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Small Business | BUSINESS TOOLS

Column. Information Relating to the Printing of Labels. May 1998.

May 13, 1998|LAWRENCE J. MAGID | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

When entrepreneurs think about using a computer to automate their business, they tend to focus on big tasks such as word processing, billing, financial planning, e-mail, Web access and maybe some specialized applications for their industry. I've also found some relatively obscure uses for my computer that make life a little easier.

Take labels, for example. You know that you can print labels for mass mailings, but you can also use them on objects such as books, diskettes, file folders, envelopes and anything else that needs identification. I've found tons of uses for labels, including labeling power sources and cables so I know which equipment they're designed for. I also use them on bookcases to mark the correct location for software and books. I sometimes even carry pre-printed gummed labels when I travel so I can quickly mark an item I'm afraid I might lose.

One way to make labels is to use a regular laser or inkjet printer to print on label stock, which is available at any office supply store. Be sure to get the type that works with your printer (there are versions for both laser and inkjet), and be sure it's the right size for whatever it is you're trying to label.

There are a variety of software packages designed to print labels, but you can also print them from Microsoft Word and other word- processing programs, as well as some page layout programs such as Microsoft Publisher. The labeling feature in Word is mainly used to create "mail merge" labels for multiple addresses. But you can also use it to create a sheet of identical labels (for your return address or to put your company name and phone number on equipment) or to print one label at a time.

From within Word, select Envelopes and Labels from the Tools menu, click on the Labels tab and select Options. From here you can select which type of label stock you plan to use, based on the actual stock number for the brand you're using. Be sure to look at your options carefully, as this section can be confusing.

In addition to printing an entire sheet of labels, you can print one label on a sheet by selecting "single label" and specifying the row and column (on the label stock) where you want it printed. I've done this without any problem, but be aware that running a sheet of labels through more than once increases the chance of a label coming loose and gumming up your printer.

Another solution for small jobs is to get Avery's mini-sheets, which have fewer labels per sheet. They come in packs of 25 and are available for addresses, file folders and diskettes.

The easiest way to print one label at a time is to use a dedicated label printer such as the Smart Label Printer from Seiko Instruments ([800] 688-0817, http://www.seikosmart.com) or the LabelWriter from CoStar ([800] 426-7827, http://www.costar.com). Both companies make a variety of models, starting at about $150, and both use a thermal printing method (similar to a fax machine) to print gummed labels. The thermal printing avoids having to use ink.

The labels, which come on rolls, feed through one at a time, so they're ideal for when you need just a single label. Seiko's SLP EZ30 ($149) prints 1-inch labels at about 15 seconds per label. The Seiko SLP 120 ($199) and SLP 220 ($249) print a label in three seconds. The 220 also prints 2-inch-wide labels. All versions can print postal bar codes and allow you to enter one label at a time. One problem with the Seiko 120 and 220 is that they require special Seiko labels that cost $60 for 12 rolls of 130 each (just less than 4 cents a label).

The Seiko EZ30 and the CoStar use generic labels that usually cost about 2.8 cents each.

The software that comes with these printers also allows you to access a database for use in a mass mailing, but, because of the price of thermal labels, it's much cheaper to use a laser or inkjet printer for large jobs.

Speaking of software, if you're really serious about labels, you should at least check out AddressMate ($69.95) from CoStar and Avery LabelPro 3.0 ($35) from Avery (http://www.avery.com). These programs are designed to send mass mailings or multiple copies of a single label that you use on products you send. Avery LabelPro is like a desktop publishing program for labels with lots of design tools and the option to import graphics. You can download a free trial version from Avery's Web site.

The site also has Avery Wizard, a free program that makes it easier to create good-looking labels with Microsoft Word. If you don't want to download the 3-megabyte file, you can call (800) 252-8379 and get it on CD-ROM, along with about $10 worth of sample labels free.

There are tons of other label creation programs for both Windows and Macintosh, including some you can download for free. You can find many of them by pointing your Web browser to http://www.hotfiles.com or http://www.download.com and searching for the word "label."

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You can e-mail Lawrence J. Magid at magid@latimes.com and visit his Web site at http://www.larrysworld.com. On AOL use keyword LarryMagid.

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