Finding the right label maker
Label makers print neat, easy-to-read text for file folders, pantry shelves, storage boxes and anywhere in your home or office where organization is a plus. Most label makers now build in options for text size and style -- italic or bold, for example -- as well as punctuation and symbols. Some can even print decorative icons and frames, making them a favorite tool for scrapbooking.
Labels are available in a wide array of materials including magnetic labels that are ideal for whiteboards and fabric iron-on labels. You can find label cartridges in various colors, including metallic, for both background and text. Computer-connectible label makers expand your options even further, with fonts, graphics and templates limited only by your computer and Internet access. Still, some experts say a simple label maker that's easy to use might serve you better than a model with all the bells and whistles.
Most moderately priced label makers print at a resolution of 180 dpi, so some letters show a slightly jagged edge. In most sizes, though, text is very easy to read. Keyboards come in two basic types: The computer-style QWERTY layout is best for anyone who can type or text well while an ABC layout is designed for kids and inexperienced typists.
Although Epson manufactures a pair of stand-alone label makers, the Brother and Dymo brands dominate the market with models that cover a wide price range. However, Dymo offers the very least expensive label maker, an old-style manual model with which you turn a wheel to select each letter. More modern thermal-transfer label makers from both brands are much easier to use and come in several handheld, desktop and computer-connected styles. You can find models in both brands that will print fabric iron-on labels for clothing, as well as labels that are either permanent or removable. Your choices are more limited if you want to print magnetic labels for whiteboards, refrigerators and file cabinets.
Considering the size and type of labels you'll want to print -- as well as where and how often -- will make it easy to match a model with your needs. Although label makers vary in features, each has specific advantages and drawbacks, so your best choice depends on your priorities and which drawbacks you can live with. In naming our Best Reviewed picks we consider ease of use, versatility -- including the ability to print on different label media -- and value, plus how well the label maker holds up over the long haul. Experts review a few label makers, but more extensive feedback can be found in user reviews at sites such as Amazon.com and Staples.com.