While email has made it super-convenient to send a message to anyone in the world, it has taken away some of the charm of good old letter-writing. An email is essentially just a text file with attachments, while traditional letters had so much more to them. The letter was a blank canvas in which you could get more personal and communicate the way you want—you could stick a photo in it, sketch a cartoon, draw diagrams, attach sticky notes and so much more.
Well, the guys at @bubbles promise you can do all that while keeping the convenience of modern email intact. It’s a reimagination of what letter writing in the age of the internet should be, and we have to say, it’s quite cool.
So what’s it all about?
Essentially, @bubbles gives you that blank canvas once again, letting you create a letter rather than compose a textual ode. The letter you make is emailed as a PDF to your recipients, or viewable in @bubbles itself if the other person is registered on the site. You can start off by logging in with your Facebook account or signing up to create a new one. The first thing to do then is to import contacts. Yup, @bubbles works fine with the world of email, and assuming those are the people you will want to send your new letters to, it’s a good idea to get their contacts stored in your database. Hit the Compose Letter button and you’re ready to start.
Design & Usability
The sparse design of @bubbles is inviting and easy to follow. A large clipboard hosts a piece of paper, ready to do your bidding. You can choose the type of paper here: white, lined paper, graph paper, blueprint grid or seigaiha. There is little distraction, which makes it a wonderful writing experience.
There are four main input varieties available to you:
a) Word Editor:
This is the default plain-text editor that loads up as soon as you start. Just click on the paper and start typing out your message just as you would in Microsoft Word or any other word editor. You get the usual formatting options (hyperlink, bold, colours, fonts, alignment, bullet points, etc.). The one problem, though, is that you can’t just click the mouse at any point in the blank sheet and start writing; it’s treated as a normal word editor, which means that you start at the top-left corner and go right to work your way down. It’s a pity because we would have loved the ability to create text boxes at any point of our choosing.
The pen/highlighter tool is quite cool to use. As the name suggests, you can choose to use either the pen to write notes, cancel out lines, or any other purpose; or the highlighter to draw attention to some part of the text you’ve written. The highlighter is especially cool to use: simply choose the colour and draw over whatever you want in focus. The pen is best used with a stylus or on a tablet. We tried it with a stylus on a tablet and it was fantastic; but with the regular mouse on a laptop/PC, it’s not as smooth.
Click the Geometry button and you are asked to choose between four shapes: triangles, squares, circles and lines. Pick a colour and head to your letter to draw it. It’s as simple as that. It draws perfect shapes by default (square, equilateral triangle, circle), but you can change this by using the selection tool (it looks like a plus arrow) in the toolbox.
@bubbles gives you a multi-coloured array of pencils you can use to sketch or draw. Select the colour and feel free to go wild on the paper. Again, while it was great to use with a stylus, the mouse left a little to be desired; then again, our mouse control isn’t the greatest.
Pictures and Notes
Apart from the input options, there are two more ways you can add content to your letter.
Attaching a bunch of images in the email doesn’t have the same effect as a photo stapled to a letter with your writing under it. But hey, you can do just that with @bubbles. Click the little camera icon in the toolbox and you can browse through your hard drive to add any picture. The image can be rotated and resized easily with the little markers around its border.
b) Sticky notes:
To annotate anything you have written, Sticky Notes are especially handy. In the ‘Sticky note’ at the top-right of your paper, compose your message and then click on it. It’ll appear as a text image on the main paper, and can be resized and rotated just like any other picture.
Post The Letter
Once you are done creating your personal letter, it’s time to mail it across—and there’s no waiting for the mailman this time. Hit the ‘Post the letter’ button at the top and a dialog box pops up asking for recipients’ email addresses in ‘To’ and ‘CC’ fields. There’s no option to select contacts with your mouse, but you can start typing the person’s email address to get autocomplete suggestions.
And that’s it! The recipient will get your letter as a standard PDF file, but it would be so much better if they were also registered on @bubbles to get the conversation going in your new letter-writing format.