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Printing File Labels with Spreadsheet

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  • Printing File Labels with Spreadsheet

    I was looking into printing file labels.

    I investigated separate label printers with keypads and they cost at least $30 with expensive replacement batteries, labels and ink cartridges. Also, this is one more piece of equipment to break and figure out where to store.

    I looked at label PC printers which are neat, but cost in the area of $150, required special labels and ink cartridges.

    So why not just use a spreadsheet with columns and rows to fit a standard address label sheet or whatever size you want. I was sure I would find a nifty template on the internet, but while I did find discussions of mail merge did not find a template. So I easily made my own.

    I created a spreadsheet with a print area 3 columns wide and 10 rows high. I made the cells wrap, top justified, bold and set to what ever font size for the text being printed. It took me several tries at tweaking the sizes to get every thing lined up with the cell borders printing for testing purposes. Your printer will probably be different, but I ended up with 0 left and right margins, top 0.46 and bottom 0.40. Row height was 74 (74 what I'm not sure) and column widths were 34, 35 and 32.86 (why these sizes, I don't know, but worked for me, your printer will probably be different). I used Microsoft Excel, but it seems like the approach should work with any spreadsheet program.

    Outside of the print area, I centered 1 to 3 in the row above and below the print area and centered 1 to 10 in the columns to the left and right of the print area to help me print the labels that I wanted. Now id can print 1 or more labels from any position on the label sheet. I was concerned if repetitive printing would be a problem if I print one or a few labels at a time, but so far the sheets have held up just fine.

    Sometimes I've folded the label over along the long length - sticky sides together (only print on the top half of the label) and sometimes I've stuck the label to the tab inserts for hanging folders. For regular file folders, just stick the label to the folder.

    I placed a shortcut to the spreadsheet template on my desktop for quick and easy access.

    The spreadsheet label approach works fine for me with 0 additional equipment cost.
    Last edited by Denver Dave; 11-02-2005, 07:20 AM.

  • #2
    Since the labels i buy are based on the ubuqitous Avery brand, you could use Avery's free software: DesignPro Limited.

    works like a champ and its cheap as well.



    • #3
      How much is your time worth?

      For me, the time to create the spreadsheet, plus the extra time to fire it up every time I wanted to create a label, adds up to *way* more than $30. YMMV.



      • #4
        How much is your time worth?
        I do confess that the spreadsheet approach is somewhat of a "tweaker's" approach, but for me, I expect to save time with not having to store and hunt for the label maker, manage batteries, proprietary labels and ink for the label maker. So far the spreadsheet approach continues to be quick and easy.

        Instigase mentioned the Avery approach download:
        which seems to do the same thing and more - I would have probably tried it if I'd found it first - good find!

        Some people may still prefer the self contained, non PC dependent label maker approach, I just thought that there is a quick, easy and mostly free option available that does not require any additonal hardware, special labels, batteries, cables, ink and storage that we should know about. ... and is one less thing to clutter up my desk.
        Last edited by Denver Dave; 11-02-2005, 07:21 AM.


        • #5
          I find my Dymo label writer is very easy and quick to use. It uses thermal printing, so all you need to do is buy the Dymo labels but that is it, no ink or toner. I think some of their lower models are down to less than a $100.

          I mainly purchased it for mailing labels, but has been great for GTD.


          • #6
            Storage Problem?

            There's only one place to store a label maker...on your desk beside your phone. If it's not infront of you how will you ever be motivated enough to use it?

            As well, don't waste your time with a labeller that takes batteries. Get one that plugs into the wall, or don't bother.

            I use the Dymo label Manager 150. And I love it.....

            It cost only around $65.00 Canadian, with the adaptor. The refills are only between $12.00 and $15.00 each (that's for 7 metres of tape) They last at least a month or more.


            • #7
              Originally posted by bassdrone42
              There's only one place to store a label maker...on your desk beside your phone. If it's not infront of you how will you ever be motivated enough to use it?

              As well, don't waste your time with a labeller that takes batteries. Get one that plugs into the wall, or don't bother.
              I agree one needs to keep the labeler in front of you, however I disagree about the batteries.

              If I had to plug mine in I would be limited where I could put it in my room at home. I would have to run yet other wire or put it where it would be more convenient.

              I also like the portability. Being able to use it where ever is nice. Plus my wife also borrows it from time to time.

              I bought two Brother PT-65 at different times for $15 and $20. Refill labels are $6 on Amazon.
              Last edited by Max; 11-02-2005, 10:49 AM.


              • #8
                No Share...

                I like the plug in type for the exact opposite reason.

                Since it's plugged into the wall it's less likely to disappear from my desk.
                My co-workers are less likely to "borrow it for just a minute (read: 3 weeks)" this way.

                Maybe I'm just being selfish, but I hate sharing....


                • #9
                  Use Word

                  If you are at all familiar with MS Word, it is very simple to create labels, but it works best if you want to create several at a time - good for when you are just setting up GTD.

