Recently, I came across a great Google script by Romain Vialard on how to create nice looking email newsletters from a Google Sites page. It is simple to do, requires no programming skills, and could be a great way to go paperless in the classroom. So, if you are an elementary teacher that sends home newsletters every week, or you are an administrator or a coach who needs to keep communication lines open with parents, read on.
The premise is simple. You build your newsletter by creating a page on a Google Site. If you already have a classroom website that is a Google Site, all the better, but otherwise, you can create a Google Site for free with a Google Account. Then edit the page like you would with any other page, but consider some creative layouts like the three column layout with a header and footer.
You can insert images and hyperlinks with ease. Embedded videos do not work when delivered as email, but you can take a screenshot of the video and link that image to the online version of the video, or add a link to say watch the video here. Of course, you can add as much text as you want, and rich text formatting will be retained.
Once your page is complete, it is time to send it to your readers. Install the free Chrome Newsletter Creator app, or visit Romain’s website, and paste the link to your page into the newsletter script. Add the email addresses of the recipients, choose whether or not you want to add a record of your email to a Google Spreadsheet, and click Send.
Initially I had some issues with adding recipients to the text box, because it did not deliver the newsletter to all the email address I added. However, if you click the spreadsheet icon to the right of the text box (see below) you can select a Google Spreadsheet that you have pasted the email addresses into, and use that as your mailing list. This worked much better for me with larger numbers of recipients.
In no time at all, you can check your email to find the finished product. It looks great in Gmail and most other clients. The page title is used for the subject title of the email, and the rest is neatly packaged into a professional looking HTML newsletter that you created with little effort and no cost.
Of course, you could take this one step further and use a freely available HTML newsletter template from the web, paste the code into the HTML box in a Google Site, and use that as a template for an even nicer looking custom newsletter. I tried it, and it worked pretty well. You don’t need to know any HTML code to edit the content, but if you want to tweak any of the colors or design, it would be useful. You can see a video demo of Romain’s script below.
If, like me, you spend a lot of your time using Google Apps, you may well have forgotten most of the intricacies of how to use Publisher or Word for newsletters, but Google Sites is easy to learn. So, why not give it a try? Feel free to leave your thoughts on this tool below.