A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzabar

A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzibar... Now what is between? For the world wide classical era philatelist and stamp collector, a country specific philatelic survey is offered by the blog author, Jim Jackson, with two albums: Big Blue, aka Scott International Part 1 (checklists available), and Deep Blue, aka William Steiner's Stamp Album Web PDF pages. In addition, "Bud" offers commentary and a look at his completely filled Big Blue. Interested? So into the Blues...

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

How to edit your Steiner pages using PowerPoint

Chris Whitehouse's Edited Steiner Belgian Congo Airmail page
How to edit your Steiner pages using Powerpoint 
by Chris A. Whitehouse

Jims Note: The PDF Steiner pages, essentially available for all countries and eras, have been a godsend for WW collectors. Available from Stamp Albums Web, the cost is $40 for a CD-ROM disc, $40 for a Website annual membership download privilege, or $60 for both. With that, 200,000 pages total (and 6,500 1840-1940 classic era pages) are yours for personal use by printing if you want/need them. 

William (Bill) Steiner, who developed these pages, deserves deep gratitude from all of us WW collectors for making available this enormous stockpile of pages for such a reasonable cost.

But even the most enthusiastic user of Steiner pages will agree that they are a bit on the plain side.

That is why I was most intrigued when Chris Whitehouse presented some posts on The Stamp Forum about how to modify these plain pages into something more.

I contacted Chris, and he graciously agreed to present his Steiner page modification approach to readers of this blog.

A word of caution: Bill Steiner has copyright to his pages, and one is not allowed to sell or give away his pages, and by presumption, even modified ones without his permission. So one can, after paying for access to his pages, only modify pages for one's personal use.

A Steiner Alexandretta Page Enhanced
How to edit your Steiner pages using Powerpoint by Chris A. Whitehouse

I suspect my stamp collecting journey will sound familiar to many of you.  I started collecting stamps as a young child, about age 8 or 9, when my parents gave me a stamp collecting kit for a birthday present.  Along with a packet of common stamps, tongs, and hinges, this kit contained a small worldwide album (you know the one with the unusual combination of an astronaut and a covered wagon on the cover!).  That was the beginning of my hobby of being a worldwide stamp collector.  Over the years from that time until my teenage years I used a variety of different albums for my collection… names like Traveler, Explorer, Standard, Citation, sound familiar?  At about the age of 16, the stamp collector in me went dormant, and my collection got boxed up and stored in the basement. 

Throughout the years, life got in the way of my stamp collecting, but somewhere in the mid-1980s I did manage to have enough disposable income to buy myself a brand new 2-volume set of Scott International Vol.1 albums.  These albums sat proudly on my bookshelf and traveled with me whenever I moved to a new city or state.  However, life was still too busy and money too tight to do much with my collection other than occasionally thumbing through my albums from time to time.  Then, a few years ago, when I became more settled in my life and career, I decide to get back into stamp collecting again.  I must say that both Bob Skinner’s Filling Spaces and Jim’s BigBlue 1840-1940 blogs were huge inspirations for my return to stamp collecting.  Thus, I was more than thrilled when Jim asked me to write a guest blog post on how I modify my Steiner pages using Microsoft PowerPoint. 

As I mentioned, I collect worldwide classic stamps using the Scott International (or Big Blue) album, but many years ago hearing about these “Steiner pages” that you could print out on your own printer got me curious, so I purchased a subscription for a year and downloaded all the classic pages onto my computer.  I initially had the idea that I would print out all of these pages and migrate my collection over from my Scott International pages.  However, after printing out several hundred, I gave up on that idea.  Anyway, I digress…I often heard people on some of the various stamp collecting discussion boards talk about how much they liked the flexibility and completeness, etc. of the Steiner pages, but how they didn’t like the plain font of the text, the plain border, spacing of the stamp boxes, etc., etc.  Apparently Bill Steiner at one time put out the pages in files that could be modified, but now they are only available in PDF format that everyone was saying couldn’t be modified.

