Simple ways to save when you print

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Excellent printers cost only a pittance these days—you can get a good laser printer for around $50 and an all-in-one printer/scanner for less than $100. But they’ve become the razors to the blades, which are ink and toner. The initial prices are deceptive. The real cost of printing is the ink. It won’t take long for you to spend more buying new ink than you did on your new printer. With this in mind, here are some ways to save.

Print only what you need

The best way to save money when printing is to print only what you need, when you need it:

E-mail messages Do you really need to print that e-mail you got from your boss or a client? If so, do you need to print the whole thing? If you don’t need the whole message (long signatures and all), you can usually just select the important paragraphs, paste them in a new word processor document, and then print that out. If the document runs a few lines longer than one page, select all the text and reduce the font size by a point or two.

Alternatively, you could save some space by reformatting the e-mail message to get rid of line breaks. Download and install Devon Technologies’ free WordService 2.7 to do this in a jiffy with its Reformat service. This service can easily reduce a message from 80-lines to 50, because e-mails, depending on how they’re sent, can be formatted with fixed line lengths.

You can also shrink the size of a message you print using Apple’s Mail by selecting the Print dialog box’s Scale Message To Fit option. (Don’t see it? Click on the disclosure triangle next to your printer’s name and the Print dialog box will expand to reveal more choices along with a preview of your message.) This option reduces the message’s font size to make it print on fewer pages. (The option below that one, Rewrap Message to Fit, actually enlarges fonts to fit the page width, so it makes you print more pages.)

Web pages When you print a Web page, you may end up with a bunch of paper—only one page of which includes the content you wanted. Depending on how a Web page is laid out, Apple’s Safari and other Web browsers may want to print it in strange ways. You may find that side columns end up printed below the main content, or that large swaths of content at the footer of a page may create an entirely new page.

In the example below, an article from a news Web site would take up three printed pages, but the actual content ends at the bottom of the second page. If you’re using Apple’s Safari, you can leaf through the pages beforehand. You’ll see a preview of the document in the print dialog box. Click on the arrow buttons below the preview to view the pages. Then choose which pages to print by changing the Print option from All to From and entering page numbers. (Some programs, including Mozilla Firefox, don’t show a preview of your pages in the Print dialog box.)

Printing Web pages
Before you print that Web page, take a moment to check how many printed pages it will occupy. If I print everything in this article, I'll end up with one nearly blank page and an additional page filled with only links.

You’ll also find that some Web sites offer special pages formatted for printing: you can usually access them by clicking on a Print link, or on a special printer icon. Web sites create these layouts to spares you ads and awkward page breaks. However, many Web sites set these pages up with a larger (more legible) font. If you’re trying to cut back on your paper use, check the preview in the Print dialog box to see if you could handle smaller text. If so, click on Cancel to get out of the Print dialog box and then press Command-minus sign (-) to reduce the Web page’s font as you like. Doing this before you print can save you an extra page or two.

Maximize your paper use

Printing less is one thing, but there are also a few good ways to make the most of the paper you use:

Empty the recycling bin Unless you print documents mostly for reports and presentations or you store documents away in an archive, you probably have a big pile of printed pages sitting (hopefully) in the recycling bin. One easy way to save money is to put these to use. Flip a stack over and stick it back in your printer so you can use the clean side.

Print on both sides If you have a newer printer, make sure you’re using its features. Many printers will print on both sides of the page, which means you can save paper in a big way without any extra exertion. Some printers do this automatically (for example, the HP Officejet). Often you just need to choose the option. In the Print dialog box, choose Layout from the Copies & Pages pop-up menu. A Two Sided menu will appear at the bottom of the dialog box. Choose Long Edge Binding or Short Edge Binding depending on the orientation of your pages.

Others printers require that you print odd sides first, flip the pages, then print even sides. To do this, select the Copies & Pages pop-up menu and choose Paper Handling. You can select odd or even pages from the menus there. You’ll need to test this, however, to make sure you know exactly which way to flip the pages in your paper tray to get the printing right; do it with a two-page document first before printing out that long report.

Print more than one page per sheet When you just need to print out a document to see how it looks—to check its layout, not to read it in detail—try printing more than one page per sheet. To do this, press Command-P to bring up a Print dialog box, then, from the pop-up menu labeled Copies & Pages, choose Layout. Choose a number from the Pages per Sheet popup menu. This can be from 2 to 16. Choose a layout direction to get it just right. Printing more than one page per sheet is a great way to see an overview of your document.

Print layout options
Changing your page layout lets you print multiple pages per sheet, and saves paper and ink.

Print smart and you can save a bundle on ink and toner. All you need to do is take a few of these simple steps.

Senior contributor Kirk McElhearn writes about more than just Macs on his blog Kirkville.

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