New features for emails sent to your Light Blue account

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Light Blue subscribers are given a unique email address, and any emails sent to your unique email address are automatically imported into your Light Blue account. They appear in the Inbox, and from there you can use them to create a new enquiry or link them to an exist shoot or client. This makes it easy to keep all of your correspondence in one place, so that you can see the full history of your dealings with your clients.

We’re constantly updating Light Blue’s email import features to add new features and support changes in the way that major email clients format their emails, but we wanted to highlight a couple of big changes that have gone live recently.

Attachments are now automatically imported

When an email containing attachments is sent to your Light Blue email address, we now automatically import them for you. Emails up to 10MB in size are supported, and attachments with the following extensions will be imported:

  • .pdf
  • .txt
  • .rtf
  • .docx
  • .doc
  • .xlsx
  • .xls
  • .csv
  • .jpg
  • .jpeg
  • .heic
  • .png

Once you’ve created an enquiry from an incoming email, or linked it to an existing record, you can “promote” any particularly important attachments so that they show up on the Activity panel instead of only being displayed when you view the email. To do that, open the email from the linked record’s Activity panel, select the attachment, and click the “promote” button that appears next to it.

Improved formatting for emails forwarded from macOS or iOS Mail

To get that initial email enquiry into Light Blue, forwarding the email to your Light Blue email address is usually the quickest way to get it into your Inbox so that you can create an enquiry from it. We’ve recently improved the formatting of emails forwarded from the macOS or iOS Mail app, removing the first level of quote marks and making them easier to read.

Sunshine online proofing gallery starts sending orders to Light Blue

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WordPress e-commerce plugin Sunshine has added a direct link to Light Blue’s API, allowing photographers who are using Sunshine’s online proofing and ordering galleries to have their client orders sent directly to their Light Blue account.

The Light Blue API allows our subscribers to send information straight to their Inbox from a variety of sources, including online forms, booking systems, and online galleries. Orders sent from Sunshine to your Light Blue account will appear in the Inbox, and from there you can import them into Light Blue as a new order, saving you from needing to manually re-enter print orders while keeping all of your sales and invoicing information together in Light Blue.

Sunshine’s Light Blue API link add-on is available from their website. Light Blue users will need an active subscription to be able to use it, and you can find more information about our API in our knowledgebase.

Light Blue 2021.2 release notes

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Welcome to your new Home screen

Light Blue’s new Home screen lets you see your business in a completely new way. You can now customise the Home screen by choosing a selection of widgets that give you unique and powerful ways of looking at your business as well as customising the look of Light Blue.

Widgets include the classic “Current Events”, “Enquiries”, and “Task Manager” widgets from previous versions of Light Blue, plus exciting new options including customisable charts, inbox, lists, stats, or embedded web pages.

Sets of widgets are grouped together as Home screen layouts and you can customise their appearance with colour themes. We’ve provided a set of example layouts and colour themes that you can choose from by clicking the options button in the top right corner of the Home screen, and you can use any of these samples as a starting point to create your own!

Continue reading “Light Blue 2021.2 release notes”

Public beta for new Home screen features

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We’re really excited to announce that we’ve given all of our beta testers access to a major update that brings some big improvements to Light Blue’s Home screen.

Light Blue’s new Home screen lets you see your business in a completely new way. You can now customise the Home screen by choosing a selection of widgets that give you unique and powerful ways of looking at your business as well as customising the look of Light Blue.

We’ll be sharing more information about Light Blue 2021.2’s new features when it becomes generally available. If you’re a Light Blue subscriber and would like to join the beta so that you can start using the new features, please send us an email!

Continuing support for photographers affected by the pandemic

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Continuing to help photographers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic

Today marks the first anniversary of the UK entering lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so we wanted to mark the occasion by reiterating the support that we’ve been offering our customers. Although the situation is starting to improve in the UK now and many of our subscribers are going to be getting back to work over the next few months, we know that many photography businesses throughout the world are still facing enormous challenges and we will continue to do all that we can to help you.