Of course there are various software programs that people are using to make their own album pages from scratch, and there is Adobe Professional that will allow you to modify PDF files.  But these kinds of programs are often quite expensive and require a steep learning curve.  I have been using Microsoft PowerPoint for work and school for many years and have become quite familiar with it.  So I thought it would be great if there was an easy way to convert any PDF into a PowerPoint file.  Turns out there are now many ways to do this.  I obtained a free “app” from the Mac App Store (yes, I use a Mac computer) called appropriately enough “PDF Convert Free.”  But, it turns out there are many different kinds of software applications, and even web-based tools, for doing this conversion.  Once I was able to easily convert my Steiner PDFs into PowerPoint, I was golden!  As I mentioned, I have worked with PowerPoint for at least the past 25 years so I could now easily change the size and font of the text, add interesting historical photos or images of overprints/surcharges, and add additional text and catalogue numbers if I so desired.  Further, I could now add, delete, move, and resize the stamp boxes how I wanted.  Now, yes, this would be A LOT of work for an entire worldwide collection, but is very doable and fun if one wanted to do this for a few select countries or other custom collections.  For example, I have started doing this for my classic airmail collection, but my general worldwide collection is still housed in Big Blue.

Jim asked me to write this guest blog post to give a “how to” guide for others who might be interested in using PowerPoint to edit their Steiner pages.  So here it goes:

[I have also provided screenshots and diagrams to help – a picture is worth a 1000 words as they say. First, the words will be presented (Part 1), then the pictures (Part 2).]

An Enhanced Bechuanaland Protectorate Steiner Page
Part 1

1.        Of course this method requires you to have a subscription or a CD containing the Steiner stamp album pages, which can be purchased at www.stampalbums.com, and access to the Microsoft PowerPoint program.  Next you will also need a way to convert your PDF files into PowerPoint.  I use an app called PDF Converter Free but you can find several, including web-based tools, by using our old friend Google.

2.       Using your converter app/program, convert your Steiner PDF into a PowerPoint file.  Depending on the specific converter program/method you use, the specifics may vary.

3.       Once you have your file in PowerPoint format, you can select the text or stamp boxes you want to modify.  Then just move, delete, stretch, re-type, etc. based on your preference.  At this point you can also copy/paste pictures from the web, add your own text, add catalogue numbers, etc.

           I often will add a picture or two from Wikipedia (no copyright issues!) and images such as overprints/surcharges from my electronic stamp catalogue.  I don’t do this, but you could even photocopy stamp images from your old illustrated stamp album (or get them from the web) and put into the stamp boxes to make your own illustrated stamp album pages.  Be aware, however, that is will take a lot more ink when it comes to printing your pages. 

4.       By adding things to the Master Slide, they will show up on all the slides (pages) in that particular file.  For example, I have been able to make my own borders resembling either Scott International or Scott Specialty borders and, when I paste them on the Master Slide, they occur on every page (make sure to delete the original border on the Steiner page first!).  For the Scott International border, I found a border online that very closely matches.   I also use the Master Slide to add the county title name onto the page.  This way you make sure it is located at the exact same place on every page.  

5.       I’ve also provided a couple of useful tips in PowerPoint that will help you when working on your pages.  For example, turning off “Snap to Grid” will allow for more fine adjustments when moving objects.  Turning on “Static Guides” will give you vertical and horizontal crosshairs that will help in lining objects up evenly.  I also find it a good practice to convert your finished page back into PDF.  This can be done (at least with a Mac) by simply using “Save As” and save as a PDF.    

I hope this short how-to guide is useful for anyone who wants to try using PowerPoint to modify his or her Steiner pages.  I find that it adds another layer of fun and educational enjoyment to stamp collecting.  As I’m sure Jim can attest to, you learn a lot about a country and its stamps by the process of writing about them.


(End of Part 1)

[I will now provide screenshots and diagrams in the next section.]

A Steiner Togo Airmail Page Enhanced
Part 2  (Click and enlarge illustrated scans (slides) for close examination.)

Open your PDF Converter free program and your Documents side by side.

Drag and drop your PDF file into the PDF Converter Free program dialog box and press the Convert button.

Save the file you like and it will now be saved as a PowerPoint file with an ".pptx" extension.

Now you can open the file in PowerPoint.

Now you can select any different objects (boxes, texts, etc.) and easily move, resize, or delete them. You can also grab pictures from the Internet and add to your page.

