Formatting and printing labels

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As I mentioned in the lesson on Envelopes, even though formatting and printing envelopes and labels is a really basic word processing function, Microsoft Word inexplicably hides it from users on the Mailings tab.

Fortunately, if you're using labels from a major label vendor like Avery, you don't have to bust out the ruler and define the label format from scratch. But knowing how to choose which label format to use can be a bit tricky.

Where to find labels in Word

As I mentioned in the Envelopes lesson, the envelopes and labels feature can be found in the same place: the Mailings tab.

This time, we're going to click Labels:

You’ll notice immediately that the dialog box you get is actually for both Envelopes and Labels. Depending on whether you clicked on Envelopes or Labels on the Mailings tab, the correct tab on this dialog box will be selected by default. However, you can always click on the other tab if you’ve changed your mind.

The Labels tab of this dialog box has several sections. Your cursor, by default, will be sitting in the Address section (and you may find that Word has automatically populated an address there, depending on the document you were editing when you starting formatting this label).

Selecting the correct label format

Looking down and to the right, you'll see a section called Labels. This is where you can define the size labels you want to use. You may see a particular label size already selected; if that is not correct, then click on Options to change the label definition:

In many offices, the majority of the labels are either Avery brand or a generic brand which corresponds to an Avery size (usually listed on the outside of the package). For example, the Avery 2181 labels are the mini-sheets of plain white file folder labels, the Avery 5163 labels are the full-sheet 2" x 4" shipping labels I use, etc.

Don't use Avery US-sized labels? Your installation of Word will probably list several other label vendors, such as:

Microsoft
Ace
A-ONE
APLI
Avery A4/A5
Avery Zweckform
C-Line Products
Compulabel
Formtec

Herlitz PBS AG
HERMA
Hisago
INETA, S.A.
KOKUYO
Lorenz Bell
MACTac Starliner
MAY+SPIES

Office Depot
Planet
Printec
Sigel GmbH
TANEX
Tico
Tower
Unistat

Depending on the country in which you purchased your copy of Microsoft Word, your list may vary from mine.

Regardless of what brand of labels you're using, the procedure for picking a pre-defined label size/type is the same:

  • 1
    Choose the type of printer you're using — continuous feed (you know, like those dot matrix printers that most of us haven't seen since the 1990s) or "page printers" (laser, inkjet, etc. — anything that prints single sheets of paper rather than a continuous roll)
  • 2
    Pick the correct label vendor
  • 3
    Select that vendor's product number (like the 2181 or 5163 I mentioned earlier)

(Quick tip: if you select the first product number in the list and then type your product number, the cursor will move to the correct label — no need to scroll down!)

Once you've selected the correct label, look over to the right and compare the type, height, width, and paper size to what you have on hand:

Satisfied you've selected the right one? Click OK to return to the Labels dialog box.

At this point, I generally leave "Full page of the same label" selected. Why? Even if I'm just wanting to print one label on the page, it's easier (for me, anyway) to simply put my cursor into the correct label on the page than to designate it in the "Row/Column" fields here. But, hey, if you want to try it, knock yourself out.

Editing your labels

So, you've got your label defined. How do you get to the point you can put some text in it? Click "New Document" ...

and your labels will appear in their own document screen:

Notice that what you have on the screen looks a lot like a Word Table. That's because it is one. And this is why I like Labels in Microsoft Word better than the label function in WordPerfect. Once you know how to format table rows, columns and cells, you can do those same things with labels.

Labels are tables (so format them like one)

For instance, I don't like for my file folder labels to be printed so close to the top edge. But I don't want to skip an entire line down, either. So I go to the Layout tab of the Table Tools contextual menu (if your cursor is anywhere inside of the label table, you'll see it just above the Ribbon on the right — see that yellow block above?) and give the label an inside top margin of 0.1":

If you want to automatically center (horizontally and/or vertically) your label content, it's a one-click operation. Just click the correct visual representation in that same Alignment section of the Layout tab, and you're good to go.

Word 365

Unfortunately, you can't print labels in Word 365, unless you have a document already formatted as labels (or you're intrepid enough to try to create your own label table). Sorry!

Let's Review

Here's what we've covered in this tutorial:

  • check
    Where the Label function is located in the Ribbon versions of Word
  • check
    How to choose the correct label format
  • check
    How to tweak the formatting of your label table

The next tutorial in this series will cover ...

You're done with the basic lessons! Woo-hoo! If you want to do a little extra credit, click Next Unit to start learning some other handy Word tricks.

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