How to tame your (evil) printer: a guide

Photo by Brenda Lin

It’s 11:30 a.m., and you’ve just put the final touches on your lab report that’s due when you walk into lab at 12:05. You were smart and bought a printer for your room for this exact purpose — last minute printing. You send the document to print and your printer comes to life. About a quarter of a page prints and then PAPER JAM! #$%@! A paper jam would happen at the most inconvenient time. You have enough time left to print it to an OIT printer near your lab, right?

At one point or another, we have all threatened to kick a printer out a window. It is amazing that almost every other aspect of technology has progressed in leaps and bounds in the last few decades, yet the concept of printing is largely stuck in the dark ages. Unfortunately it is too much to ask HP, Epson, Canon and other printer manufacturers to have a problem-free printing experience.

Fear not — despite the rampant frustration with printers, all hope is not lost. There are ways to overcome many symptoms of the printer plague.

First, analyze what you are printing. Printing mostly text with little to no graphics and printing professional-quality color pictures call for two completely different types of printers. Despite advertising saying otherwise, it’s very rare to find a printer that can both print excellent photos and use minimal ink for text documents.

If you print predominantly text, your best bet is absolutely a black and white laser printer.

My personal favorite (confirmed by Amazon reviewers) is the Brother HL-2270DW. It is a no-nonsense printer that does nothing but print and it does that job very well. With each toner cartridge printing upwards of 1,000 pages, you’re not likely to need to replace them any time soon. When you do, the cartridges aren’t that expensive either.

On the other side of the spectrum, if you are often printing any kind of photos, you are much better off going to CVS or Walgreens and paying less than $1.00 per print to do so. Compare that to very expensive color laser printers with each of (usually three) toner cartridges being at least $100, and the optimal option is obvious.

If you absolutely must keep your inkjet printer, there are ways to maximize your use of it and not let it run your wallet dry. By far the easiest way is to change your printing style. Many printers by default print at “Best” settings where they use the most ink and take the most time to print. By changing the style to “Draft” or “Quick” in the printer properties, you can easily save on ink and speed up the printing process

For the safety of both you and your printer, the next time you get a strange error message it may be in your best interest to resist the urge to take it out to a field and destroy it à la “Office Space.” As fun as it may be to take out your rage on the poor printer, you may be able to get more use out of it yet.