Example of my final edited page for Belgian Congo Airmail

Another Example of an edited Belgian Congo Airmail page

Imitation Vintage Border Pages

Tips that help when working with PowerPoint

Tips that help when working with PowerPoint

(End of Part 2)

Your comments and questions are welcome!

Chris Whitehouse's edited Steiner Belgian Airmail page
Out of the Blue
Jim's Comment
Wow, Chris, that is impressive indeed!

Chris's approach to enhancing Steiner pages for selected parts of one's collection opens up a myriad of possibilities!

Note: All scans and pics for this blog post are courtesy of Chris Whitehouse

Comments appreciated!


  1. Great Article! I haven't tried Power Point to make album pages, but after this I think I will. But, one thing that always confuses me is. What resolution is the best for printing the pages? I try to set my size to 8.5 X 11 but the page never quite comes out right.

  2. Thanks Phil. As far as printing goes, don't confuse resolution with page size. Set your page size to 8.5 x 11 and there also should be an option for "fit" or "actual size." There may be some other options there as well. Make sure it is set to "actual size." The page should print correctly then.

    Good luck,

  3. "What resolution is the best for printing the pages?"

    Phil, if you are asking about print quality settings for the printer - look for "Draft...Normal...Best" choices or such in the printer settings. Actually, for the uncomplicated Steiner pages, I found that "Normal" works fine. However, anything other than uncomplicated, switch over to "Best" for the print job. Be aware that the printer will go slower, and perhaps use more ink.

  4. Oh I'm not concerned about printing Steiner pages. Like you mentioned those settings work fine. I'm talking about when you create a page from scratch. I've used GIMP in the past so maybe using Powerpoint would be easier, but I always seem to get the page size wrong when I print a newly created page.

  5. Try selecting "letter" for your page size. Not sure what else to say.

  6. One other benefit of this use of Power Point is that it should be relatively easy to convert the pages into HTML and create a "virtual" collection with which one could share with the world online.

  7. Gene,
    Good point. I don't have any experience with that, but on my Mac version of PowerPoint, there is an option to Save As... "Web Page .htm"

  8. I use PagePlus X9 and I can directly imported the pdf file at once, and of course I'm french so mainly its for the translation in french. And adding a nice font!

  9. Thanks for making this effort at simple, clear instructions for making and improving the Steiner album pages using PowerPoint. It's impressive. I've used Ppt for many years (former history teacher) so I'm familiar with it. However, I'm a bit stuck . . . After saving one Steiner page file in Ppt, I first tried to remove the page border to see what a borderless page would look like. In your instructions you say, "I have been able to make my own borders . . . [and] when I paste them on the Master Slide, they occur on every page (make sure to delete the original border on the Steiner page first!)."

    I managed to remove one border once, but for the life of me I have no idea how I did it. Is it possible to provide step-by-step instructions for this and for other procedures like moving or resizing boxes? Obviously, I'm not doing it right.

    Should I be using (a) the task bar on the Ppt program or the one at the top of my screen? Are some of these right-click functions? I can't find any way to in Ppt to delete borders or do the other things. You'd think they'd be under "Edit" but no luck there or elsewhere.

    1. Hi Drew

      Chris can't answer at the moment, but will respond when he can.

      The short answer is the borders should be an object that you can highlight and delete just like any other object.


  10. Yes, that's what I thought you should do. But when I highlight the border, I cannot delete it. The same when I try to move stamp boxes. They spring magically back to where they were before. When I managed the one time to delete a border on one page in Ppt, it was by using a drop down box accessed from some task bar option or another but when I realized what I'd done, I was not able to delete it. I was just playing around (the old story) and did not follow what I was doing, unfortunately.

    Or perhaps it was a right-click option, hence my question.

    I know this is not difficult, but the various directions I've come across about how you edit Steiner pages in Ppt tend to slide over steps, not noting which functions (like "Edit" or others) should be used, whether all editing is simply inside Ppt itself, and if so how you do that. Click where? Then do what?

    I have only average experience with computers, but I used Ppt almost daily for many years, including many editings of slides, with no trouble -- so you'd think I could do this, wouldn't you? I'm sure this would benefit a lot of people since one of the frustrations with the otherwise excellent Steiner pages is the inability to edit them. Removing the borders would allow printing Steiner pages on bordered album pages -- which is most blank pages that are available. I can wait to find out. Thanks for the reply.

