Category Archives: Technology

How to Create a Free, Nice Looking Online RSVP (in 10 Easy Steps!)

This post is part of our semi-regular How To Series.

As regular readers know, Jay and I are engaged to be married and I am the project manager for this exciting event.  Planning our wedding has given me an opportunity to find creative ways to get organized and save money.  For both of those reasons, Google Documents are my essential allies in wedding planning.

Above is the finished example of the kind of free, nice looking online RSVP that you can create using a Google Form.  Below I will show you how to create one step by step.

1) In order to create a Google form you first need a free Google account.  If you use Gmail for email, you already have a Google account.  If not, just start at, click “sign in” and then “sign up”.

2) To start the form, sign into your Google Account and go to the Google Documents home page (click on “documents” on the upper task bar).  Once in Google Documents, click on the red “Create” button, and then click on “Form”.  That will bring you to the screen shown below.

3) An online RSVP is basically an online form or survey.  You will need to think ahead of time about what you want to ask your invitees and how you want to ask it.  Typical questions to include, “Will you be able to attend”, “Name of guests attending”, and “Do you have any severe food allergies we should be aware of?”.  For each question you can choose between different types of answers, such as “text” or “checkboxes”.  I used checkboxes for guests to mark yes or no for attending (see below).

4)  For each question you can also choose whether or not it will be required.  Required questions will show up on your form with a red asterisk and the guest will not be able to proceed until they answer the question.  Sometimes it is helpful to offer the “other” option on a multiple choice question if the question is required.  This allows for any scenarios you may not have anticipated (such as yes I can come, but only for 30 minutes, or I would really like to come but will not know until the day before).

5)  In order to edit a question, click on the pencil icon in the right hand corner of the question box.  In order to add a new question, click on “Add item” and select the type of question you need to add.  When you are done editing each question, just click “done” and it will go from highlighted to white.  You can always go back and edit or delete a question after you have added it.

6)  Now comes the fun part.  In order to make your online RSVP nice looking, you can choose from over 60 “Themes” that are already in Google Forms.  Just click on the “Theme” button, next to “Add Item”.  For my RSVP I chose a very formal classic wedding theme, but they have a ton of different themes to choose from.

7)  By clicking on the theme it will generate a preview of your form in that theme (shown above).  If you don’t like the look, just click “cancel” and try another one.  If you love it, click “apply” and it will take you back to your form editing page.

8)  When you are done with creating your form, just close out the window to go back to your list of Google Documents.  You will see the name of your form at the top of your list of documents.  Click on the form and it will bring you to a spreadsheet like the one below.

9)  The spreadsheet is the tracking document for your form.  Whenever someone uses your form to RSVP, their responses will show up in this spreadsheet, including a timestamp of when they responded.  This is one of the best things about Google Forms since you can quickly and easily access the RSVPs and then you can even download the spreadsheet into Microsoft Excel or another data program to manage the list and create mail merges for name tags or thank you notes.

10)  In order to actually see your completed form and get the link to send out, click on “Form” and then “Go to Live Form” (from the spreadsheet screen above).  This will bring you to your form online (shown below).  You can then copy and paste the URL/web address for the form to send to your guests.  Of course, I would recommend creating a hyperlink if you are sending the link by email (LIKE THIS) or even creating a Custom URL through a link shortening site such as if you will be writing the link on a paper invite.  If you have questions about that, please let me know in the comments.

And that’s it!  This process only takes a few minutes once you get the hang of it.  There are lots of additional tweaks and tips that you can use to enhance your forms, so I encourage you to experiment.  It’s free and easy and if you are a bride or groom to be this may be one big step on the way to wedding Zen!

Photo Review: Overland Expo 2011

This past weekend we got back in our car and took a short road trip from Phoenix to Amado (about 2.5 hours) for the Overland Expo.  This event brings together a diversity of travelers to swap stories, learn new skills, trade tips, oogle gear, and drink beer together.  It was difficult to figure out before we went if this event was for us because we couldn’t nail down who their audience was.  Turns out that is because there was such a diverse audience, anyone that travels anywhere in the world in some sort of vehicle, could find their niche at this Expo.  Another pleasant surprise was that the event promoted giving back.  It turns out the Expo was created by Roseanne and Jonathan of Conserventures and some of the proceeds go to fund this environmental nonprofit.  The Expo also benefits the Muskoka Foundation, which connects Overland travelers with skilled volunteer opportunities along their routes.  We found the experience to be great fun and will follow up with future posts on some of our favorite parts of the experience.  For now, here is a photo review to give you a taste of what we saw.

You can see more photos of the Expo here.

overland expo vehicle

Vehicles with animal print were surprisingly popular -- this one was set up in the "wild" of the campground

Baja racing vehicle

Here is a vehicle that would be used for driving / racing over sand in Baja

Baja racing vehicle

Another race car for Baja, this one is actually street legal and was custom built in Phoenix

Motorcycle at Overland Expo

Many of the travelers there were motorcyclists. We felt an affinity for the motorcyclists since they tend to be more like touring cyclists, tenting out and carrying very little.

