Save ink when you print a Web page

The free PrintFriendly.com service and HP's free Smart Print extension for Internet Explorer (which works with any model printer) make it easy to select only the portions of the page you want to print. Also, switching to a lighter font could cut your printing costs by a fifth or more.

You probably already know that you spend more on printer ink in a year than you may have paid for the printer itself. But did you know that some printer models use more than half of that ink simply for maintenance?

According to Consumer Reports' June 2013 "The high cost of wasted printer ink," a typical user of an Epson Expression Premium XP-800 printer will spend $110 each year on ink for the device, $21 of which is used to maintain the printer. If you own a Canon Pixma MX922 printer, you'll never see $150 worth of the $230 you spend annually on ink. That's how much ink that printer model requires to keep its parts functioning.

Choose an ink-conserving font

As CNN's Madeleine Stix reported late last month, 14-year-old Suvir Mirchandani determined as part of his sixth-grade science project that his school district could save $21,000 in ink costs each year by switching to the Garamond font.

Suvir calculated the amount of ink required to print the five most-common letters used in teacher handouts (e, t, a, o, and r) formatted in four common fonts: Century Gothic, Comic Sans, Times New Roman, and Garamond.

By Suvir's calculations, using the wispier strokes of the Garamond font exclusively would reduce the district's ink consumption by 24 percent. Hey, I like Ariel, Calibri, and New Times Roman as much as the next person, but cutting my ink spending by one-fourth sounds pretty darn good.

In "Customize your browser's zoom options" from January 2010, I explained how to set Internet Explorer and Firefox to display the font style and size of your choice rather than the ones specified by the page you're on. In IE, click Tools > Internet Options > Accessibility and check "Ignore font styles specified on Web pages" and "Ignore font sizes specified on Web pages."

In Firefox, click Tools > Options > Content (or the settings icon in the top-right corner of the window and then Options > Content). Select the Advanced button under Fonts & Colors and uncheck "Allow pages to choose their own fonts, instead of my selections above."

To adjust the size and style of fonts in Google Chrome, click the settings icon in the top-right corner of the window and choose Settings. Select "Show advanced settings" at the bottom of the page and choose one of the five options in the "Font size" drop-down menu under "Web content." To change the browser's default font, click the "Customize font" button.

Google Chrome customize-font options
Chrome's custom-font options let you change the brower's default type style and size. Screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET
Make your font selections in the four categories: standard, serif, sans-serif, and fixed-width. Use the slider control to change the default type size and minimum size. You can also change the browser's default encoding.

Of course, there's no need to switch your browser to Garamond or another ink-saving font on a full-time basis just to save a few pesetas on those relatively rare occasions that you want to print a Web page. In September 2011's "Five ways to save a Web page," I described how to save only the text on a page, and how to save a page as a PDF.

Two free services simplify the process of printing some or all of the content on a Web page. At PrintFriendly.com, you paste the page's URL in a text box, and a few seconds later a version of the page is displayed that you can print, convert to a PDF, or send as an email attachment. The free service lets you remove the page's images with a single click, and increase or reduce the text size in 10-percent increments from 130 percent to 70 percent.

PrintFriendly.com print-editing window
Enter the URL of the page you want to print at PrintFriendly.com and then edit and reformat the content before you print it, email it, or save it as a PDF. Screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET

To remove portions of the page before you print it, hover the mouse over the section and click to delete it. If you change your mind, just click the Undo button on the right side of the toolbar above the text window.

HP's IE extension lets you decide what to print

To maximize your page-printing options, install HP's Smart Print extension for Internet Explorer, which works with all models and makes of printers. (Note that the extension may also appear in Firefox's settings, but using Smart Print in Firefox is clunky at best. HP states that the extension works only with IE.)

During the extension's installation, you're given the option to opt out of the Smart Print Improvement Program; the option to participate in the program is selected by default. The installer also lets you opt out of automatic updates and sharing information about how you use the program with HP.

After the installation finishes, restart IE to see the Smart Print icon on IE's main toolbar. To print the current page, click the icon to show the Smart Print toolbar above the version of the page that will print.

HP Smart Print IE extension toolbar
The HP Smart Print toolbar has five options for editing the printed version of the selected page. Screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET

The toolbar's five options are Print, Preview, Text Mode, Manual Mode, and Settings. In text mode, click and drag over an area to mark it for removal from the printed version of the page. Hover over the selected area to bring the undo button into view, and click the undo icon to deselect the area.

In manual mode, the printed sections of the page are highlighted. Drag from the bottom, top, or sides to change the selection, or click and drag to add an unselected area of the screen to the printed version.

If you've changed IE's Accessibility options as I described above, Smart Print uses IE's default type style and size rather than the font the page itself specifies. To change your default font to Garamond (or any other style IE supports), choose Tools > Options, then select the Fonts button under the General tab. Make your selection in the "Webpage font" window, and click OK. It's probably best to leave the "Plain text font" setting at Courier New.

Internet Explorer Font dialog
To save ink when printing a Web page, change IE's default font to Garamond before you print. Screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET

Viewing every Web page in the same font style and size can get boring very quickly. Also, the general rule is that sans serif fonts such as Ariel and Calibri are easier to read on a screen, while Garamond, Times New Roman, and other serif fonts are more legible on paper.

If you prefer to view Web pages using the font the page designer selected, you can retain IE's default font settings and reset the page's type style and size only before you print it. You'll have to change the font style and size via the Print > Page setup dialog: click the "Change font" button at the bottom of the Page Setup dialog box, make your selections, and click OK.

Internet Explorer Page Setup > Font dialog
Change IE's font before you print a Web page to reduce the amount of ink required. Screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET

Web pages and print are inherently incompatible. Still, there are times when only a hard copy of some online content will do. To minimize the cost of printing Web-based material, make sure you print only the parts you need in a font that maximizes your ink budget.

About the author

    Dennis O'Reilly began writing about workplace technology as an editor for Ziff-Davis' Computer Select, back when CDs were new-fangled, and IBM's PC XT was wowing the crowds at Comdex. He spent more than seven years running PC World's award-winning Here's How section, beginning in 2000. O'Reilly has written about everything from web search to PC security to Microsoft Excel customizations. Along with designing, building, and managing several different web sites, Dennis created the Travel Reference Library, a database of travel guidebook reviews that was converted to the web in 1996 and operated through 2000.

     

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