We’re here to help people run a successful business, and one of the ways that we can do that is to reduce the cost of Light Blue for any of our customers who are in difficulty. Since 18 March 2020, we’ve been offering all of our existing and new subscribers 50% off their Light Blue subscriptions. If you need assistance but haven’t applied for our offer yet, you can do so by clicking here to log into your account. We’re happy to extend this assistance until the pandemic is under control, so if you’re not yet able to afford your full Light Blue subscription then send us an email and we’ll extend your 50% discount for another three months. We want you to be able to use our tools to bounce back from this!

We’re still here to help

This has been a challenging time for all of us in the photography industry, so we wanted to remind you that we’re here to help you make the most out of Light Blue so that it can support and aid your business. Now that things are starting to improve, we’re also here to help you bounce back and rebuild your business.

We’ve been helping business owners to make the most of the opportunities that come along, whether that’s nurturing your existing clients with automated messages, helping postponed shoots to reschedule with our online contract signing service, working out which clients you want to market to when things get back to normal, or using our contact forms and workflows to handle new enquiries. If there’s anything that we can do to help you use Light Blue to its full potential, please get in touch to let us know.

Spreading the word

We’re a tiny company, so we always appreciate it when customers ask us whether there’s anything that they can do to help us, too.

Telling other photographers about Light Blue and how we’ve helped your business always means a lot to us! If you know anyone who would benefit from using Light Blue, you can use our referral scheme to give them a discount and earn credit towards your own subscription too.

Scheduled website maintenance

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We’re going to be carrying out some scheduled maintenance on our website servers this weekend, which is going to lead to some unavoidable downtime for our account management pages and support resources such as our knowledgebase.

However, Light Blue’s online services will be unaffected and you will be able to carry on using all of Light Blue’s features while this takes place.

We’ll be carrying out these updates early on Saturday morning (UK time) to minimise any disruption.

Light Blue 2021.1

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We’re excited to announce the immediate available of Light Blue 2021.1. This is a major update to our desktop app that improves lots of the features that you use every day.

Entering shoot details is faster

Adding a new shoot has been streamlined, with the “New Shoot” window efficiently guiding you through the process. Light Blue can also include the shoot type when it automatically generates a title for your shoots, making it easier to keep track of the different types of job you’re doing for your clients.

“I like the new way that workflows can be tied automatically to specific inquiries, saves having to go and choose the workflow I need at that time, saving me time”Jean-Marc Robin

Dealing with form submissions is easier

When you’re dealing with form or API submissions, we’ve simplified the old “Import as New Record” and “Update an Existing Record” buttons to a single “Import” button that works out what you probably want to do with that incoming data. We’ve made it much easier to use contact form and API submissions to work with existing clients.

“I like how importing enquiries etc now checks for duplicate contacts.
Light Blue has always made our business more streamlined, and with every update… even more so.”
Grahame Smith

Crafting the perfect message to your clients is simpler

We’ve made it easier to create emails and text messages from a variety of places, and added more helpful tools that make it quicker than ever to communicate with your clients.

“I LOVE something as simple as the little email and text buttons that make it even more stratightforward to contact clients with ease. I am excited about the workflows as well. THANK YOU for making the effort to make this software more user friendly.”Anita Watkins

When you’re composing an email or a text message, a button in the toolbar makes it quick and easy to insert one of Light Blue’s powerful mail-merge tags. Mail-merge tags are a fantastic time-saver because they pull information into your emails from the record that you’re sending a message from, and having them available within the app saves you from having to look up the available tags from our knowledgebase.

“The latest version of Light Blue makes my admin even easier. My communication has been made far easier by no longer having to go back to the Light Blue website to find the tags to add fields into my e-mails to customers.
I spend less time doing admin and more time doing the things that help my business!”
Rich Dyson

We’ve also made it possible to insert an email template into an email that you’re composing. This allows you to set up templates that you can use as snippets and drop them into emails whenever they would save you time. 

If you realise that you’re composing the perfect response to a client’s query, you can now save that email as a template. This makes it easy to reuse whenever you find yourself dealing with a similar query or situation. 

Preferences & workflows are easier to understand

We’ve reorganised parts of the Preferences window to make some of Light Blue’s powerful customisation options easier to understand, and one of the biggest reorganisations makes workflows easier to set up and understand. 

