For years, my wife and I have used Microsoft Excel + Microsoft Word to do
mailing labels for Christmas cards. The workflow is weird and confusing, but at
least we are familiar with it.
Since I’m a Google fan and an Apple fan, and feel that both companies are
really good at making things easy, and since my wife and I are both on Macs
now, I thought I’d see how good a job those companies do.
For Google, searched for info on how to do mailing labels in Google Docs. They
claim to support labels, but their “solution” is hilariously bad: Start with a
document template (people upload tons of them), and then manually change each
Apple’s solution is hard to find (I found it by googling), but once you do find
it, it’s awesome. Export your list to a CSV file, then import the data into the
Address Book app, and then say File > Print. One of the printing choices is
Labels; and you can specify which Avery label type you want, and you’re done!
And they did a beautiful job of handling a few issues I was worried about:
- I don’t normally use Address Book, so it was okay with me if it clobbered
existing data that I had in there, but I was wondering if this would work for
people who do actively use Address Book. It works fine. First I created a new
“Group” called “Christmas Labels 2010”. Then I imported into that group. If
there are any imported entries that appear to be duplicates of existing
entries, it asks me what I want to do (merge, keep both, etc.). I just told
it to keep both. Then, after printing my labels, I deleted all the entries I
had imported, and then deleted the group.
- My Excel spreadsheet is formatted in a way that isn’t really compatible with
the Address Book fields. Address Book has separate fields for first name,
last name, address, city, state, zip. My spreadsheet just had three columns:
“Last Name” (which was actually the full name), “Street”, and “City, State,
Zip”. When I imported, Address Book did a good job of guessing which field
each one should go into, but of course it might import one entry with the
last name “The Smith Family” and no first name, and the city “San Francisco,
CA 94134”, and no state or zip code. Okay, that’s incorrect. But it wasn’t a
problem. When I said to print, the labels looked just fine. (And no, there
was not an extra space before “The Smith Family” on the labels, even though
it is trying to print “ ”.)
- Although by default it didn’t guess the correct encoding of the CSV file, I
was able to manually specify UTF-8, for the handful of entries that had
- A few entries had text that was too long to fit in the default font. Address
Book handles that gracefully – it just printed those ones in a smaller font.
So it’s a knockout punch, Apple wins.