Overland Expo 2011

The makeshift campground was set up right across the street from the Expo -- this is a view of the Expo from the camping entrance


Jay was all jazzed up about this truck (basically a 4x4 RV on steroids) because it's the same basic truck that he went to Montana in with the wildlands Fire crew

truck and van

Speaking of the diversity of travelers, this photo shows the monster RV in front of a regular size van which has already carried a couple on 3 different continents! They have been on the road since 2000 and say "Go simple and you'll go further"

Overland Gourmet

Jonathan from Overland Gourmet put on 2 cooking demos while we were there. In this photo he is searing Ahi Tuna on a Snowpeak grill set up. We enjoyed lots of fabulous food from this tent.

Folding wooden boats

If water is more your thing, these folks were selling folding wooden boats that pack up into a carrying case for easy travel on plan or in your vehicle

Drive the Americas Tent at Overland Expo

We spent a lot of our time hanging out with Chris at the Drive the Americas lounge -- we got the tickets from them and had a great time getting to know Chris and hearing about his adventures driving the Pan-American highway from California to Argentina (photo credit: Chris Novak)

Sharon and Jay's campsite at Overland Expo

Our campsite -- Sharon chose the spot next to the "tree" which turned out to just be a thorny shrub that I cursed at everytime I needed to get past that side of the tent. We slept without the rainfly on the first night since it was so hot. Blowing dust and a desire for privacy led us to add the rainfly for the second night.

Quick reminder: vote everyday on the Travel for Good site (click on the photo of us in the tent on the right side of the blog).  We are currently in 27th place and hope to get to the final four by the end of May.

My 10 Favorite Free IPAD Apps

Last month I won an IPAD through the HandsOn Network Get HandsOn Campaign. I was entered to win by committing to complete a service project using one of their Project Playbooks.  I pledged to host a food drive and have since contacted the Northern Arizona Food Bank with the hopes of completing the food drive in March.

The IPAD arrived this past week in Phoenix where we are staying with Jay’s parents.  Since it arrived I have been tooling around on it constantly.


Sharon and her IPAD
Showing off my new IPAD

My 10 Favorite FREE Apps So Far Are:

1. Flipboard – This app has the most beautiful and intuitive user interface.  It acts as a digital customized magazine where you can choose which news / photos are shown on the screen.  You can look at up to 9 different feeds at once, quickly getting up to date on the latest news and images from your favorite social media sites.  I have added GOOD magazine and TED Talks.

2. ABC Player – Having never owned a TV, I have gotten used to watching my favorite shows (like Castle and Greys Anatomy) on digital devices.  ABC makes it free and easy to stream their shows and watch them on the IPAD.  Since the IPAD has great screen definition and good sound quality, it makes an excellent viewer.  I hope that other channels will follow their lead.

3. Google Books – The google books app is perfect for me because A) I’m cheap, B) I enjoy reading C) I haven’t read most of the classics.  Google books has a huge selection of free ebooks, most of which are classics like Walden, Alice in Wonderland, & Pride and Prejudice.  I look forward to catching up on some great literary works.

4. The Weather Channel Max – This app shows the greatest improvement over its IPOD version.  The IPAD app allows you to look at the 10 day forecast in a visually appealing and easy to use way.  You can also see the actual radar map or even check out what all the forecasters are tweeting about (not sure how often I’ll use that).  More useful — you can get notifications if there are storm watches for the city that you have it set to.

5. Adobe Ideas – Before I left Volunteer Arlington, I was just getting into the Adobe Creative Suite.  This is a very basic app provided by Adobe that allows you to draw.  I am interested to see how it may work with other Adobe products.

6. Epicurious – Although I haven’t had a chance yet to actually make any recipes from this cooking app, I am just enthralled by the beautiful food images and basic layout.

7. PS Express – For anyone that uses Photoshop, this basic app is a nice choice for a free photo editing tool.

8. NPR – NPR is a leader in embracing new technology and delivering great content.  Their app, which came out soon after the IPAD’s arrival in the marketplace, is both beautiful and functional.  I found the IPOD version to have some glitches, but so far the IPAD version has worked seamlessly.

9. Echofon – I used the IPOD version of this app to manage my twitter account.  The IPAD version is basically the same but easier to use because of the size.  They provide a simple interface to read tweets, write, retweet, search for users, etc.

10.  Pocket Pond – I first played with Pocket Pond on my cousin Amy’s IPAD.  I think every IPAD owner must have this app and it is all I can do not to show it to my 2 year old niece who I know would then covet the IPAD and destroy it.

Do you have an IPAD?  If so, what apps do you recommend?

What IPAD apps, if created, do you think would do the most for the service movement?