    1. I agree the devil is in the details.

      Since i am not one to edit Steiner pages, I am not one to ask about details on this topic. We will await for Chris to chime in. ;-) (It may be a week or so.)

    2. Drew,
      Sorry to hear you are having issues with this. What I think may be the issue is the particular converter used to convert the PDF into Powerpoint. I've come to learn that they don't all work the same and may be "selective" regarding what they will allow you to select in the converted PowerPoint file. I use an app called “PDF Convert Free” I found in the App Store a few years ago now. Not sure if it is still available, but I would suggest trying a different application to do the conversion and see if that solves the problems.

  11. great guide guys! Do you mind sharing where you found the borders similar to the scott pages? I've poked around a bit and haven't seen anything remotely similar. Thanks!

  12. Clif,

    For the borders, I basically pieced them together by using a scan of the corner of the original Scott page and overlaid it on top of the Steiner border. Then used that in the Master slide.

    Hope that helps.

  13. I have been playing around with trying to make my own pages for my Lighthouse hingeless albums using Bill Steiners pages. I just cannot afford to keep up and buy the stamps so I am about 5 years behind on pages and been quoted £1700 for the pages and additional albums. I have been lucky with albums as I have picked up some second hand ones on Ebay etc as people like me cannot afford them any more and dealers must find it more profitable to split the pages and albums.
    I had seen your article before but I tried a lot of the converter apps but none worked properly for me maybe because my power point is quite old although I did try setting it in compatible mode.
    I recently remembered I had bought the well recommended desk top publishing Serif Page Plus 8 years ago when I was writing a recipe book, one on our family history plus some newsletters when we retired abroad. It opened the sample PDF pages with no problem and even picked up it was Helvetica font which was not supported and suggested similar fonts.
    The latest versions are between £85 and £100 but Amazon UK are selling P9 for £15 and would be worth every penny. You can set up master pages of custom size. It has a large range of frames and will import any others you find on line. You can set up say 50 pages with the country heading then interleave them with the printed ones and drag them across as needed.
    A little complicated to use to its full ability but for this purpose would be no more difficult than Word.
    I would say take your time in deciding on the page frame and fonts to be used throughout for the title, headings, stamp detail etc. as it automatically lists them. Clearly rename them so you know where you are or you can get in a pickle especially if you change your mind later. You can vary them but make sure you clearly label them ie Header large, medium, small etc.etc. Print out a few ages on ordinary paper as I do find the PDF's look rather different when printed.
    Because of the albums, I will have to buy Lighthouse slotted paper but I reckon even allowing for this, the licence, ink, mounts etc. it will work out about a third of the price and hopefully more interesting.
    I am really excited to get going and once I am more confident will go back to the pages I already have and add narratives to the Title pages and additional pages with more information.
    Hope this helps
    Good luck

    1. Thanks Barlews for your story and how you have successfully found a solution that works for you. This should be helpful for others.

  14. Very informative, thank you

    I was wondering from where did you download the borders?

    I bet you used creamy pages to print and not you color the page into creamy and use white paper.

    thank you


    1. Ray - Chris Whitehouse did this as a guest post, so he may not see your question. As far as borders, this is what he replied earlier...

      "For the borders, I basically pieced them together by using a scan of the corner of the original Scott page and overlaid it on top of the Steiner border. Then used that in the Master slide."

  15. Does anyone know a way to print the Steiner content on real blank Scott pages? I want to add pages to my Scott albums that match. The guy at Office Depot was quite willing to do the printing, but he said I should Publisher to get the files ready to print on the odd-sized paper. So far I've been able to remove the Steiner border, but I can't get the 8.5 x 11 Steiner pager to position correctly. Anyone have a good method for doing this?

    1. Steiner used to offer Page Maker files. I have imported them into InDesign, deleted the border and setup the margins for Scott Specialty and print on my 11x17 printer. The challenge is getting the file into InDesign and the cost of InDesign if you don't have it (for work) already.

  16. In the past, I have folded the blank Scott page to fit a 8.5x11 size, put that into my printer, and printed the Steiner page onto that. Believe it or not, once the page is in an album, you can't really tell.