Hands-on: GreenPrint cuts printing bills

Available both in a Home Edition and an Enterprise Edition, GreenPrint lets users preview a document before printing and easily select which pages not to print with simple clicks.

Software cuts waste by letting users easily exclude superfluous pages and content from printings

The average employee wastes $85 worth of printer paper and ink each year through unnecessary prints. That's an average of six wasted printings per day at six cents a pop. So if you've got 5,000 employees at your company, that's around $425,000 tossed in the trash (or recycling bin) each year.

So even if you've really got it in for trees, you probably want to figure out ways to trim those costs stemming from print waste -- unless you’ve also got it in for your company's bottom line.

A startup called GreenPrint has developed an application that can help chip away at print waste. Available both in a Home Edition and an Enterprise Edition, GreenPrint lets users preview a document before printing and easily select which pages not to print with simple clicks. Users also can opt to exclude all the images or the text from a printing, which can save ink. (That, too, is significant: Ink costs over $60 per ounce, according to research from the San Francisco Chronicle.)

I had a chance to play around with the Home Edition of GreenPrint, which is available for a free 30-day test drive. Overall, I'm fairly impressed by what I've seen in the software. While there is room for improvement (and what Version 1.0 product doesn't have that?), I see plenty of potential value for companies, given the aforementioned cost of unnecessary printing that goes on every day at homes and offices.

And I'm clearly not alone in that thinking: The company already claims World Bank as a customer and says that other big-name companies, as well as OEMs, will be announced as users soon.

Setting up the Home Edition was a snap: I just downloaded the install file and let 'er rip. All you really need to do is tell it which printer is your default.

Once it's installed, you'll find that when you choose the Print option from any application, GreenPrint will be your default printer choice. Clicking Print will open a page-view screen of whatever document you're printing. There, you can see the various pages of the document laid out side by side, or they can zoom in to examine one page at a time.

Here, a user will easily be able to see which pages may not be worth printing. For example, the last page of a Word document might just have one line of footnotes, or a Web page might have some ads spilling over to the third page. The user simply double-clicks on whichever pages he or she wants excluded from the printing, and they turn red. Once a user is done choosing pages to exclude, he or she hits Print, and out comes the refined document.

A user can also choose from an array of preset filters that GreenPrint will use to detect what are likely unnecessary pages. For example, you can have it automatically exclude blank documents from printing, pages with only a border, pages with just one image, or with a minimum number of lines of text. A user will still be able to see which pages GreenPrint has selected to exclude; double-clicking that page will add it back to the print lineup.

Users also can choose to have none of the images in the document get printed, such as maps or ads on a Web page, charts or graphs on an Excel document, or whatever superfluous ink-wasting image that don't need to be put to paper.

In a similar vein, if the chart or the image (like a map or a picture of your pet chinchilla) is all you need, you may choose not to have any of the text in the document print.

The software also lets you track how many pages you've saved, as well as how much money that translates to. There's also a handy PDF-creation feature, which lets a user transform any document into a PDF with a single click.

There's also an Enterprise Edition of GreenPrint, which I didn't try out. Users have the same view and features as those using the Home Edition, but it will enable an admin to preset filters across the board; aggregate results across the entire company to measure the overall environmental impact of using the application; and track reduction in CO2 emissions.

GreenPrint is off to a great start with its offering, but the software is not without its limitation. Among them, I wasn't enamored with the all-or-nothing approach to removing images. It's conceivable that you may very well want to include a couple of charts in a report, but not all the other graphics. I'd prefer to be able to pick and choose which images to include or exclude.

Also, GreenPrint might consider emulating print options found in some applications, like Excel, where a user can choose to reduce overall size of a document's content, by percentage or to fit a specific number of pages. After all, the lines spilling over onto page six of a Word doc aren't always necessarily superfluous. Granted, the user could close the GreenPrint UI and make tweaks in Word, then Print again -- but better to give them a means of doing easily from the UI in the first place.

An option from switching between landscape and portrait also could be useful.

All in all, I applaud what GreenPrint has done: I can certainly see the tool reducing the amount of printer waste at home and the office, thanks to its easy interface and the fact that it becomes a necessary step in the printing process for users, who might otherwise neglect tweaking a document to save paper and ink. While this product is not going to usher in the elusive paperless office, it will help reap the savings (and eco-friendliness) of a less-paper office.

GreenPrint Version 1.0 costs $35 for the Home Edition and $70 per license for Enterprise Edition. For more information, go to www.printgreener.com.


Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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