Do you speak ZPL? How to edit labels without coding

edit labels without coding

If you’re not a coding whizz, working with Zebra Programming Language (ZPL) for labels can be more than frustrating, it could also be costing you valuable time and money. 

How do you set up your labels? Can you be confident you’re getting the right label format? How do you make changes to labels?

Here, we look at what ZPL is and how manufacturers can edit labels without coding.

Do you know the difference between label printerslabel applicators and label printer applicators?

So what is ZPL?

To make label printers do anything useful, you need to send them data to get the labels printed in the correct format. That’s where “printer languages”come in. 

Different label printer manufacturers have developed their own programming languages. Zebra Programming Language is a printer language from Zebra Technologies. It’s used by all ZPL-compatible printers as instructions for creating the images printed on the labels. For example, it tells the printer the label length, positionand paper width, along with other controls. 

The latest version is ZPLII and it’s become a standard for developing label files. Other common languages are EPL2 (Eltron, now Zebra), IPL (Intermec) and DPL (Datamax). 

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Here’s the problem

Unless you’re a coding pro, working with ZPL will take a lot of time and effort searching online forums, ZPL manuals and online ZPL tutorials for the answer, testing the labels thentweaking to get it right. This is all time and effort you could be investing elsewhere. 

So, what happens if you want to make changes to your labels? Can you edit labels without coding? 

Zebra Programming Language
Artist available at: Instagram/ heatherwajs 

This could be something as simple as changing the label length. Getting the right label length is a common issue for operators. If the printer’s measured label length is different from the label you’ve created, the image will cut off. 

Another common challenge with ZPL is aligning a label correctly. Text and barcodes might print too far left and you need to right-align the elements. The challenge is that label objects are positioned using ZPL language coordinates and image fields. For example, the 0 x and 0 y position arein the label’s upper left-hand corner. 

So, if you want to reposition any label elements, you need to find the proper print location using the ^FO code. Chances are, you need to adjust settings in multiple areas to get it right.

There are a few things you can try. 

First, you can make the edits yourself using label maker software for zebra printers. But this requires a level of coding know-how and time to get it exactly right. And there’s still no guarantee the format will be accurate.

If that doesn’t work, you can ask the experts to make changes to your label format. For example, here at Matthews Australasia, we can make changes to ZPL coding if needed. 

But because experts charge per hour, your costs can quickly add up if you need multiple changes. 

Either way, you’re facing the issue of time. Every hour you don’t have the right label is an hour lost in productivity. You could even be talking about days waiting for your label changes. Imagine what this could mean for your bottom line. 

So, what’s the alternative?

Bring your labelling solutions together into one software solution, like Matthews iDSnet Express

iDSnet Express is an entry-level software that networks all coding, labelling and data-capture machinery to one centralised computer or server. In other words, it controls all printers and coders from one spot. Using the WYSIWYG (“What You See Is What You Get”) editor, message design is easy. You can use the system to edit a label within minutes, then securely roll the change out to the right labeller on the right line. So you can edit labels without coding.

Another advantage of using iDSnet Express is there’s no guesswork. You can have the confidence that your labels will be right every time. It’s a single source of truth. In addition, you get the peace of mind that comes from Matthews’ 24×7 support, with an in-house local software team available for rapid response. When you’re ready, you can easily upgrade to iDSnet Enterprise for increased integration, efficiency and QA benefits.

Watch below to see how Chobani uses iDSnet to integrate its coders and labellers seamlessly to eliminate errors.

Struggling with your ZPL commands? It could be time to upgrade to iDSnet Express – talk to our experts for more advice. 

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Image credits: iStock/ Jose Miguel Moya Gonzalez (main); Instagram/ heatherwajs (middle)

Mark Dingley
Mark Dingley is Chairman of the Australian Packaging and Processing Machinery Association (APPMA) and is the CEO at Matthews Australasia. With 25 years of experience in the product identification industry and the wealth of knowledge gained from working closely with industry associations in developing and implementing standards & best practice, Mark is able to assist manufacturers with a range of issues from getting real-time visibility of their production line, improving automation, establishing quality assurance using machine vision to selecting the best fit technology for coding and labelling applications. Mark Dingley's LinkedIn Profile
Mark Dingley

by Mark Dingley

Mark Dingley is Chairman of the Australian Packaging and Processing Machinery Association (APPMA) and is the CEO at Matthews Australasia. With 25 years of experience in the product identification industry and the wealth of knowledge gained from working closely with industry associations in developing and implementing standards & best practice, Mark is able to assist manufacturers with a range of issues from getting real-time visibility of their production line, improving automation, establishing quality assurance using machine vision to selecting the best fit technology for coding and labelling applications. Mark Dingley's LinkedIn Profile

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