It's a while since we've looked at label printers, but the release of Dymo's LabelWriter Duo is enough of an event in the label printing world to warrant a review. The key feature of this printer, which differentiates it from most other label printers, is that it has two print heads - one for paper address-type labels and the other for more robust, plastic labelling tape.
Looking like something out of RoboCop, the LabelWriter Duo sits quite high off the desk for a label printer and its two-tone metallic case is nearly all curves. There's a large, blue, power light on the front and a smoked plastic dome on top, so you can see the status of your label roll. Paper labels feed out through a horizontal slot at the top of the front fascia, while tape feeds out vertically, lower down.
At the back you'll find a USB port for connection to your PC and a socket for power, which comes from a separate, kick-around-under-the-desk, black block supply.
Press a small button on the front of the printer and a powered tray slides out, reinforcing the cyborg policeman analogy. The only thing it gives access to, though, is a tape cartridge - less exciting than a laser pistol, but probably of more use in a small office.
A paper label roll fits in a spool at the top, in a more conventional manner, and feeds into the print head automatically. Dymo has worked really hard on the ease-of-use of the LabelWriter Duo and it's pretty straightforward to load and maintain.
The specialist purpose of any label printer means the control software is a lot more important than in a typical printer. Dymo supplies a custom-written utility for label printing called, with inspiring candour, Dymo Label Software. This program handles the design and print of both paper labels and plastic tapes and you can include graphics and a wide variety of barcodes in both.
Dymo supplies a wide range of paper labels, including tiny numbering labels, doughnut-shaped CD labels and larger address labels. The software knows about them all and adjusts to show the correct size of label as you're working. Tapes come in five different widths and again the software enables you to custom design your text and graphics to fit.
There's an address list database built into Dymo Label Software, so you can keep frequently used addresses on tap. You can import from any comma-delimited file, but it would be useful to be able to take your Outlook or Outlook Express address book and share it directly with the program, which isn't possible.
What you can do is to highlight any address in a Word document or any row of cells in Excel and click on the label icon, which is automatically added to the toolbars of both programs during the LabelWriter Duo installation. This calls up a small label print dialog and is a very quick and easy way to print a one-off label.