Bob's Rock Shop Product Review
Reviewer Bob Keller

OsoSoft Mineral Label 5.0
Now Freeware!

Produced By OsoSoft
Los Osos, California

Like many mineral collectors, I have more rocks than labels. I keep resolving to make a major pass on my collection and properly label and catalog it, along with how I'm going to finally get everything out of boxes and displayed on custom stands I'm going to make in the specimen cabinets I'm going to design and build. Right after I go through all those egg cartons and flats of specimens I need to get trimmed with that trimmer I'm going to make and then mounted in micro and thumbnail boxes...

I'll confess I haven't been exactly fastidious about displaying my rocks to their best advantage. The label situation is particularly agricultural, most being the original labels accompanying the specimens, many of which are rather scruffy and faded and weren't all that attractive or complete to begin with. Some are 'labeled' with notes jotted on a folded scrap of paper placed beneath them, or with the specimen inside the same cell of a flat or egg carton.

The walnut for those cabinets and cases might still be growing in the tree, but the loss of several labels recently prompted me to see what I could do to expeditiously get on with that. There's a number of software tools which can be used to make labels, including several of the Godzilla Class apps like Microsoft Office, as well as dedicated label making and mailing list programs. I knew a number of dealers who used and recommended MineralLabel, written by George Campbell of Ososoft.

MineralLabel 5.0 has very modest system requirements - Windows 3.1 or later, a 386/486 CPU or better, VGA graphics or better, 4 MB RAM and 4MB hard drive space, a mouse and a Windows compatible printer. Basically, if you're using Windows, you can run MineralLabel. I tested it with Windows 98 on a 233 MHZ K6 CPU with SVGA graphics, 96 MB of Ram, 8.4 GB hard drive and a Canon BJ-200ex bubble jet printer.

I figured to be popular with dealers it must be easy to learn and quick to use. However, my initial impression of MineralLabel's GUI was more along the lines of a jet fighter cockpit than something simple to make labels with. Shown below is a screen shot of the primary user interface.

Things got much simpler once I understood that all of MineralLabel's primary functions and controls are brought out-on-top as standard Windows control buttons, drop-down lists, check boxes, radio buttons and scroll bars, arranged in functional groups around a text editing window and a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) window.

MineralLabel can also be run via more conventional Windows cascading text menus, and some of its functions are only available via such menus. However, it didn't take much stick time before I came to appreciate the out-on-top primary controls, which are more direct and quicker than drilling down into menus.

I found MineralLabel intuitive to use and easy to learn by mostly just playing with it. The 24-page booklet included as dead tree format documentation provided ready answers a few times when I had to cheat and read the manual. Online Help also provides command summaries. I printed the label for the tiger-eye within an hour after installing MineralLabel, and that included a good deal of time spent experimenting with and fretting over just the right TTF font to use. I decided 'Quick Type' was attractive, legible, and easy on my eyes although there are many other fonts which are suitable.

Based on Ososoft's Multilabel product, MineralLabel incorporates special features which make it an appealing utility for mineral collectors as well as a general labeling solution. In addition to a number of predefined custom labels for micromount and various size Perky box inserts and shelf ID cards, it supports standard Avery label formats plus business cards, post cards, name badges, Rolodex cards, membership cards and more.

MineralLabel features:

  • Full Support for SuperScript and Subscript for Chemical Formulas
  • Over 4 Dozen Mineral-Related Clip Art Images Included
  • Insert Up to 2 BMP, WMF or PCX Graphics
  • Draw Lines, Boxes and Circles
  • Rotate Text
  • Automatic Borders
  • AutoFit Shrinks Text to Fit Your Layout
  • Easily Insert Foreign or Symbolic Characters
  • Use with Pre-Formatted Labels or Plain Card Stock
  • Print Just One Label or as Many Sheets as You Wish
  • Works with Any Windows Compatible Printer
  • Database Module for Mail Merge or Printing Labels for an Entire Collection
  • Import and Export of Database Files
  • Automatic POSTNET Bar Code Insertion

I needed some return address labels for Bob's Rock Shop correspondence, so I gave MineralLabel a spin at laying out and printing them on standard Avery 5160 1" x 2 5/8" label stock. After learning the GUI and basic commands through playing with the shelf label for the tiger-eye specimen, I was able to lay out and print a year's supply of return labels in about 15 minutes. It was straight forward to import and size some custom line art saved in BMP format, and to specify several different fonts and font sizes. The first several passes at printing sheets were done using plain paper so as to not waste labels while I was tweeking vertical and horizontal "fudge factors" for my particular printer to get the printing exactly centered on the labels. I saved them of course, so next time I need to print return labels I'll be running them off with MineralLabel in a matter of a minute or two. Hey, I like it!

I've also checked MineralLabel's data merging functions with an eye towards using it as a processor to generate mailing labels from records in an order database. In this particular application, a custom CGI program processing web site orders for a free catalog stores the recipient's name and address information in an ASCII file using comma delimited fields. The database file is periodically downloaded from the web site and imported into MineralLabel to generate mailing labels for the catalogs. The input data format to use it as mailing label engine is straight forward and easy to for a programmer to interface.

Another application for the data merging function would be to use it to automatically generate a set of specimen labels for an entire collection or inventory that is kept in a computerized database. A field concatenating function is provided to facilitate importing data from other apps. Data merging is a facility that's unlikely to be needed by most amateur collectors, but will be of interest dealers or others with computerized mailing lists, inventories or collections. As personal computers become ubiquitous, increasing numbers advanced amateur collectors are documenting their often extensive collections using databases. Your milage at gluing MineralLabel together with other applications through data merging is going to depend on their data export facilities and your own level of computer experience.

Formely $25 plus handling and shipping, MineralLabel 5.0 is now available directly from George Campbell as a freeware download! Further details on MineralLabel and ordering it are online at the Ososoft Mineral Connection Web Site.

Well, looks like I'm about out of excuses and my collection is going to be sporting some snazzy new specimen labels soon. Getting that done will help keep me out of Rockhound Hell, which is where mineral collectors who never get around to properly labeling and documenting their collections go. I still need to visit a local paper supplier to select some fancy cover or card stock. Hmm... Off-white? Light gray? Fancy texture? Maybe I need to replace my junker Ink Jet first and get that Laser printer I've been pining after... Thanks, George. ;)

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