"Letterhead From Your Printer --

Only Your Engraver Will Know For Sure?"

An edited version of this article was originally published in Computer Counselor column of the May 1993 issue of the Los Angeles Lawyer Magazine.

Comments are generalizations and may not apply to every situation. It is advisable to consult with a competent professional before relying on any written commentary. Paul D. Supnik is a member of the State Bar of California and not of any other state or country. The material set forth herein is not for the purpose of soliciting any engagements where to do so would be to offend or violate the professional standards of any other state, country or bar. This web page Copyright 1989, 1996 by Paul D. Supnik

By: Paul D. Supnik


The article reviews two programs and services which permits the lawyer to generate letterhead having the appearance of engraved letterhead.

"Letterhead From Your Printer --

Only Your Engraver Will Know For Sure?"

The ability of the laser printer with word processing software to print words and graphics with high resolution has spawned a new collection of programs for the lawyer. They have made the necessity of purchasing of pleading paper virtually obsolete(1) They have provided judicial council forms that print directly from a laser printer. Now, programs are available to enable your laser printer to generate your own engraved font style letterhead. This article will discuss whether laser printer generated letterhead is for you.

The practice of law is image oriented. Lawyers gain the confidence of clients, opposing parties and their counsel not solely with words but also, do it with subtle imagery. Imagery is expressed by lawyers through their office, their dress and their letterhead. Heavy paper tends to make a more serious impression that light paper. Quality bond tends to create a more serious message than copying paper. Cranes bond with its ivory appearance creates enough of an impression to warrant law firms paying many times the cost of less expensive papers.

That image is also carried by everything from the typeface of the letterhead, the crispness of the letters, spacing of the type, and the arrangement of the letterhead. Many lawyers will disagree on the need or importance of expensive engraved letterhead. They assert that the substance of what is written is what counts. Some lawyers suggest a more contemporary look is important -- not engraved letterhead. Yet it is hard to believe that most law firms will go to great lengths to spend significant dollars on their stationary if it did not have some perceived impact on their practice, either to their clients or opposing counsel.

In the pecking order, true engraved stationary is preferred to "thermal raised" stationary. Thermal raised printing (recognizable often by a somewhat glossy raised print) usually seems like it tries to look like engraved printing, but it is not. As a result, it can project a decidedly inferior image than engraved stationary. As a practical matter, thermal raised stationary may lose its raised effect when sent through a laser printer, which has a tendency to melt and flatten the raised ink. Plain typeset or offset printed stationary, depending on the quality of printing and the type fonts available, may be attractive, but often will not carry a desired image.

Engraved stationary is created by engraving a steel die or metal die plate leaving channels in the plate representing text for the stationery. Ink is rolled over the die which is pressed against the paper, leaving a sheetful of defined, raised impression, the ink usually having a matte finish. The look of laser stationary while it is not engraved, does have similarities in look and appearance, in crispness and thinness of letters and the classic form of fonts. Laser printed letterhead is printed with fine crisply defined fonts from a laser printer absent the raised ink. These fonts typically have really the identical appearance of classic engraved fonts and tend to be distinctively different in appearance than fonts generally available with WordPerfect, Windows or the laser printer. The type fonts now available are quite good, and though they may not be identical to your existing engraved letterhead, they seek to and do have a professional look, coming very close to the original, though stationery thereby created absent the true raised matte appearance. The effect, particularly when used with quality papers such as Strathmore Writing and Cranes Bond, creates a surprisingly good image. Whether you will use it is a matter of taste. Will your words carry less weight either with your client or opposing counsel if they appear on laser letterhead? Is it for you? That probably depends upon the size of your firm, the type of law practice, the type of impression you wish to make, and balanced with the convenience and cost savings likely to be realized. As more larger firms begin to use laser generated letterhead, the acceptability is likely to increase. And substantial sized lawfirms are now beginning to use laser letterhead. They are firms whose composition changes monthly with new lawyers coming and others leaving, and spend many thousands of dollars a year on their lawfirm stationary.