“The improvements to workflows are great. The latest updates are making this so much easier for me.”Georgina Reid

Workflows are a great tool for helping you to convert enquiries into bookings and deliver an excellent service to your clients, and the new workflow visualiser shows you how your default workflows will create tasks, appointments, emails, and text messages based on the key milestones of your shoots. You’ll find the workflow visualiser in the “Shoots” tab of the “General” preferences, and in the “Shoot Types” section where you can apply different workflows for any types of job that need to be handled in their own unique way.

Workflows now have a type, and if you use a lot of workflows then this makes sure that only appropriate workflows are shown when you’re selecting them. When you’re in the “Workflows” section of the Preferences window, you can also see where each workflow is being used and set it as a default without having to leave this section.

And much, much more…

This is definitely one of those releases that we’d recommend reading the release notes for, because it includes hundreds of small improvements. 

“I love the housekeeping button to tidy up stale enquiries etc. Suddenly my dashboard looks so much neater and manageable. All with the click of one button!”Jenny Beckett
“It’s simple but I like that you’ve added the “preferences” button to the menu bar… it’s such a regularly used part of the software”Bob Foyers
“The Light Blue team listens. If you think that something could be improved then they will look at it and let you know of any improvement and feed back to you immediately in the first instance and later if it is at all useful or just to update you. I also love the fact that they are only a small team. If you need Team LB then it will be there for you.”Anthony Von Roretz
“I would not be able to keep track of my business without Light Blue. I really like the flexibility of Light Blue in terms of its layout and the fact that it can be so easily customised in both how it looks and also performs to suit everybody’s own business set up. It’s invaluable as an asset for my business.”Graham Stockton

A free upgrade for all of our subscribers

Subscribers to Light Blue’s online services can update to Light Blue 2021.1 by using the ‘Check For Updates’ command within the Light Blue desktop app.

If you already have a Light Blue licence, but don’t subscribe to our online services, the best way of upgrading to version 2021.1 is to add a subscription. As well as being able to upgrade for free, subscribers have access to Light Blue’s most popular features, including our online contract signing service, forms, online invoices, and enhanced email and text messaging features.

Light Blue 2021.1 release notes

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Light Blue 2021.1 is a major update that improves lots of the features that you use every day, including:

  • Adding a new shoot has been streamlined, with the “New Shoot” window efficiently guiding you through the process.
  • Dealing with contact form and API submissions has been made simpler, and it’s also much easier to use them to work with existing clients.
  • Mail-merge tags are easier to find and use in all of the places that they can be used from, making it even easier to personalise your messages to clients.
  • It’s easier than ever to compose emails and text messages, and use helpful new tools that make communicating with your clients faster.
  • Workflows are easier to set up and understand, which helps you to use this powerful tool to convert enquiries into bookings and deliver an excellent service to your clients.
  • We’ve made some of the most important parts of Preferences window easier to understand, to help you make the most of Light Blue’s powerful customisation options.
  • The Home screen now includes housekeeping tools that help you to manage a busy database by keeping on top of stale enquiries and overdue tasks.

Read on to find out more about the new features that we’ve added in Light Blue 2021.1!

Shoots

When you add a shoot to Light Blue, the “New Shoot” window efficiently guides you through the process. You can also add an enquiry workflow that helps you to convert a new enquiry into a booking. If you prefer the old process for adding a shoot, you can turn the “New Shoot” window off via the Preferences window.

We’ve also made the following changes to shoots:

  • The date field is now positioned above type and status fields in the Shoots section.
  • When Light Blue automatically sets a shoot title for you, it now includes the shoot type in the name for all shoot types (e.g. “Jack & Jill’s portrait” for a shoot type called “Portraits”). You can customise the phrase that it uses for each shoot type in the Preferences window, or turn this option off for individual shoot types if you prefer to not include its name in your shoot titles.
  • Added hint text to the “Role” column in the “Linked Records” panel.
  • The + menu in the “Schedule” and “Requests” tabs on a shoot now include options to use a template.

