I like to put labels on things. I label my file folders, diskettes, videotapes, photo albums, home canning jars and boxes that I put in storage. I even put labels on people. I just finished making gummed name tags for my son's fourth birthday party.
Making labels used to be easy. You wrote them by hand or inserted them into the typewriter. Using a computer to make a single label or address an envelope is usually more trouble than it's worth. Until recently, I kept a typewriter near my desk for envelopes and labels. But that old typewriter has been exiled to the closet now that I have a Smart Label Printer from Seiko Instruments.
The printer, which works with IBM-compatible PCs and the Apple Macintosh and comes with software, is designed especially to create and print one label at a time. You can also print several copies of a single label or use the mail list option to print multiple labels from a data file on your disk.
The one-pound machine, which measures 3.6 by 6.3 inches, plugs into a PC communications port or to either the printer or modem port of a Mac. Because all Macs and most PCs are also equipped with printer ports, the device doesn't interfere with your regular printer.
When you want to create a label, you simply load in the software and type in the text. The software works as a memory-resident program on the PC or as a desk accessory on the Mac. Thus, on either machine, it can pop up even while you're using another program.
Once the program is on the screen, you can type several lines of text. You can also capture a name and address line (or any other text) directly from your word processing software or other program. So, if you have the name and address typed into your letter, you can easily transfer it to the Smart Label Printer's software. The software automatically searches through your document to locate what it considers a valid name and address.
It is also able to print bar codes, such as those on most supermarket items.
The program is promoted as a tool to create labels for envelopes, but I don't use it that way for fear that my friends and colleagues will think I'm sending them junk mail. I use the printer regularly, however, to create file folder labels.
The machine comes with one roll of gummed, pressure-sensitive thermal labels. A pack of additional labels (two rolls, or 260 stickers) is $9.95.
The unit has a suggested retail price of $249.95. It and additional labels can be ordered (at full retail price) from CP Plus Inc. at (800) 274-4277. Other dealers may offer it at reduced prices.
Seiko Instruments can be reached at (800) 888-0817 or (408) 922-5900. Fax: (408) 922-5835.
Sometimes you want to print more than one label at a time. Although it can be done with the little Seiko printer, it's a slow process and not at all cost-effective. Chances are that you already have a printer that can do the job. What you need are special printer labels and, possibly, some software to make the job easier.
The type of label stock depends on whether you're using a laser printer or a regular "impact printer" such as a dot matrix or daisy wheel. If you're using a laser printer, you need label stock that comes on 8 1/2-by-11-inch sheets specially designed to run through the laser printer.
It's tempting to buy less expensive labels designed for typewriters or copiers, but labels not designed specifically for laser printers can easily come loose and affix themselves inside the printer, necessitating a repair bill that dwarfs whatever you might have saved on the cost of the labels.
Avery makes label stock for laser and dot matrix printers in various sizes and styles. In addition to the regular mailing labels, it also makes diskette labels and specialized labels for file folders, tags and videocassettes, among others.
You can print labels using just about any database or word processing software, but it's not always easy. Getting the labels properly aligned with the software can be tricky. Some programs come with predesigned templates for popular label sizes, but I've never had much luck getting them to work just right.
If you decide to print labels with your word processing, spreadsheet or database program, it's a good idea to experiment with plain paper before wasting expensive label stock.
Avery has been in the label business for as long as I can remember, but to keep up with the times, it's also now in the software business with programs for the IBM PC and Mac.
The company publishes two LabelPro products for IBM-compatibles. One is designed especially for laser printers and the other for dot matrix printers. A single Macintosh version works with the Apple LaserWriter and ImageWriter (dot matrix) printers, as well as the Hewlett Packard DeskJet.
All the versions allow you to integrate text and graphics on your labels. The program comes with a selection of "clip art" but also works with standard graphic files, making it possible, for example, to include a company logo that has been scanned into the computer.
Although they accomplish the same tasks, the Mac and PC versions are quite different. The Mac version takes advantage of that machine's graphical user interface to provide you with a "what you see is what you get" environment for designing your labels. The Mac version allows you to paste graphic images from just about any Macintosh graphics program and gives you access to all text styles available on your Mac.
The IBM PC version, which allows you to place graphics in pre-specified locations, comes with two type styles that can be printed in any size from 6 to 96 points. The dot matrix version offers three fonts plus your printer's resident fonts. It also prints colors on color printers.
Each version comes with a small sample of Avery label stock. In addition to gummed labels, you can use the software to print Rolodex or index cards, using special dot matrix or laser card stock available from an office supplies dealer.
Avery, of course, makes it easy for you to use the product with the company's own label stock. The program's menu, for example, allows you to select the label stock by Avery catalogue number. However, I see no reason the program wouldn't work with label stock from other companies.
Avery LabelPro comes with its own simple database management program that can be used to enter address lists. The IBM PC version works with files created by dBase III and IV and WordPerfect, as well as standard text files. The Macintosh version supports most Macintosh database and word processing files.
The Avery LabelPro software has a suggested retail price of $99.95, but I've seen it on sale for a lot less. Avery can be reached at (818) 915-3851.
Computer File welcomes readers' comments but regrets that the authors cannot respond individually to letters. Write to Lawrence J. Magid, P.O. Box 620477, Woodside, Calif. 94062, or contact the L. Magid account on the MCI electronic mail system.