After initial installation, laser generated letterhead programs are relatively easy to use. It does not take a lot of effort to set up laser generated the letterhead programs, and they can be used with styles and macros for very simple use on a regular basis.

Although cost savings resulting from not having to purchase engraved letterhead is one advantage, a real advantage it would seem is being able to generate many different types of paperwork without having to change paper in the printer. That benefit is significant. It is significant to the secretary if he or she is the individual that uses the printer. It becomes much more significant when the printer is used by the lawyer. Laser printed letterhead also permits readily created individual letterhead for different attorneys in an office.

Laser printed letterhead permits the use of only one type of paper in a single laser printer tray to generate letters. And if you are consistent in the type of paper you also use for pleadings, the paper is then the same. This means however, that you must either use a separate tray for drafts, or use rather expensive paper on drafts. Nevertheless, this does reduce the number of trays required for printing, and the effect is to reduce the time otherwise required to switch trays, or even remembering to have the computer direct the output of the computer to the proper tray.

If a law firm uses letterhead, letterhead second sheets, pleading paper, pleading paper second sheets, and plain photocopying paper for drafts, conceivably all can be generated from the same type of paper in a single paper tray in a laser printer. The assumption, however, is that all types of projects must use the same type of paper. Thus, you may be either using expensive bond to impress the court and your clients. But if you also want to use the same tray for copying paper, you will either have to use the same type of expensive paper for ordinary drafts, or use a lesser quality paper for your letterhead and briefs. Another alternative, is to keep perhaps one additional tray of paper using plain paper for drafts and using a consistent type of bond for letterhead, both first and second sheets, as well as for pleading. Two tray laser printers are becoming rather common, without paying a substantial cost premium.(2)

Another advantage to the printed laser letterhead is that in the event that the members of the firm changes, the names on the letterhead can be changed instantly. Names can be added and deleted, phone and fax numbers can be changed other aspects of the letterhead can be readily altered.

Because letterhead is something that is highly individualized, at least to some extent, those companies who sell the software see it as a service rather than simply providing software. Even in copying an existing letterhead, there is a degree of effort which goes into the process of transferring it to disk. Thus, the cost of the software might depend on the complexity of the letterhead, the number of names and other factors.

Although envelopes may be printed by laser printer, there is some controversy regarding whether envelopes should be printed using this technique. Especially, high quality envelopes are difficult to be printed -- and to be laser printed. If one looks at an envelope, the thickness varies from two layers to as many as four layers of paper at the seams. Printing envelopes are a problem for the engraver and they are also a problem for the laser printer. Nevertheless, it is indeed possible to use these programs for envelopes. You might want to ask to have the return address available for use with any laser printing program, with the understanding that it just might not work well with your printer. The IBM 10 Laser Printer has an envelope feeder that works well, but not perfectly and some of the other laser printers might not be all that satisfactory.

It is not necessarily easy for the software companies to create engraver type fonts on the laser printer. And they cannot be readily transferred to every printer. Therefore, the manufacturers have limited the types of printers that they have designed the program for. Primarily, that includes the Hewlett Packard Laserjet series, the Laserjet II and Laserjet III series. That does not mean that other laser printers cannot be used. Generally what is required is that the printer emulate or accept the HP language, referred to as PCL4 or PCL5. Thus, the IBM 10 printer can be used in the PCL4 mode to turn out quality letterhead. You must inform the company from whom you purchase the software what printer you have and what printer you anticipate using in the future.(3)

The laser printed letterhead programs are not perfect. The letterhead may not look exactly like your engraved fonts but for the most part are virtually indistinguishable. It is not true engraved stationary. The programs may be copy protected in some form. That can make it more difficult to use the program for what it is designed for, that is changes in firms, for example, or addresses. I would suggest that a condition of purchase is that the program be unlocked or be assured that changes can be made to names, addresses and telephone numbers. Finally, envelopes may not print well and it may be necessary to go to the local printers to have envelopes created, possibly from the copy generated from the laser printed letterhead.