Workflows

Light Blue’s workflows are a powerful tool that help you to convert enquiries into bookings and deliver an excellent service to your clients. Light Blue 2021.1 makes them easier to set up and understand:

  • The new workflow visualiser shows how your default workflows will create tasks, appointments, emails, and text messages based on the key milestones for your shoots. You’ll find the workflow visualiser in the “Shoots” section of “General Preferences”, and in the “Shoot Types” section of the Preferences window you can set up different workflows for any types of job that need to be handled in their own unique way.
  • Workflows can now have a type assigned to them. If you use a lot of workflows, this makes it easier to apply them because only workflows of the appropriate type are shown.
  • When you’re in the “Workflows” section of the Preferences window, you can see where each workflow is being used and set it as a default without leaving the “Workflows” section.

Emails

  • We’ve added buttons that make it easier to create emails and text messages from a shoot or contact.
  • You can now create emails and text messages from the “Activity” panel as well as the “Linked Records” panel on shoots and contacts.
  • When you’re composing an email or template, a button in the toolbar makes it quick and easy to insert one of Light Blue’s powerful mail-merge tags. Mail-merge tags are a fantastic time-saver because they pull information into your emails from the record that you’re sending a message from, and having them available within the app saves you from having to look up the available tags from our knowledgebase.
  • You can now insert an email template into an email that you’re composing. This allows you to set up templates that you can use as snippets and drop into emails as you’re composing them.
  • When you realise that you’re composing the perfect response to a client’s query, you can now save that email as a template. This makes it easy to reuse whenever you find yourself dealing with a similar query or situation.
  • You can now set your own default text size and line spacing for your emails.
  • Each member of staff can now be assigned their own default email signature that will be applied when they create a new email.
  • We’ve added a “Resend” button to emails that have been sent from Light Blue, which allows you to quickly create a copy of that email to send to the same or a different recipient.
  • We’ve made the “Insert Image” command in the email editor easier to understand.
  • When you insert an image into an email but don’t supply an alt tag, we now give it a blank alt tag to give your emails better compatibility with screen readers.
  • When you’re switching between different email signatures or saving an email as a template, the logic that removes the current signature from the email is now more tolerant of invisible characters that could make it harder to compare the HTML.
  • We’ve added a contextual menu to the Outbox to change the status of the selected messages to “draft”.

Text Messages

  • You can now create emails and text messages from the “Activity” panel as well as the “Linked Records” panel on shoots and contacts.
  • When you’re composing an email or template, a new button makes it quick and easy to insert one of Light Blue’s powerful mail-merge tags. Mail-merge tags are a fantastic time-saver because they pull information into your emails from the record that you’re sending a message from, and having them available within the app saves you from having to look up the available tags from our knowledgebase.
  • You can now insert a text message template into a message that you’re composing. This allows you to set up templates that you can use as snippets and drop into messages as you’re composing them.

Mail-merge

  • When you’re composing an email or template, a new button makes it quick and easy to insert one of Light Blue’s powerful mail-merge tags. Mail-merge tags are a fantastic time-saver because they pull information into your emails from the record that you’re sending a message from, and having them available within the app saves you from having to look up the available tags from our knowledgebase.
  • When you’re doing a mail-merge from a shoot, you can now pick out a contact with a specific role in a tag by using the format %ContactRole:RoleGoesHere:ContactTagName%. e.g. %ContactRole:Mother:ContactFirstName% would give you the first name of the first contact labelled as “Mother” on that shoot.
  • Added new mail-merge format options for date tags: you can append “Day”, “Month”, or “Year” to a tag to get the day of the month, month name, or year. e.g. %ShootStartDateMonth% would return “January” for a shoot that starts on 01/01/2021.
  • Added whole address versions of the “next appointment” mail-merge tags. e.g. %ShootNextAppointmentAddress%.
  • Added a %SaleNextPaymentDueAmount% mail-merge tag.

Appointments

  • We’ve reorganised the appointment dialog to make it easier to understand.
  • Added phone number and URL fields to appointments, to make them easier to use for phone or online meetings.
  • Added a “Duplicate Appointment” command to the “Activity” panel contextual menu.
  • Double-clicking an appointment from the Home or Calendar screens now opens the appointment editing dialog, as well as taking you to the record the appointment is linked to.
  • When you delete an appointment, any tasks linked to it are now deleted as well.

