Label me mad

c: | f: /

Take one sheet of 21 labels in a 3×7 matrix.
Mix with Microsoft Word.
Waste an evening trying to get the labels to line up.

Microsoft Word (2003 in this case, since anything after that has been altered for the sake of making changes rather than for the good of the product) has a label making wizard template system. You either choose from the 1500 different types of label presets or choose Custom, pick up a ruler, measure the various parameters like left and top margins, label height and width, and label pitch — how far apart they are from each other — type the values in then hit New Document. Et Voila, a grid of labels appears.

It looks perfect on the screen. Time to type the label info into each cell… dumm-de-dumm-de-dumm… press Print.

Oh dear.

The devalued centimetre

The labels were standard 38 × 63.5mm jobbies. They butt up to each other so the vertical pitch is the same value: 38mm. Printing to paper, then shining a light through it to match it with the handy template supplied with the label pack, showed the printed labels begant to drift after the first row. I measured the pitch as 36mm; 2mm less than I specified.


Starting a new document and altering the pitch to 4cm to compensate for Word’s inability to count, I copied and pasted each label from the old document to the new one— because copying and pasting them all in one go resulted in the same first label being pasted into the destination document 21 times. Copying them a row at a time made the row properties revert to their old setting, while pasting as unformatted text meant I’d have to reapply each font/style name. So I had to copy them a cell at a time.

Pressing Print did indeed output perfectly spaced labels onto A4. The problem? The bottom row was all cut off midway through the label.

The labels looked fine on-screen, but of course Word had looked at the bottom margin, sucked its teeth in and said “can’t print there as it’s off the page” so it didn’t send that bit of data to the printer.

Diving into Page Setup, I left the top margin at 1.5cm and altered the bottom margin to 0 to try and trick Word into sending everything to the printer. Since I’d wasted quite a few sheets of A4 while testing I decided to use the actual labels this time. What could go wrong? If just the bottom row were missing I’d worry about those later.

However, pressing Print again resulted in… no top margin being taken into account, so all the labels straddled the label joins.


Label printing shouldn’t be this hard, should it?

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