Instant Stationary, $195, Professional Version $295 from All Systems Go,

800-846-4295; additional font disk available for $39.95

Instant Stationary is a program which permits the creation and modification of letterheads and second sheets. The "professional version" adds envelopes, return envelopes, pleading paper (first and second sheets), mailing labels and WordPerfect generated "stamps" such as "DRAFT" and "CONFIDENTIAL". Instant Stationary does not just load soft fonts onto the printer. Rather, it loads an overlay containing the entire letterhead onto the printer as if it were a single font, so that when printed, that entire letterhead is stamped onto the paper along with whatever else is in the document file being printed.

A printer code embedded in the Wordperfect document to be printed readily placed there with a simple Wordperfect macro, causes the printer the print the letterhead whenever it detects the code. All Systems Go claims to have numerous engraved type fonts to match your engraved letterhead.

Instant Stationary is a program which goes beyond simply allowing the printing of your existing engraved letterhead, in that the program itself is designed to permit you to change the look of the letterhead by adding different lines, adding different typefaces and modifying the letterhead look. All Systems Go claims that the program automatically "kerns" the lettering in the letterhead, in a manner similar to that of an engraver. That means that the program causes certain combinations of letters to be spaced closer together than other combinations of letter for a better appearance, as would be done by a professional engraver. This is a procedure that does not automatically occur with WordPerfect, absent some rather sophisticated use of codes.

The Instant Stationary program, loaded from DOS, works with or without a mouse, but need only be brought on the screen when there is a need to change the letterhead or features. Otherwise, the existing letterhead and other fonts, such as pleadings can be loaded onto the printer by means of a WordPerfect macro either when the printer and computer are turned on in the morning, or at any later time. A menu macro is provided which allows the user a variety of selections, including loading the printer overlays into the printer in the morning which must be accomplished before generating letterhead. This procedure of loading the printer overlays may be automated by a batch file if desired. The macro menu also includes the selection of a particular letterhead style (e.g. personalized for a particular attorney in a firm), inserting pleading paper printer commands into a document file, generating envelopes and return envelopes, and generating stamp printer codes in a document file.

The Instant Stationary program (to be distinguished from the WordPerfect menu macro that is provided with the program) is usually only needed to be used when new letterhead, envelopes or pleading styles are created, but it is interesting enough to warrant some discussion. The Instant Stationary program is needed for creating or modifying letterhead, since Instant Stationary works by embedding printer codes in the Wordperfect document which cannot be edited on WordPerfect. When the Instant Stationary program is on the screen, one is presented with the choice of file activities, minor editing functions, such as cutting and pasting, and a registration scheme where a serial number, registration text and registration code appear. This is a copy protection scheme which would appear to make changes in the letterhead difficult. Instant Stationary is somewhat inflexible in that it prevents changing either the firm name or the firm address, depending on which text is locked in as a regration code. But that, of course is one of the apparent benefits of the program, that is to be able to make changes to the letterhead quickly, as situations in a firm changes. Thus, if one tries to change the name of the firm or the address, one may be met with an error message as an invalid registration code. All Systems Go will set either the address or the text in the firm name so that some changes can be made. If you anticipate the change of either firm name or firm address soon, it is suggested that you let All Systems Go be aware of this before purchase so that it will save you a phone call later. The company claims that should you run into that program, a phone call to the company (without charge) is all it takes to give you a new registration number to permit you to make any further changes you desire, despite existing registration codes. Even without a change in the registration number, the program makes it simple to change letterhead which has already been created. For example, if a new associate is added, the program leads to the manner in which to add or change the associate, firm name or office address. It permits you to add or delete specific lines of text.

