The best label maker has

  • Thermal printing. The old-fashioned embossing models are slow and awkward by comparison.
  • Lots of fonts and text styles. If you enjoy decorative labels, look for a model with lots of fonts and styles. Some label makers can print icons and borders as well as standard punctuation and symbols. Others can create specialty labels for industry, such as wire wraps and bar codes. Be aware, however, that for simple, quick labels, extra options can make using a label maker more complicated.
  • An AC adapter or rechargeable batteries. These add convenience and save money. If you don't use a label maker often, the batteries can deteriorate; if you do use one often, reviewers say label makers go through batteries pretty fast.
  • On-screen preview. If the label maker offers a choice of fonts, sizes and styles, it's best to be able to see in advance how the choices will look when printed. Reviewers add that some screens are more readable than others.
  • Memory. Many label makers build in memory, saving frequently used labels or phrases so you don't have to keep retyping them.
  • An automatic label cutter. This is a nice convenience if you print loads of labels at one time. Even so, manual cutters just require pressing a button.

Know before you go

What label materials do you need? Some labels are extra durable for resisting grease, water and variations in temperature. Non-glossy paper labels are fine for file folders, and you may want to print special labels such as magnetic labels for use on whiteboards, file cabinets and refrigerators, or iron-on fabric for clothing labels. Some owners love metallic labels. It's best to decide this before narrowing your choice of label maker.

Consider the label widths you'll need. Very narrow 3.5 mm labels can be used on CD case spines. At the other extreme, some users like labels as wide as 1 inch for large-print labels or for several lines of text. Some label makers even print name badges.

Decide which keyboard style you want. For kids and non-typists, a keyboard arranged in alphabetical order is easier to use, but good typists will be better served by a standard QWERTY keyboard.

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