The Cheapskate's Guide to Printing

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Penny-Saving Printer Settings

The printer you already own may have money-saving features built into it--simply take a few minutes to delve into its settings.

Sip, don't slurp: Many have a button right up front that sets the printer to draft mode (sometimes called Economode, InkSaver, or the like), reducing the ink or toner consumption for everyday documents (see "Printing With a Light Touch"). Other printers may require or allow you to set draft-mode printing in the driver. To see if yours does, choose Start, Printers and Faxes in Windows XP (Start, Settings, Printers in Windows 2000). Right-click the icon for your printer and check the menu for Properties or an appropriately named option. You may have to search, but you should find a way to set draft printing. Many apps, such as Word or PowerPoint, let you select draft printing; some may be able to print in high-quality mode even when the printer is set for draft mode; check the app's print dialog box.

A utility that can help you save on ink or toner is Strydent Software's $35 InkSaver ( or, which provides you with an intuitive slider for controlling precisely how much ink to use while printing.

Print smaller: For years, presentation pros have printed multiple pages at a reduced size on one sheet of paper. This practice, known in the industry as n-up printing, also works well for saving paper. You can access this feature by right-clicking your printer icon and choosing Printing Preferences, which brings up a dialog box where you might also find a page-scaling feature that lets you squeeze a legal-size page onto letter-size paper.

Two utilities could help you squeeze more onto a single sheet: The first is the $50 ClickBook 7 from Blue Squirrel; we lauded version 6 in last year's "Cheap Tweaks." The other is the $50 FinePrint 5 from FinePrint Software, a longtime favorite of Home Office columnist Steve Bass (see "Printer Tricks That Save Bucks").

Both of these products perform a multitude of printing tasks, from n-up printing and document scaling to print-job management, as well as the creation of layouts for brochures, calendars, greeting cards, business cards, and more.

Cheapskate Tricks That Work

Some of the best ways to control ink, toner, and paper costs are also the easiest.

Duplexing: Cut your paper expenses in half by printing on both sides of the page. Some offices equip their workgroup printers with automatic duplexers, and a few even set duplexing as the default print mode. A handful of personal printers provide automatic duplexing (requiring no manual refeeding of the sheets) as a standard or extra-cost accessory, and some present a handy on-screen guide for turning and ordering the pages. Barring such features, only a patient soul should try manual duplexing for a multipage document.

Do the toner slow dance: If your laser printer software says you're running low on toner, or if you start to see streaks in your printouts, you may still have plenty of toner left--but it's stuck in the cartridge's nooks and crannies. Remove the cartridge from the printer and slowly rock it end-to-end and then to-and-fro a few times. Do not shake it randomly or vigorously. Reinsert the cartridge into your printer. (Check your hands afterwards to make sure you don't soil your clothes with toner.)

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