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When we ran a survey last spring, 81% of responding nonprofit organizations indicated that information about reducing paper use would be valuable or very valuable and more than 77% of organizations reported that they were interested or very interested in eco-printing software.
For the entire month of November 2008, TechSoup's GreenTech Initiative is focusing our efforts on reducing paper use. Much to the chagrin of our IT department, I loaded my own laptop with all kinds of software and browser plug-ins to test out some of the more popular print management utilities. I am happy to report that even when I used all of the utilities in combination, my computer continued to work and even managed to print out my documents as I wanted them.
Print management software is something you can download and install on your computers to print just what you need to print rather than an entire document, email thread, or Web site.
I tested GreenPrint, FinePrint, Aardvark, and AdBlock Plus and was thrilled with all of them. See my specific recommendations below. For those who think that going green is expensive, these products are either free or relatively inexpensive and they will pay for themselves quickly since you won't have to buy as much paper or printer toner. Those that are not free offer discounts to nonprofits.
Using one or more of these utilities will help you reduce the amount of paper that you, your officemates, or your clients use in printers. Below is a table that will let you compare these utilities and select one that is right for you and your organization. I recommend that you start with one and then perhaps add another after you get comfortable with the first.
Before you try installing any of these, make sure your computer(s) can print to the desired printer. Have the printer either set up on a network or directly attached to your computer and before installing any utilities, print a test document.
The two different types of print management software are those that work on your desktop and act like printer drivers and ones that work only with your Web browsers:
For maximum paper savings, I would recommend using one or both of the browser tools along with one of the desktop tools.
AdBlock Plus requires little technical skill or hassle, installs in minutes, and uses subscription services to block ads. I love this software! Once it is installed and configured, you don't have to think about it again. An icon on your browser window lets you easily turn it off and on (see image below). They even have versions in other languages and have subscription services in other countries, so it is not US-centric. Unfortunately, it doesn't run on internet browsers Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) or Safari.
Aardvark is a great utility, but it was developed for more advanced users like Web developers and designers. I found that I had to turn it on each time I wanted to use it, so as a user, I have to remember to delete the unwanted elements. If you can do that, then this is a powerful tool. See a demo.
In thinking about how Aardvark will work in public environments like libraries, community technology centers, learning labs, and schools, I doubt that most of your users will know or remember to turn on Aardvark and eliminate the elements that they don't want to print. The nice thing is that you can have it installed for those users who would use it and it won't get in the way of other users.
GreenPrint is easy to install and use. It works well whether your printer is directly attached to your computer or networked. The graphical representation of your documents before printing makes it easy to see where you are wasting paper and ink and it lets you eliminate the unnecessary pages and images right there before printing. The banner ads on the World version were not too annoying for me to put up with. GreenPrint will also track your paper savings over time. You can view a free GreenPrint demo on their Web site.
FinePrint is easy to install and use. It works well whether your printer is directly attached or networked. The screen that pops up makes it easy to remove images, select multi-up printing (2 or more pages per sheet of paper) and see and eliminate waste before printing. It also has several more features. You can view a free FinePrint demo on their website. FinePrint also indicates how much paper you are saving with each job.
GreenPrint recommends which pages not to print based on how much is due to print on the page, and FinePrint has a more in-your-face interface that makes it easy to duplex (print double-sided), remove images, print grayscale and print multiple pages per sheet of paper. I really wish GreenPrint and FinePrint would combine their software interfaces. That would make for an excellent utility!
Medium to large offices:
I strongly recommend that you try the enterprise versions of either FinePrint or GreenPrint. These allow you to administer the software centrally and provide more robust reporting.
Before you implement anything, you might also want to check out PaperCut Print Logger which was recommended by PeterCheer on our forums. It is a free print logging program. I am not recommending that you track your paper usage as a way of snooping on staff or pointing fingers, but it can be a valuable educational and planning tool. Take care not to name names or shame anyone; those are sure-fire way to turn people away from your greening efforts.
Libraries, community technology centers and schools:
I especially recommend that you try either GreenPrint or FinePrint. These two act like printer drivers and pop up whenever a user tries to print. This is an easy way for your less experienced users to see if they are about to print an entire novel. Please also check out our MaintainIT's Print Management chapter (PDF) from their cookbook for libraries.
Another good resource that discusses these utilities and more is Save Paper, Save Money: 5 Free Software Downloads That Spare Your Printer from Treehugger.com.
Get other ideas, let us know what you thought of this post and share your experiences in our forums.
Remember these global prerequisites:
Have a printer set up either on a network or directly attached to your computer and before installing any utilities, make sure you can print to this printer.
Using this software should be an easy sell to even the most frugal of managers. If used, these utilities will save your nonprofit money as well as helping you reduce your paper use.
How are you managing paper usage? Share your tips with others in this Tech Planning Community forum discussion.
GreenPrint and FinePrint allow user to remove unwanted text and images when they print to save ink and paper.
There is another print management software CZ Print Job Tracker that can keep track of account print quotas (number of pages assigned to users) or balance. When user quotas are exceeded, jobs are paused or canceled automatically.