The days of manual woodblock printing, which took years to prepare and days to execute, are long over. Nowadays, multi-function printers are all the rage for their convenience and wide range of available functions. Automatic double-sided printing and inexpensive colour printing may seem like recent high-quality printing advancements, but there are some functions that no one seems to know about. Whether you print once in a blue moon or run the office printer into the ground, you could learn something from this list of underutilised printing functions.
If you’re a regular visitor to the printer, you know the specific kind of pain you experience when you go to print something and it comes out all splotchy and faded. Buying new ink and toner cartridges doesn’t have to be an emergency trip to the store after you’ve already run out – some printers can estimate ink usage and let you know when it’s time to buy more. They can display the remaining ink as a handy chart on the display screen, or be set to automatically email you when the levels run low and it’s time to buy more ink or toner cartridges.
If your printer has ever printed you a strange page with a variety of colours and shapes, and then asked you to scan it, then you’ve seen the calibration page. While this is a common function, the information is rarely appreciated. It allows your printer to accurately calibrate its colour printing, so you get the best prints every time.
It’s probably dangerous that you can email your multi-function printer a document from any location and, provided the printer is switched on, it will receive the document and almost immediately print it. It’s an amazing feat of technology, really, that printers have the capacity to connect to the internet via an ethernet cable or wifi. Some even have a unique email address which you can either access by reading it off the display screen or by asking your printer to print off the information for you – cool right?
But the next time you turn on your printer, if it starts immediately printing a thousand cat pictures, ask yourself which of your friends knows your printer’s email address. The convenience may not outweigh the potential for misuse in this case. It may be a handy backup option for the next time a technological issue prevents you from connecting to your printer over the local network, or for when you’re away from home and need to print something, but be careful to protect your printer’s email address – your prankster friends could end up costing you hundred of dollars in toner cartridges.
It’s amazing how many ways there are to skip the computer entirely in the printing process. Many modern multifunction printers can save some regularly printed documents – like the common office forms – to the hard drive of the printer. It saves a step, so you don’t have to turn your computer on and find the document every single time. You’ll save time, money, and energy by just dealing with the one device – the multi-use printer.
Some modern printers can send documents to a location on the local network, say a specific folder on your computer, for example. There’s a heap of scanning options – scan to email, scan to USB, scan to memory card, and so on – but utilising the network for more than just that easy click of the button to send a document to the printer in the first place is uncommon. The best way to use the full range of convenient functions that the modern printer has is to allow it to send you documents in return.
Scanning and printing to and from the Cloud is another poorly utilised function. Once again, you’re skipping over the computer entirely by logging into the Cloud directly from your printer’s controls – and from there, it’s an easy matter to print straight from the Cloud. As long as your passwords are kept secure, it’s entirely possible to print without a computer.
Whist not strictly under the heading of printer functions, there are a number of things you can do when arranging a document on your computer, to make it print better, read better, and look better. As familiar as we all are with dot points, and dot points upon dot points, did you know you can split text into columns? It’s especially useful for making comparisons, or just for saving space on your resume by splitting your referees into columns. The page layout options offer far more variety in a print than is ever really taken advantage of.
As always, choosing the right printer for the type of printing you do is key. Photo printers are best for images, plotter printers are great with pictures and vectors, and wide-format printers can print on bigger pages. There are so many great underutilised printer functions, so get friendly with your printer, shoot it an email, and start using it to its full potential!