On the screen appears a group of styles which represent the package of styles which are loaded onto the printer when the appropriate command is given, or when the load file is loaded onto the print by way of the batch file from DOS. Styles can be added and changed. Different sample style letterheads can imported to make it easier to design a particular letterhead style. Fonts for each line are readily selectable. Type sizes for each line are selectable. Even the spacing between the words and the spacing between the letters are selectable from a screen for editing each line. Columns in letterhead can be readily placed in the left, left center, right center or right hand side of the letterhead. Justification can also be selected. The program works with or without a mouse but a mouse does speed the process of modifying the letterhead.

Rather than being simply a service, Instant Stationary is a fully functional program. After the professional version of the program is installed, Instant Stationary permits you to print letterhead, second sheet headings, pleading, envelopes, first and second sheets of pleadings, return envelopes, and even shipping labels. The shipping labels work with plain Avery forms 5164 which print the firm name and address, with the usual mailing label borders, along with the address of the recipient, at one of the six label positions of the 8 1/2" x 11" laser label form. The menu macro allows you to point the WordPerfect cursor at the beginning of an address of a letter, printing the return portion of the envelope with engraver fonts and the addressee in the existing font style, e.g. courier, for the current WordPerfect setup.

It is said to be possible to use this program with some billing software such as Timeslips. That is because Instant Stationary loads the actual letterhead onto the printer independent of WordPerfect. By placing the proper printing and bin codes into Timeslips, the firm letterhead could appear on the first page of the bills, but not on subsequent pages.

Since the letterhead is loaded onto the printer separate from WordPerfect, the WordPerfect "View Document" feature cannot be used to visualize the manner in which the letterhead looks. The printer simply in effect stamps the letterhead onto the paper when the printer has encountered a letterhead code in the WordPerfect printer file.

Instant Stationary attacks one of the envelope printing problems which is unique to certain HP printers. They are said to have a tendency to smudge envelopes in the corner of the envelope where the beginning of the return address is printed. To bypass this problem, Instant Stationary has a technique for printing the return envelope on these printers on the lower left hand corner rather than the upper right hand corner of the envelope. This means that the envelope is turned upside down for printing.

All Systems Go claims that Instant Stationary will work with judicial council forms overlays without additional memory. Overlays tend to use considerably amounts of memory, and All Systems Go claims the judicious use of printer memory with its program. Overlays can be the source of printer conflicts. You may want to test the combination on your system should it not work with third party software.

The program normally is supplied with the typefaces on existing letterhead. For an additional $39.95, the company will supply what they claim is a wide range of engraving fonts so that you can try to change the letterhead typestyle if you choose.

Laser Letterhead, Enhancement Software, 213-850-1362, typically $175 - $275 (including fonts), for 9 - 15 lines; $95 for pleading paper for single computer, $245 with 2 - 10 networked or $375 for 20 user networked, fully customized. StampIt $95 for single user and $40 customized.

Enhancement Software takes a different approach to laser printer generated letterhead and places its special engraver fonts into the WordPerfect document, rather than using printer codes in the WordPerfect document used to trigger printer overlays preloaded into the printer. In addition to letterhead, Enhancement Software also has laser printer generated pleading paper and stamps (available as separate programs, StampIt. StampIt, a WordPerfect add-on product, was reviewed in the February 9, 1993 issue of PC Magazine).

Laser Letterhead comes with a letterhead created on a disc file with engraver style fonts already coded. Although a program in the sense that it comes on a disc, Enhancement Software sees their function as being closer to a service provider, in which a letterhead file is presented to you on disc. The letterhead file itself is a Wordperfect file and is not copy protected. Thus, you can modify the file anyway you choose without obtaining any additional codes for unlocking the file. You are provided with only a few pages of simple instructions on how to install the soft fonts and macros on your hard disk which are supplied to enable you to properly use the letterhead file.

Installation is simple, provided that you initially installed the printer program when Wordperfect was installed. If you tried to save space on the hard disc, you will have to take out the Wordperfect discs and reload the printer program(4) to install the special engraver like fonts. A simple page of instructions shows you install the fonts and your letterhead.

