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Neato
CD Labeler Kit
by Rick Smith (October 1997)

If you create CD-ROMs with a CD-ROM recording device (sometimes called a "cutter"), you may want to label them. This is a controversial topic since CD-ROM manufacturers say that labeling a CD-ROM will cause problems and instability while the labeling folks feel that a "magic marker" will eventually destroy the CD-ROM. I haven't seen any scientific evidence for either side and I'm not exactly sure which method is best, so ALL of my CD-ROMS have NO labels and NO writing - all labels are placed on the CD-ROM jewel box. This doesn't cause me problems, since each CD-ROM is in a jewel box, but I MUST put each CD-ROM back into the proper case. When I create music CD-ROMs for friends, from their own original music, I used the Neato CD-ROM kit which consists of 3 different parts -- the physical label applicator, the labels themselves and the software that prints the actual labels.

The physical label application device consists of two parts, one of which looks like a plastic tortilla bowl with a hole in it and the other looks like a toy top. The unit applies labels very well, but the only instructions on how to use the device are on the outside of the box, so don't forget to save your box!

The labels are good quality with three labels per sheet. Although this configuration saves paper, it can cause problems with many printers, since few printers can print the entire 8.5 inches edge to edge. If you have a printer that can handle these labels, you can save on the number of pages you print by 50%.

The software is capable of printing both two up and three up CD labels along with 4 page booklets, covers and bottom jackets for the CD jewel case. The program comes on a CD, runs in Windows 3.1 and above. The software made nice pretty labels, but I had some problems.

It took me many attempts to get the labels aligned to the test sheet that they had packed in the box. When I decided to see how accurately this test sheet simulated an actual label sheet, I found that it was over a quarter inch off!. Because it was so far off, I would advise to NEVER use this sheet as a guide.

The software can print an alignment label consisting of 3 circles. I tried to use this many times, but it is quite difficult to line up 3 circular objects, especially when the critical outer edges are cut off by the printer, because they are outside the printable area.

After trying over 12 times, I finally gave up. I was using a Hewlett Packard LaserJet ///D (3D) which prints very accurately on other preprinted stock. I have used Avery's Label Pro software in the past and they have a quick way to line up the printer. They include a special sheet in the package that you use to calibrate your printer. This sheet consists of 3 sets of colored lines with numbers. You simply enter the number of the line closest to the line printer by your printer. After you enter the three numbers, you are all set.

Neato asks for four values, the horizontal and vertical offset and a horizontal and vertical scaling factor. Neato's values makes sense from a programming perspective, and the Avery Label Pro software probably has to internally compute these same factors, alignment with Label Pro is generally easier.

Each test page takes quite awhile to print using a 486-100 computer. In fact, printing seems very slow, so use a good monitor and a fast computer to preview.

The reason that you MUST get the printer calibrated perfectly is that the software does not print past the label edge - it only prints a graphic EXACTLY the size of the label. If the printer is not precisely aligned, you see big gaps on the edges.

If the software printed the pattern past the label edge, even if the label wasn't printed exactly on center, the only way you could tell would be to measure it. Now, it is quite obvious, because there are two blank crescents, one on the inside edge and one on the outside edge of the label. Even if your alignment is off by only a sixteenth of an inch, you will see an ugly white (depends on label color) crescent on both the inside and outside of the CD. The reason we never saw problems printing labels in the past is that we never printed graphics up to the edge of the label.

The program does have some great features like the colored pages that show pieces of colored background images that are included in the software. They are very nice and useful. I wish the printed images could be layered and had more ranges of sizes but they are definitely useful. The software runs reasonably, but is a bit slow on a 486-100 system. Therefore, I recommend that you use the system in the fastest machine you can find. The software features circular printing (where the text follows a circle) and this is very useful when making CD labels. I just wish that the software simply printed over the label edge. This way, you couldn't tell if the labels weren't perfectly aligned to your printer.

Pros:

Good label applicator

Good quality labels included

Software supports 2 and 3 labels per page formats

Software supports circular printing and includes many backgrounds

Cons:

Difficult alignment procedures - I gave up trying to align my printer.

Labels look bad if printer is not perfectly aligned

** Update: Company tells me that the alignment problem has been solved. We will make adjustments to this review when we review that version.

Copyright 1997 Rick Smith All rights reserved.

   
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