Postal scales, binders, and label makers can help you perform basic office tasks. Good news: they've dropped in price.

prices have dropped dramatically. The least expensive is Measurement Specialties' MS-12, which lists for $39.99 but sells for $25 from a variety of discounters. The MS-12 can weigh envelopes and packages of up to 33 ounces in 1/10-ounce increments. Hanson Scale, a division of Sunbeam, offers two low-cost scales, the 7205 ($84.95, list price), with a capacity of 5 pounds and ½-ounce increments; and the 7210 ($94.95), with a capacity of 10 pounds, increments of ¼ of an ounce, and readings in ounces and pounds or grams. These models simply display the weight; they do not calculate the postage due. Pelouze Scale's PS2R1 scale ($145) calculates postal rates and displays both ounces and grams, but its capacity is limited to 2 pounds. Pelouze also has a noncalculating model, the PE5, which measures up to 5 pounds in 1/10-ounce and two-gram increments ($75).

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Binding machines can turn a report into an attractively bound volume. Good binding machines used to sell for several hundred dollars, but VeloBind's DocuBind can put 112 sheets into a standard plastic comb binding. It costs just $179 ($100 at discount supply stores).

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Label makers have been popularized on the high end by Kroy's lettering machines, which produce high-quality labels but cost between $229 and $2,195. On the low end, Esselte Pendaflex's inexpensive line of Dymo embossers, which produce raised letters on gooey plastic tape, range from $22 to $245.

Brother International's P-Touch III falls in between at about $249.95 ($150 at discount stores) and prints quality labels in a variety of styles and colors on white or clear tape. It has a small keyboard and a six-character LCD screen so you can do basic editing. Besides its utility, the P-Touch is fun. Keep it away from kids, though, unless you want to buy a lot of tape.

Neither label makers nor computer printers are good at printing a single address label. Most label makers are limited to a single line of characters, and printers are designed for full-size paper. The Seiko Instruments Smart Label Printer plugs into a computer and produces address-size labels one at a time. The tiny $249.99 ($200 from discounters) printer works only with a special label stock that comes in one size and costs about 3¢ a label. The Smart Label printer comes with software for either IBM PCs and compatibles or for Macintoshes. But if you have a Macintosh, look for the LabelWriter printer from CoStar (800-426-7827); it's the same Seiko printer for the same price, but CoStar's Mac software is more flexible. -- Cary Lu