Do you remember the first label maker you ever used? It was probably one of the embossing labelers where you twisted the dial to a letter, pressed down to make an impression on the tape, and then struggled to remove the backing of the tape to adhere it to your project. More than likely, your old hand-crank labeler was a Dymo.
Yes, Dymo introduced their first label maker in 1958, and they have been at it ever since. All that experience has resulted in the great little labelers that they offer today. I looked at several Dymo labelers, all quality pieces of equipment, but the one I found the most useful and cost effective was actually one of the least expensive, the Dymo Letra Tag.
The Letra Tag is a small handheld labeler that is lightweight and easy, even fun, to use. To get started, just flip up the top of the label maker and insert the label cartridge, add six AA batteries, and you are on your way. (The first label cassette with thirteen feet of standard white tape comes with the unit, but you will have to provide the batteries.)
To create a label, just press the keys on the built-in keypad. Each letter appears on the small LCD screen. The keypad is pretty self explanatory, and you can print your first label very easily. Six digits appear on the screen. If your label is longer, the first digits will scroll off the screen before you get to the end of the label. To confirm that the entire label is correct, it can be reviewed by pressing the Preview button (Print+Shift). When your label is complete, press Print, then press the cutting button. The last label made will automatically be retained in memory in case the Letra Tag is accidentally off. This is also useful if two of the same labels are needed - say for labeling file folders with matching file tags. The built-in cutter slices cleanly and easily, and the blade is well protected, making it safe for children as well as us klutzy older folks.
Although readily usable right out of the box, Letra Tag has many options that will probably require a quick look at the included instruction sheet. There are four different text sizes and seven different borders, international characters, and graphics such as stars, musical notes, and other symbols. The text can be bold, italic, outlined, or shadowed. It can also be changed to two-line or vertical text. There is a box/underline feature that will surround the text with underlines and a variety of different boxes including my favorite, a crocodile box where a crocodile smiles at you.
There are many different label tapes to choose from, including weather proof metallic tape. My informal testing showed all the tapes, paper, plastic, and metallic to be quite durable. One nice feature is that no tape is wasted when changing tape. Just pop out the old cassette and pop in the new one. Another nice feature - the backing on all tapes is split down the middle for easy removal. Just fold the label in half horizontally, and you can easily remove the backing. All the tapes are ½ wide, which is adequate for most jobs. Most of the tapes retail for $7.99 per thirteen foot roll. This is fairly expensive, but bargains can be found. As I write this, the Dymo Web site offered five different tapes, including green metallic and yellow smiley faces for $4.99.
The Letra Tag uses a direct-thermal print technology that produces clear quality output even on metallic tape. The Letra Tag operates only on batteries. Some may lament the non-availability of a direct power adapter, but I found not being tethered to an outlet was a big plus. Battery life was very good because the unit conserves the batteries by automatically shutting off after two minutes of non-use.
What’s not to like? While adequate for most users, those with poor eyesight may find the screen and the keypad on the small side. If you find the $44.99 retail price a little high, shop around. I found the Letra Tag at Amazon for $28.99 and Staples for $29.99.
If you are an organizer like me, you will find many uses for the Letra Tag. It is excellent for files and folders. I have used it to label light switches, circuit breakers, food in the freezer, and shoe boxes. It even propelled me to sort my book collection by category and label the bookcases. I’m sure you will find even more uses for this is a great little inexpensive machine.