Prudent Printing

Save money and the environment with these thrifty printing hints and tips:

The quest for a paperless office has progressed significantly over the last decade with the availability of bigger, cheaper computer displays and mobile document devices such as tablet PC’s and iPads. But when it comes to reading vast documents, such as user manuals, when ensuring complete privacy and portability there is currently no perfect substitute for the  touch and feel of the ‘real thing’.

In these situations, we find ourselves printing documents onto seemingly endless reams of pure white A4 and cringing at the costs of toner, paper and all of the poor trees that died so that we may communicate more effectively.

So, when we really must have a hard copy, how can we help reduce the impact of our printing preference?

Hidden away (sometimes) in the dark recesses of the print menu are various options that can help combat the unwelcome side effects of bulk printing. Every printer and manufacturer will vary slightly and some features may not always be available but take a look, experiment a little, and there is almost certainly something to help you hang on to those hard-earned pennies.

In this example, we’ll look at the options available on a Dell 5110CN Colour Laser Printer. This particular printer is aimed at those with a reasonably high print turnover in colour and B&W and its size and versatility reflects this. When you select a document to print, various options are available in the subsequent menus, which will help cut your costs and save a few of our leafy friends in the process. To help you find these hidden treasures, take a look at the video below, and read the following to see how they can help.

Page Range – Why print what you don’t want?

Self explanatory really, but how often do we print out a whole document when we only need the information from 1 or 2 pages?

Try reducing the number of pages you print by specifying specific pages separated by commas (for example 1,3,7,99) or ranges of pages (for example 4-14) or a combination of both (e.g. 1,2,5-55). Those extra seconds working out which specific pages you need will prevent the needless waste of potentially hundreds of sheets of paper and the associated ink and toner.

Duplex -  2 pages for the price of 1.

A click on the preferences button reveals a whole new subset of menus and tabs, lucky us! In here, one of the most overlooked features is duplexing. What does this mean? Well put simply, it means printing on both sides. This feature is only available on some printers but can often be optionally added to mainstream laser printers using a duplex unit from the manufacturer (a mechanical widget that slots into your printers paper processing mechanism and allows it to flip the paper over and reefed it the other way automatically).

The options available here allow you to select whether your document is in landscape or portrait format, i.e., will you turn the page along the long or short edge. Use this feature and you instantly reduced you paper useage by 50%! (documents weigh less for posting too!)

Output Colour – take the colour out of life (but put some money back!)

Yes, colourful documents look nice and sometimes colour is a necessity, but for most internal docs, drafts, manuals and webpage prints, we just don’t need to use those expensive colour toners. Click the Colour Output drop down menu, choose Black, Monochrome, greyscale or whatever terminology your printer offers you and you can force the printer to use the substantially cheaper black toner to reproduce the graphics and text, leaving your colour toner for special occasions where your fancy pie chart just won’t be the same without a dash of rouge.

Multiple Up – save 75% or more on all the printing costs.

If your eyesight is tip top or you have a great pair of specs, you’ll often find that you can read much smaller print than is found on the average document. Also sometimes you’ll find that pages are filled with a large scaled simple diagrams or directions which could happily have been harboured together on a single sheet. This feature is the answer to both of these situations. Multiple Up allows you to command the printer to cram multiple pages onto a single side. In most scenarios, a maximum of 4 per side is going to be the limit without using a magnifying glass, but if you have an A3 printer or are perhaps printing a basic storyboard, you may fit many more onto your page. 4 sides into 1, 75% savings on paper and toner (and even the electricity used to print)

Toner Saving Mode/Draft Mode.

Again, pretty self explanatory and a feature that has been around since the days of typewriters. By applying a thinner layer of toner, ink or whatever your printer favours, you reduce the amount used and the ensuing cost. As a result the text may appear slightly lighter, grey or faded, but how often does that actually matter when printing out a 1st draft for approval or a user manual that we will use once then relegate to the waste basket (or hopefully recycling bin if you are conscientious about these things)? Exact savings will vary depending on the type of document but combine this with 1 or more of the previous tips and printing costs could drop through the floor.

Skip Blank Pages.

Many physical and electronically published documents contain multiple blank pages to separate chapters, provide note making space or simply because they were not optimally formatted. Tick this innocent looking box and do away with all those wasted pages. ( Lets face it, you probably wouldn’t bother to take them out of the document after you print and if you go to the trouble of separating them and putting them back into the printers feed tray, they only end up jamming the printer because they were heated and curled by the previous print)

So why are these features not highlighted on the main options page instead of being squirreled away in the maze of menus? Well it doesn’t require a vast imagination to conceive that the manufacturers don’t want to help you use, and therefore purchase less of their massively marked up consumables. The ever-reducing price of printers is partially because they are heavily subsidised by the manufacturers forecasted ink or toner sales, hence the exorbitant cost of their consumables.

How else can we reduce the costs of printing?

Well there are many elements, which should be considered right from the point of purchase. Often the cheaper the printer, the more expensive it is to run, both from a consumable and power usage perspective. Look carefully at the manufacturers estimated cost per page and do your research into the cost of consumables. Spending a little extra on the printer may save a lot in the long term.

Where available buy ‘High’ or ‘Extra-high’ capacity toners. The reduced costs of plastics, packaging, logistics etc are at least partially passed on to the consumer and typically these appear to work out at 30% or more cheaper per page than buying the standard alternative.

Instead of heading straight for the print icon or buying another fax machine, consider whether there may be another way to view, send or receive the document. Although too in-depth for this article, various options are available for converting typically paper based content into electronic format, such as printing to PDF and emailing, or the use of fax to email software and services which put faxes in your email inbox instead of out of the fax machine or printer (more about this in future articles).

Go forth with your newfound frugality, see the benefits on your balance sheets and embrace the tree hugger within!