who has moved recently and verified your positioning, you can print for real on your label stock.

There’s only one limitation to using Contacts to print your labels. If you’re a perfectionist, you might want to customize how the names of couples appear on the label. Even though it has the necessary Spouse relationship field that links contacts together, Contacts doesn’t support different name formats on labels. For instance, if you’re sending a card to a couple who share a last name, you might want the name line to read “Barack and Michelle Obama.” The same goes for couples who don’t share a last name, like “Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi.” The solution for this picky conundrum is Belight Software’s $9.99 Swift Publisher app, which lets you create label templates using individual fields from Contacts.

But that’s overkill for most of us, who care more about what’s inside the envelope. Most of the work comes in selecting people, making sure their addresses are right, and updating those that have changed—actually printing labels takes only a few minutes. As you stick your labels on envelopes, you can revel in the knowledge that it will go even faster next year!

(Featured image by iStock.com/Bet_Noire)

Social Media: Much of the work of sending holiday cards is addressing all those envelopes. However, with the Contacts app on your Mac, you can easily print mailing labels for all your friends and family rather than writing addresses out by hand.