                  Try this:

                  1)Open Word
                  2)Select "Letters and Mailings:Mail Merge" from "Tools" drop down menu
                  3)Select "Labels" radio button for document type on the right side of the screen
                  4)Click on "Next: starting document" on the bottom right of screen
                  5)Click on "Label Options" on right side of the screen
                  6)Select the type of label you have. The numbers correspond to the suppliers product number, i.e.: Avery labels 5266 is a standard file folder label in a 8.5 x 11 sheet format. When you select a particular label, details about size and layout are displayed to the right.
                  7) Click "OK"
                  Your word document is now formatted to create the labels with the proper spacing. You can center, right align, have 3 rows, change font size, etc.
                  9) click in the first label space and start typing. Tab takes you to the next label space.

                  Hope this helps!


                  • #10
                    One more thing...

                    Also, when I set up new folders, I use a small yellow post-it in place of a file folder label. That way I can make sure I like how I've titled it before I make it permanent. Since the Word label setup doesn't lend itself to single labels, I can create labels in batch and replace yellow post-its when I have time.


                    • #11
                      I have tried different ways to generate file folder labels as well. And even though the recommendation is for a alphabetical sorting method, I found that a numbered system was handier. Maybe someone here can tell me about a utility to generate a list of numbered labels, but I could not find one so I created a basic version and posted it (and the source code) on a trustworthy open source repository.

                      It seems like someone could easily take an outliner type editor/organizer and create output to be formatted into something like an Avery sheet, and likely someone did, but I could not find it.

                      The application I created is not the smoothest application you can use, but I have used it for about two months at home and at work, and it more or less does the job. Some features I thought were useful were

                      1. You can 'archive' a heading. If you move a file out of the filing cabinet, but not yet ready to trash it, archiving hides the heading but keeps the number from being used for another label.
                      2. You can view the list of labels in your filing cabinet on your computer.
                      3. Once a label is printed off, it is not printed again unless you manually tell the program to print it.
                      4. As you maintain the list of labels over time, only new labels (and other labels not yet printed) are marked for printing.
                      5. You can print starting from any label position on an Avery label sheet. That is, if 10 labels have been used, printing can start from the 11th label.
                      6. You can create an index page to put at the start of the filing cabinet.
                      7. An alignment page and alignment facilities are provided.
                      8. Basic support for an alphabetical subsection is provided by giving the option to hide the numbers in a section.
                      9. It's a single executable (not installed on your system) so you can copy the executable into several folders where each folder is a separate cabinet.

                      More information and the link to the download page can be found at


                      • #12
                        I bought a labeler, used it for a week and then promptly returned it. The tape was used up too quickly and $6 per roll seems ridiculous. I can get far more labels out of a package of file folder labels for the same price.

                        To simplify the entire process, I used MS Word to create a template to match the labels I purchased with the appropriate font size. I saved the blank template file to my desktop. I keep a set of plastic stacking trays (separate from my inbox) on a shelf within arms reach. In one tray I have printer paper, in another photo paper and in another I have the label sheets. Each time I need a label, I open the template from my desktop and reach for the top label sheet. I quickly count down to where the next available label is, type it in and print. It takes less than 30 seconds to do all of this. It took me twice as long to do the same thing with the labeler. Just my experience. And yes, my computer is always on and I have the same setup at home.

                        This even works well for tiny labels. I needed to label something using a 6 point font. I used the file folder label template and then trimmed the label down after it printed. Works perfectly every time.


                        • #13

                          I've been using a kid's Dymo labeller which simply embosses the letters on to sticky tape. It's quite limited as you can only have capital letters and numbers. Also the replacement rolls are far too expensive for what they are. It's started getting jammed up, don't know if this is a design problem (all the parts seem to be made of plastic). One superb advantage is that no batteries are required, so it's always ready for use. If they could make one which had lower case letters, symbols and was more reliable that would be perfect.


                          • #14
                            One of THE best investments I've made to my office and work is getting a labeler. Mine's probably the cheapest on the market, but I love it. It's the Dymo Letra Tag QX50. Probably 25 bucks, and with a couple extra label tape cartriges, I'm probably out a total of $35. Best money I've spent in my office, no question. It's as valuable to my desktop as my keyboard, phone, stapler....anything!


                            • #15
                              FMPro or Access

                              I've used FileMakerPro for many years for just this purpose. In addition to the filename, my entry fields include category, subcategory, location, and a sortkey, which are optional but can be useful. I also have date autofields (DateOfEntry and DateOfModification), so I can easily call up just those labels I've entered or tweaked today. The software has embedded templates that make label generation a snap. Besides manillas, I use Pendaflex folders. I do not make a hanging folder for every manilla folder, which defeats the grouping function of the pendas. To label the pendas, I use Avery's Work Saver Inserts, which are offered in 5-across and 3-across sizes (narrow and wide, I use wide), and generate those as well from FMPro. I moved to Access a while ago, but find it more cumbersome, and the templates much more tempermental, so I've stuck with FMPro.

                              I purchased a plug-in Brother labeller and have found it invaluable for non-file labelling (containers, storage units, drawers, etc), but it's just too expensive for doing large batches of files. One of the advantages of making sure your filenames are in one file or database is being able to check to see if you've already created a file for the topic, a benefit lost if you're using the labeller exclusively.

                              I read awhile ago about a piece of software--think it was an Avery product--that allowed you to input labels and kept track of partially used sheets, automatically filling in those labels that remained with new entries. I don't know if this is an upgrade of their freebie software or a different product. The major downside to my method is that I tend to wait until I've assembled a batch of 30 new files to run a sheet of labels, simply to avoid waste. Is anyone familiar with the software I'm referring to?