Printing secrets

If you’re a home or small business user looking to print efficiently and effectively, read on as we reveal some very juicy printing secrets…

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By  Cleona Godinho Published  June 30, 2007

Everyone prints but not everyone prints smart. Printing smart involves using printing tricks to save big bucks, time and the environment as well. To help unveil the printer world's best-kept secrets we spoke to the region's key printer vendors; HP, Xerox, OKI, Epson, Brother and Lexmark. Our first question to them was this: what is the biggest printing mistake small business owners or users make? The answer might surprise you. Five out of the six vendors we interviewed agreed on their answer.

Lexmark's SMB manager, Mohammed Addarrat commented, "Many users - both business and consumer - seem to look at purchase price and not much else. Home office users don't control the cost per page factor and usually end-up spending more money then they should."

Natesh Mani, Xerox's office product director added, "A majority of small businesses and consumers look for the cheapest printer and then realise their mistake when they hit a wall in terms of functionality, capabilities and service and support".

Plan of action

So what do small office owners and home users need to do instead? According to OKI's John Ross, they need to assess their requirements before making any printer purchase. "First off, both businesses and consumers need to consider what they actually want to do with the printer, how many pages they expect to print and can the printer be shared between more than one user as a small network. The second factor they need to consider is the technology involved. Should they use an inkjet or toner based product?

The temptation is to buy a low cost inkjet product as the entry cost is so low, however running costs need to be considered and whether or not it is a monochrome only or colour device that is required."

Addarrat believes that same approach should be applied to printer consumables. "This is not only true for hardware, but the same applies for consumables. Customers need to look at the long-term cost of using re-filled or counterfeit cartridges, which compromises the quality and the reliability of the device."

Think about ink

Let's face it. Printer ink cartridges are far from cheap. Even if you buy generic brands you're still going to be spending a hefty amount of money, especially if you print a lot on a regular basis. Each time you print, you use ink. Therefore, our next question was: what is the one thing home office users can do to ensure they spend less on ink? While everyone on our printer panel offered different ink-saving tips, one solution that seemed to be on everyone's' lips was ‘always used Draft mode for internal documents'.

"The draft setting in your printer options is really one of the best ways to save ink.," says Ranjit Gurkar, SMB manager of Brother. "It makes it so the printer prints much faster than normal and the amount of ink used per page is much less than if you printed at a normal setting. You will also notice a difference as the pages just shoot out of your printer rather than leisurely coming out."

Here's how to print documents in Draft mode:

• On your PC click on Start/Settings/Printers and Faxes

• Click on the name of your ink jet printer and right-click it and choose ‘Properties'.

• Now look for the tab that indicates the quality of the print, usually labeled Document/Quality.

• Choose the lowest quality available. This is often called ‘Draft Mode' or ‘Quick Print'.

Although the print quality will be diminished, it's still usually adequate for most everyday paperwork. If you want, you can also set the printer to print only in black to save more expensive coloured ink. You might want to consider making the draft mode and black ink your default settings. Whenever you are preparing documents that need a more impressive look, you can then specify the high quality print settings.

SMB printer buying tips offered by our print gurus:

• Do not consider only the price tag, but also take the total cost of ownership into consideration.

• Consider the after-sales service scheme offered by the manufacturer.

• Look at the physical space a printer will occupy, including the paper tray and external connections if space is limited.

• If you're looking to buy a fax machine, copier and scanner along a with a printer, consider a multifunction device instead. This will help you save space and money.

• If you do opt for a multi-function device, find out the scanning speed, what scanning software is bundled with the printer, and if there are any archive or workflow tools supplied.

• Only buy genuine consumables as this are high quality and their ink less likely to smudge. Moreover, if you buy incompatible ink or knock offs you run the risk of permanently damaging your printer.

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