I have a Brother label printer (QL-570) that came with a nice label editor for Windows. Unfortunately, that doesn't work in Linux or Wine. I'm having trouble finding a good Linux replacement because of the way the printer works. Dedicated label printers operate differently from a regular printer.
To clarify, the leading edge of the label as it is printed is the side of the label. Printing proceeds across the label. In a regular printer, the leading edge is the top of the page and printing progresses down the page.
The requirements would be equivalent to printing a landscape page (of the right dimensions), on a regular printer. However, the label printer driver has no intelligence or features; there is no landscape mode. For a label to print correctly, the entire label must be rotated 90 degrees on the page, so the side of the label is at the top of the page.
- glabels This is really designed for printing sheets of labels in a standard printer. I haven't found a way to rotate the finished label 90 degrees. All of the built-in options will rotate the label, itself, but the contents do not get rotated.
- LibreOffice Writer The label can be positioned vertically and a text box can be rotated. However, the width of the text box before rotation is limited by the width of the label, which is very narrow when the label is portrait. After rotation, the text can't be edited.
- LibreOffice Calc This works but it takes a lot of work to create a label. A page can be defined as label size in portrait. Then you can play around with column widths, row heights, and font sizes to get stuff to fit in the space. You can merge rows within a column and enter text at 90 degrees, and then unmerge and remerge to play around with where all the lines need to start to get everything positioned. With enough playing around, I could save some time by creating a bunch of templates, but I don't want to invest a huge amount of time creating a label editor from scratch or creating each label.
- PDF Gilles's suggestion of printing to a PDF file (either a landscape document or rotating the PDF), is a multi-step process, but it would be simpler than the spreadsheet workaround. However, it suffers from two problems. One is that the document may be landscape, but it still requires the printer driver to rotate it, and the label printer driver doesn't do that. The other is that there are only pre-defined page sizes, so it forces the output to the closest thing it has, a monarch envelope.
I'm looking for a simple gui/WYSIWYG label editor, where you define the label dimensions once, then enter text normally, with word processor type controls over the text fonts and sizes, attributes, and positioning, and then print. The ability to do things like borders would be a plus. The label printer is a productivity tool and it defeats the purpose if a lengthy process is required to create a label.
There are some graphics programs that let you enter text and rotate the image. But I'm not aware of one that has more than rudimentary options and controls for the text.
A Windows program known to work in Wine would be another possibility.
Update - BGH's answer prompted me to take another look at this. I had already loaded the Brother CUPS driver and templates linked in that answer. The driver is the only way to interface with the printer, so everything previously in the question is based on that. The templates pre-define the document dimensions and other properties to simplify creating content that will fit properly on a label. The templates work for label creation. However, they don't print correctly.
Investigating this further, it looks like the problem may be that the driver doesn't work correctly. On the printer configuration (in system settings), there is a setting for page orientation, which includes automatic detection. Regardless of this setting, though, this control is grey'ed out in the print options at print time and preset to portrait. This would explain the behavior.
So it looks like the issue may be getting the driver to work correctly rather than finding software. However, software that does the content rotation would be a workaround for the driver problem.
Update2 I uninstalled and reinstalled the drivers, and the printer is now working correctly. So for anyone else experiencing this problem, try that before looking for a software workaround.