Printing Alternatives

How often do you use your printer? If it’s more than just occasionally, here are tips to simplify
your life and save you money. Aside from wasting paper and trees, and spending more than
$300 a gallon on printer ink, you’re also creating a stack of pages that you’ll have to do something
with. Here are some ways to minimize those hard copies, as well as the associated filing,
and tedious searching tasks…
Put Down that Cartridge and Back Away Slowly From the Printer
Printing is a habit, and it can be a costly one. We print documents, emails, bills, receipts, photos
and other types of files. All of these things come to us in digital form, so the trick is to
realize that converting them to paper just makes it harder to manage and find them later.
Many things are printed for record-keeping purposes. But the best record-keeper available
may be your email server. Instead of printing a Word document or PDF, email a copy to yourself.
Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo (or whatever email service you use) will keep it safe for future
reference. You can also find it again with simple search, or tag it with keywords so that you
can easily find all documents that relate to a given topic. If you use webmail, you have the
added benefit that your important documents are stored online, and won’t be lost if your hard
drive fails. Printing is old-school thinking, let things stay in your inbox!
When you generate a document, rather than mailing it, ask the recipient if it would be okay to
“print” it to a PDF file and email it. Most people will actually prefer this, because it eliminates
the delay of mailing. Microsoft Word supports this trick; choose Save As and then look
for the PDF option on the options menu. If you use the free LibreOffice Writer it offers a
File+Export PDF option. Any application that can print can instead save to a PDF file, using
one of several free products. Try CutePDF Writer (
If you need a PDF viewer, try the free Foxit Reader (
products/pdf-reader/) software. PDFill PDF Tools (,
another freeware tool that lets you slice and dice PDF files in a number of useful ways.
Online Faxing and Photo Sharing Options
Instead of printing something in order to fax it, try a free Internet fax service. All of them
accept either email attachments or uploads of Word, JPG, and other popular file formats and
then fax them for you. There are also fax-to-email services see Free Inbound Faxing (http://
Don’t print photos unless you need hardcopy for a special gift. Upload your digital images to a
private album/folder on Facebook, Google Photos, Photobucket or a similar online photo sharing
service, and send your friends the link to that album.
Software and Online Services That Can Help
If you receive a document that you have to sign and return, use a service like Vletter (https:// which will scan your handwritten signature and convert it into a Windows
font—insert it anywhere, at any size required. No more printing, signing, scanning, and
emailing or faxing. Other online services such as Docusign ( and Right-
Signature ( handle the digital signature process with a completely
web-based process.
[Thanks to Malcolm Garrett for finding this thought provoking piece]

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