Inbox

  • When you’re dealing with form or API submissions, we’ve simplified the old “Import as a New Record” and “Update an Existing Record” buttons to a simple “Import” button that works out what you probably want to do with that incoming data.
  • We’ve made it much easier to use contact form and API submissions from existing clients. When you click the “Import” button, Light Blue shows you a list of existing contacts that match the details you’ve received and makes it easy for you to use or update an existing client’s details.
  • You can use a contact form or API submission that contains only contact parameters to create just a contact record, rather than a contact and a linked shoot.
  • Added an “Import” button to the incoming data preview dialog.
  • Added a contextual menu command to incoming data entries in the Inbox that allows you to unlink them from a record you’ve already linked them to, so that you can reimport them and link them to a different record.
  • The Inbox search field now includes the email “From” field in its searches.
  • When you accept an incoming payment, you’re now taken to the relevant sale.
  • Fixed a bug where the current value of the mailing list opt-in field was shown as 1/0 instead of yes/no when importing incoming data.
  • Fixed a bug that could cause the linked record description in the Inbox to include duplicates.

Home Screen

  • The Home screen now includes housekeeping tools that help you to manage a busy database by keeping on top of stale enquiries and overdue tasks.
  • You can now adjust the range of dates covered by the “Current Events” list directly from the Home screen.

Contacts

  • The “Websites” group of contact methods is now called “Links” and the list of default labels has been updated.
  • The contact “Status” field is now hidden by default, but can be shown again in the Preferences window.
  • Changed the “Maiden Name” field on contacts to “Previous Last Name”.
  • Added a confirmation dialog when you convert a contact to a company.
  • You can now import a full Name when you’re importing contacts from a CSV file, and Light Blue will automatically split it into the first name and last name fields.

Financial

  • Added a contextual menu command that allows you to save a payment schedule from a sale as a new payment schedule template, which allows you to reuse that schedule on more sales in future.
  • Added a button to make it easier to reload a contact’s current details into a Sale, Quote, Purchase, or Payment record.
  • Added a “Cancel Sale” button to uninvoiced sales. Cancelling an uninvoiced sale gives you a choice between deleting it, or invoicing it and automatically creating a credit note that offsets it. The “invoice & credit” option means that you keep a paper trail that shows that you were going to charge your client but decided to write it off.
  • Added a shoot type override for the online invoice published and payment email templates.
  • When duplicating a purchase, you’re asked whether you’d like to use the current date or the original purchase’s invoice date.
  • Added a “Payment Method” field when importing purchases from a CSV file.
  • The “Please pay X on or before Y” text that appears on invoices now uses the unpaid amount of the invoice, rather than the gross total.

Preferences

  • Added a “Preferences” button to the main window’s toolbar, to make it easier to find the Preferences window.
  • Renamed and reorganised various preferences, to make them easier to understand.
  • We’ve made the margin settings for printing and creating PDFs using Light Blue’s built-in templates easier to understand and customise.
  • Added separate top and bottom margin preferences for unbranded templates.
  • Added a search box to the “Template Translations” preferences section.
  • Any custom translations that you’ve set up are now more obviously highlighted in the “Template Translations” section.
  • Email and text message templates now list the places that they’re used (i.e. where they’re set as defaults) to make it easier for you to see how changes you make will affect the workflows, payment schedules, etc, that you’ve already set up.
  • When you’re composing a text message template, if it contains any Unicode characters we’re now listing those characters to make it easier for you to remove them from your template. Using Unicode characters in a text message reduces the number of characters that you get for each credit, so avoiding them helps you to send longer messages without spending more credits.
  • Changed the label of custom amount fields to “Custom Currency Amount”, to make their purpose clearer.
  • Document templates now display a warning if they’re larger than Light Blue’s 50MB document syncing limit.
  • Updated the list of Price List fields that can be imported or exported.
  • Reinstated the “Website URL” field in the Preferences window.
  • Contract and form template export and import features now include the “send email” checkboxes, so your decision about whether to send a notification email at each stage can be exported with the template content.
  • Fixed a bug where changing the colour of a shoot type, tag, etc, wouldn’t update the colour displayed in the Preferences window until you force a reload.

