Smart Label Printer 430
Life is full of surprises. You open the box for a new printer, and you’re greeted with a CD containing printer drivers. Collective groan. As OS X users, we’re used to plugging a printer into the network and just printing, or installing drivers, and re-installing drivers, downloading from a support site, and then starting all over again, But some of life’s surprises are pleasant, and installing Seiko’s new Smart Label Printer 430 proved to be one of them.
The printer itself is about the same size as a bag of sugar, sporting just power/standby and label feed buttons. It supports both serial connection for Windows users or USB (both cables provided), although you can only use one interface at a time. Setup is strictly plug & play, with just the USB cable, an external power supply, and easily installable label rolls to worry about. The software installer worked first time (on 10.4.3 no less).
Since label printing is such a specialist task, the SLP430 comes with proprietary software to do the job. For a company that dropped out of the Mac market back in the 80s, the quality of this version 1.0 label application is exceptional. The look and feel is very Mac-like indeed, something between iPhoto and Apple Mail 1.0. It’s a complete label layout program. It ships with templates for addresses, files and folders, and media (photo slides, disks and tapes), but in layout mode you can edit or create new templates (layouts) containing text, image, frame, or address field elements. Oh, and it also does bar codes: out of the box it supports Code 39, EAN/JAN-13, UPC-A, UPC-E, and Codabar formats (which worked first time when scanned under test).
You can toggle to an‘advanced' mode, which lets you populate your selected template using data imported from a .csv file, Apple’s Address Book, or Microsoft Entourage. You can also enter addresses manually. One nice touch is that once you’ve imported addresses, you can save the data along with the template used as a label; a formatted batch of addresses to re-use later. This is particularly useful, given that you can select which imported addresses to print from a checkboxed list.
All it needs now is someone to write a widget for it, which may not be too much to hope for, as the installer also includes an SDK for the driver software.
If you print labels on a regular basis, but not 20 at a time, then it may be an idea to invest in a label printer. The SLP430 is a nippy wee device, but if you’re prepared to compromise on size you could try the 410 model (£65 excluding VAT), which prints 1-inch labels only, or if you’re not that bothered about speed then the SLP420 (£76 excluding VAT) is a good bet.