As homeschoolers, we don't always have formal markings of each year. Having a yearbook of activities and extra classes and field trips helps with this. I am so thrilled with a product I just got to review- Picaboo Yearbooks! Picaboo Yearbooks is a company which enables schools, co-ops, clubs, and other organizations to create yearbooks. They sell both hardcover and softcover yearbooks. I was able to review a custom 20 Page Softcover Yearbook for my family.
Creating a yearbook is really easy. Once I created a new account and new yearbook, I was ready to start my yearbook. (This can be done by anyone before committing to buy). I knew I had 20 pages so I chose to divide up my book by month and gave a couple pages to each month from September to June. I could have just as easily divided my book up into other categories like Tiger, Butterfly, Pumpkin Pie… or by subjects or classes. These divisions are called sections by the software. Each section gets a name that makes for easy navigation and compilation. Each section is worked on individually rather than working on the whole book at once. Pictures are uploaded into each section. There is a way to use pictures uploaded into other sections, but primarily you work with the pictures uploaded in that section. Uploading is easy with the multi-picture uploading tool. After the pictures are uploaded into the sections, it is time to go to work laying them out.
Picaboo Yearbooks has so many options and tools available, more than I have found elsewhere, to help you lay out your yearbook in a pleasing manner. For example, there are pre-set pages with locations for pictures and text or you can create free-form pages. Even if you select a page layout with a certain number of pictures, you can customize the layout with more or less pictures, new sizes, and changes to the text boxes.There are also many tools available to work with pictures like borders, zoom, crop, shape, rotate, etc. Each one of the features allows for further customization beyond the default settings. For example, borders can vary in color, thickness, and which pictures have borders. Zooming in and cropping are really easy so just the part of the picture you want is visible or highlighted. Picaboo also includes in their compilation software a myriad backgrounds, graphics, and fonts. Colors for borders, text, and text boxes can be matched to colors within the photos (using an eyedropper tool) and the color palette for your book is stored so you can reuse a certain exact shade again later. In addition, any user uploaded picture or graphic can be used in creative ways. For example, in my book I used a photo I took as the background on a few pages including my cover.
One feature I absolutely loved was the lines that would pop up when I was lining up photos. When I placed a picture of Tiger on the cover and then when I placed the picture of Butterfly, I was able to line it up with the guide lines. It was great that they didn’t stay on the page and clutter my screen but appeared when I was moving things and the images lined up.
At times the interface was frustrating and I wished there was a help screen within the edit interface. Once I got the hang of it, it got really easy though. I did find a user’s manual after digging around the site a lot right before submitting my book to order. The manual can be found here. Really, the most difficult part about compiling my yearbook was deciding what pictures to include! One thing that I thought could be improved is the inability to upload .gif image files. I wanted to upload some clipart but couldn’t unless it was in .jpg format.
Because the yearbook in process is stored on the Picaboo server, Picaboo Yearbooks allows for multiple people to work on the yearbook anywhere they have access to the computer and internet. This is especially helpful for a co-op or club. Since my yearbook was just for my family, I didn’t use this feature, but I could have invited others to add to my yearbook. After writing my review and receiving my book, the yearbook editor at our co-op decided to use Picaboo for our yearbook. She went through all the steps of setting up the yearbook and then invited me and a few other parents to work on the yearbook. As the administrator, she can authorize or deauthorize access to whichever pages she wants to have someone work on. Working in a group on our co-op yearbook is every bit as easy as working on my own yearbook.
For the most part customer service was excellent. I did have one minor snag when I had a technical glitch just before finalizing my book. The agent I spoke with did as much as she could before upgrading my problem to a technical specialist. She had told me she would call me back with an update but didn’t. When I called back to follow up, the next agent was extremely helpful and the technical glitch got fixed quickly. This time I did receive a call back when it was fixed. I also took advantage of the online chat feature a few times when I could not figure out how to do something on a page within the book. Both times the agents were extremely helpful.
After ordering my book, I waited impatiently for its arrival. The yearbook is gorgeous! The pictures were vibrant, true to color, and crisp. The pages were heavy-weight and had a nice hand to them. I was also pleasantly surprised with the quality of the cover. The paper felt almost like a leathery plastic paper and was nice and thick for durability. It has been looked at many times and everyone who sees it comments on the quality.
Picaboo Yearbooks are for everyone. I think that for the most part, middle school and up will be able to handle the layout portion, but everyone can enjoy the finished product. For 20 pages, a softcover book is $8.49. Additional pages are $0.22 each. Hardcover prices are about $10 more. Shipping is $8.99 for 1 book and $.99 for each additional copy. Additionally, ebooks are available free with the purchase of a yearbook. The ebooks can be viewed on a tablet or computer that uses an ePub reader. Picaboo Yearbooks are great for both families and groups.
I am going to start working on my yearbook for next year right away!