Once the program is installed, you can edit the letterhead file in WordPerfect to change the text quite readily, but any attempt to change or alter other matter in the letterhead could lead to disastrous results quickly, since there are many WordPerfect codes with which the average lawyer or secretary is not likely to be acquainted. That is not a problem since it is a simple task to copy the letterhead setup from the original disk back to your computer's hard disk and start over. Technical support is available at no charge by telephone.

Only the fonts which are required for your letterhead are supplied. Other fonts which might be a available are not used to clutter up this disk. However, if you think that you might want to try out other fonts, you should ask for them when you purchase the software. There is reason for not including every font since they can take up space, can confuse you and for the most part are unnecessary. It also begins to change what is a very simple approach to creating letterhead to something more complex. My preference, however, would be to include a variety of typestyles. This gives you an opportunity to try out a number of letterhead images, a luxury not available from your local engraver without significant costs.

The process of using the laser generated letterhead is partly dependent on Wordperfect's use of fonts. Wordperfect can be set up either so that the fonts, which are known as soft fonts, are loaded initially when the computer is turned on in the morning, or they can be loaded manually from the WordPerfect print menu (Shift F7) where one is given the option to initialize the printer. Once the printer has been initialized, this procedure need not occur again until the printer is turned off.

The manner in which the letterhead is used is as follows. Once a letter is completed, you press an "Alt L" macro which is supplied. (This can be changed to another letter if that letter macro is already in use on your computer.) The Alt L macro brings the letterhead file to the top of screen. In addition, a header is also installed which is available with the letterhead. The header (set up as a Wordperfect header B) provides the ability to create second sheets with an engraved look. For example, the firm name, with the words "Attorneys at Law", in engraved typestyle then appear on second and subsequent sheets of the letterhead. The letterhead can be viewed fairly accurately using the "View Document" feature of Wordperfect. Second sheets are established as a header in Wordperfect. Printing out the letter results in both the letter with the engraved looking letterhead appearing on the letter, and with the second sheets also having the engraved letterhead look. The look of the "second sheets" can be changed by editing the header in WordPerfect.

If one were to save a letter with the letterhead, there is a tendency to take up a considerable amount of storage space. By way of example, in Wordperfect 5.1, a two page letter might take up 5K of disc space. If the letterhead file is added and saved, this may grow the file size to about 15K or more depending on the size and complexity of the letterhead file. It is not a problem if one has lots of free space on the hard disc. But otherwise, it tends to clutter up the file directories reducing space unnecessarily. Yet the growth of the file size is not unreasonably large if you choose to save files with the letterhead attached. Enhancement Software recommends saving the file first before using the Alt L macro, adding the letterhead top of the letter.


1. In case you are interested in generating pleading paper on your own without paying for a program, try the following "Style" in WordPerfect. To create the style, type Alt F7, then Create, and then enter the following codes. Set the top margin at "4" and bottom at "5", create a header (Shift F8 P H 2 2). Then type the number 1 through 28 on separate double spaced lines. Using the graphics key, Alt F9, set two vertical lines in the header, one at column position 12.7 and one at column position 13 to create a double line on the left margin, full page wide. Then create another vertical graphics line at position 79.93, also a full page line for the right margin. The width of the lines might be "1.5". To use this style, simply place it at the header of all pleadings by pressing Alt F7, and selecting the pleading number style. Note that, however, the special purpose programs as those described here go beyond simply creating a style in Wordperfect, putting just line numbers and vertical lines on the page, but also personalize the pleading paper as would be done if the paper was done by a printer, placing name and address in a typeset typeface in the upper left hand corner of the pleading or rotated 90 degrees and placed on the center left side of the double rulled lines.

2. See for example the IBM Laser Printer 10, which can be fitted with two trays and an envelope feeder for less than $3,000, as well as the new HP Laserjet 4.

3. The HP 4 Laser Printer as the IBM 10, uses a different printer language and it may take some time before the programs work well with these printers. You might want to inquire before purchase if you already own an HP 4 Laser Printer.

4. "PRT.EXE" is the name of the printer program in WordPerfect.