Essential tips to cut the cost of printing

Use your printer's own software

Most printers have some associated software to enable you to control how the device works. You can make some great savings by getting to know this software and using the tools on offer.

The three most important settings you can use for economising with printing are draft mode, pages per sheet mode and duplex mode.

Draft mode uses less ink to print. It is as simple as that. This means the quality might not be as high, but it's only really noticeable with colour documents or craft projects.

In fact, some people find they only ever use draft mode, as it is perfectly good enough for all their printing needs. You may find your printer software uses a different term to 'draft', but the effect is the same.

Pages per sheet mode can be very handy. Your printer might be able to print two A4 pages on a single side of paper by turning it to landscape and printing them side by side.

Duplex simply means printing on both sides of the paper. Your printer prints on one side, then swallows the paper again and prints on the other.

Another setting that can be really useful is fit to page mode. This simply squishes content so that it all fits on to a single sheet of A4 paper. You might find a setting for this on your printer software, but you may also find it in the software you are using. For example, in the Firefox web browser you will find a 'shrink to fit' mode in the Print Preview area.

Use add-on software

If you want to really push at the edges of what you can do to save money with printing, you might want to look at some third-party options. Here are a few ideas.

Inksaver claims to save you money even when you are printing at the highest quality. The software is an ink manager and even calculates how much money you are saving by using it, which is quite an incentive.

Greenprint is a free download for home users. It identifies parts of a document that are wasteful to print, such as a few lines that appear on the top of a page when you print from the web. It has a built-in PDF creator as well as some other neat tricks.

ClickBook from BlueSquirrel is a utility for printing booklets and other variable-format projects. It does away with the need to 'test by printing', because the formatting is done on the computer and this saves you money by getting it right the first time.

Don't print at all, let someone else do it

Why not consider using a third-party service for photo printing? Uploading your pictures to a service suck as can be a lot cheaper than buying your own photo printer. Photos ordered on one weekday often arrive by the next day, they're usually great quality and you'll minimise waste.

Five top tips for saving money with your printer:

Check before you print
Proof-read documents before you print. Then you won't have to print a second, third or fourth copy to get it right. Every sheet costs money, remember.

Use print preview
Find the preview mode in your software and use that to check the layout of documents you're printing. Make tweaks onscreen rather than printing several drafts.

Use draft mode
Less ink per print can only be a good thing if you want to save money. Switch this off for printing high-quality documents, though.

Only print what you need
Instead of printing a full page, select the section you want and print that. Cut and paste from a long document to get the bit you need.

Have spare stock
Keep extra paper and ink cartridges to hand so you don't have to rush out to the nearest store or pay overnight delivery charges to get them quickly. Similarly, buy during sales or when you see stock going for cheap.


First published in What Laptop, Issue 120

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