Querying & Reporting

  • The quick search field in the main window’s toolbar now includes the contents of “Notes” field from all of the main sections.
  • Added contextual menu commands for hiding or deleting a quick query.
  • Added a new quick query for sales that don’t have a linked shoot.
  • Added “Shoot Day” and “Date Completed” fields to the shoots section, for use in the list view, queries, and data exports.
  • Added primary contact role, age, and date of birth fields to the shoots section, for use in the list view, queries, and data exports.
  • The “Stale Enquiries” quick query in the shoots section now includes any enquiries that have a shoot date before today.
  • Added a “Next Payment Amount” field to the sales section.
  • Reinstated the “Is Group Head” and “Group Head X” fields in the shoots section, for use in the list view, queries, and data exports.
  • Fixed a bug that hid the brackets in the advanced mode of the query dialog.

Other changes

  • Updated macOS system requirements to macOS 10.12 Sierra.
  • On upgrading, Light Blue checks whether its window size can be optimised for your main screen.
  • If a custom text field contains a URL, an “Open” button is shown next to the field so that you can easily open it in your browser.
  • Added an option to the record linking dialog that allows you to include cancelled shoots when you’re searching for a shoot.
  • The “Submit Button Text” option for form templates is now applied to forms that you publish from a shoot or include in a contract, as well as contact forms.
  • The “Thank You Page URL” option for form templates is now applied to forms that you publish from a shoot, as well as contact forms.
  • The autocomplete menu for link fields now shows more information about matching records.
  • Text labels throughout Light Blue are now selectable, so they can be copied and pasted into other apps.
  • Added an optional field that shows which member of staff created a task.
  • You can now reschedule a selection of tasks at once from the “Activity” panel.
  • Renamed the “Add Document From Disk” command to “Add Document From Your Computer”.
  • Fixed a bug that caused spellchecking to not be enabled for some fields.
  • Fixed a bug where the “Add Task To Found Set” command could fail to link the tasks to a record.
  • Fixed a bug where a shoot in the “Unconfirmed Events” section of the Home screen could have its clash status overridden by the out of hours status.
  • Fixed a bug where marking an email or text message as read in the Inbox could immediately remove it if you’re using the “unread messages” filter.

Continuing help for subscribers affected by COVID-19

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Since March 2020, we’ve been offering to reduce the cost of Light Blue subscriptions by 50% for six months for any of our customers who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown. That help is still open to anyone who needs it: if you need assistance but haven’t applied for our offer yet, you can do so by clicking here to log into your account.

We’re still here to help

This is a challenging time for all of us in the photography industry, so we wanted to remind you that we’re here to help you make the most out of Light Blue so that it can support and aid your business.

We’ve been helping business owners to make the most of the opportunities that come along, whether that’s nurturing your existing clients with automated messages, helping postponed shoots to reschedule with our online contract signing service, working out which clients you want to market to when things get back to normal, or using our contact forms and workflows to handle new enquiries. If there’s anything that we can do to help you use Light Blue to its full potential, please get in touch to let us know.

Extended discounts

We hope that the photography industry is going to be able to recover as we get closer to Spring, but if you’re not yet able to afford your full Light Blue subscription then send us an email and we’ll extend your 50% discount for another three months. We want you to be able to use our tools to bounce back from this!

Spreading the word

We’re a tiny company, so we always appreciate it when customers ask us whether there’s anything that they can do to help us, too.

Telling other photographers about Light Blue and how we’ve helped your business always means a lot to us! If you know anyone who would benefit from using Light Blue, you can use our referral scheme to give them a discount and earn credit towards your own subscription too.

Merry Christmas from the Light Blue team

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Although we’re still hard at work here in the Light Blue bunker, we thought we should take some time out to let you know when we’ll be available to help anyone who’s going to be busy over the Christmas and New Year period.

We’re here to help over the festive season, but we’re going to be taking a bit of a break and won’t be answering emails quite as quickly as normal between Christmas and New Year:

  • We’ll be offering our normal email support hours until Wednesday 23 December.
  • We’ll be offering limited email support on Thursday 24 December.
  • There’ll be no email support available on the UK holiday of 25 December.
  • We’ll be offering limited email support 28-31 December.
  • There will be no email support available on the bank holiday of Friday 1 January.
  • Normal email support will resume on Monday 4 January.

We’d like to take this opportunity to wish all of our customers a restful and enjoyable Christmas. 2020 has been a tough year and we hope next year will be much better for all of us. We’re here to help you make the most of the opportunities that 2021 will bring!