June 28, 2004

gLabels: Ready for prime time

Author: Joe Barr

gLabels, a GNOME program that makes and prints all sorts of labels and business cards, seems to be capable of handling just about any task you throw at it. It's at release 1.93.3, a developer release on the way to a stable 2.0 version, but it's in very good shape.With gLabels, the label design process is simplicity itself. You begin by picking a template that defines the size and shape of a label. I counted 232 predefined templates for everything from name tags to drawer labels to mailing labels to business cards to CD cover labels. Almost all of those were based on standard Avery forms, but there were a few oddballs too.

If you happen to pick up a package of labels that isn't predefined, you can define a template for them yourself in less than five minutes using a template designer wizard. You can create templates with measurements as granular as thousandths of an inch, just the size and shape (within limits) you specify.

Once you've chosen a template, an image of the label appears in the workspace. You can add objects to it: text, image, lines, or shapes.

To add text to the label, click on the text object icon immediately above the work area displaying the label, and then on the label itself to place a resizable rectangle that holds the text you enter. On the right side of the gLabel window, a text properties window will appear. That's where you enter the text and select the font, font size, and the style for the object. Style includes such settings as bold, color, alignment, and line spacing.

You can enter the exact size of the text rectangle in the properties window, or its exact location on the label -- exact as in rounded off to the nearest thousandth of an inch. You can also drag the text object around or pull on its corners to change its shape and watch the values shown in the properties window update in real time.

gLabels lets you add shapes like rectangles and ovals to the label, then fill them with color. Click on the icon for the shape you want, then on the image. Like the text object, the shape can be modified by pulling on a corner or side and stretching it to a new location. The properties window allows you to set the line width for the object, its fill color, and its size and location. You can add straight lines in a similar manner by clicking the line object icon.

Click to enlarge

To add a graphics image to the label, simply click on the image object and then on the label to create an empty object. Use the object properties window to browse for images you want to use, then size and position them as you've done with the other objects.

Another object type of interest is the bar code object. I don't speak bar code at all, but gLabels speaks several different bar code tongues, including POSTNET, EAN, UPC, ISBN, and half a dozen others. The properties window allows you to enter the data to be encoded, select the dialect you need, and position the object.

Glabels also handles mail merge. The only source document formats available at present are simple text files, using either comma, colon, or tab separators between fields. Each line of text equates to a single record. Click on Merge Properties to point the label at the source file and indicate the type of field separation to be used, if any. Then open a text object and format it as you like. If gLabels can read your source document (it will preview the file in the Merge Properties dialog), you can select the field from the source and assign it to a field in the text box. That's all there is to creating mailing labels.

Click on File->Print to begin the printing process. The print dialog window allows you to print full sheets of labels or only a specific range of labels on the sheet. There are three optional print modes:

  • Outline only, so that you can test the alignment of the sheets
  • Mirror image, for printing on clear labels viewed through glass
  • Crop marks, for printing on blank stock which will be cut

The documentation warns that at the current time, the crop mark option doesn't work well on some templates.


gLabels is a feature-packed label-printing application that's easy to use. It comes with an online manual that is current as of version 1.93.2. The manual is well laid out and seems to be nearly complete. For a beta (or developer version, if you prefer), gLabels is in great shape. I'm recommending it for usage today to friends and strangers alike. There are bugs to be squashed, I'm sure, but only a few, and I'm looking forward to the 2.0 release in the near future. Kudos to Jim Evins and the rest of the development crew for a job well done.


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