The paperless office is yet to become a reality, which means print costs are a continuing issue. We look at how to be print-savvy to save paper and ink, plus when to PDF your documents instead.

Whatever else you may do with your PC, it’s likely that you print out at very least the odd letter, document or photograph. Papers and inks can be expensive, so printing wisely isn’t just a matter of choosing the right printer for the job; you also need to ensure it’s properly set up.

If you install a printer and never tweak its settings, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice. For a start, the printer will undoubtedly include options for conserving the amount of ink it uses – an obvious way to save money. Even a humble old laser printer will probably have settings for ink density or output quality.

You can also save some money on ink. Refilling waste cartridges is a cost-effective option and not as fiddly as you might think. Recycling is another option.

If you’re really keen to cut costs, consider printing on recycled paper. This eco-friendly option is suitable for most computing needs and, as with other paper stocks, you can print more than one page of text on a single sheet or print to both sides (known as duplex printing). If you do need to use special papers, such as when printing photos, find a compromise between economy, eco-friendly and quality stock.

Sharing documents with other people doesn’t always necessitate printing out a hard copy. The simplest approach is using email, allowing the recipient to have the document open in front of them in a few seconds.

But before you start firing off documents over email, convert them to PDF. With free reader software installed on their PC, tablet or mobile, the recipient will be able to open the file without also having to install the software used to create the original document. Sending a PDF can also prevent others altering your original document and can, in some cases, reduce file sizes.

Any document can be converted to PDF. We show you how to use the free Nitro PDF Reader to manage the process in our second walkthrough. We’ll also show you how to use Nitro to edit PDF files.

Set up your printer to save ink and paper

Step 1. To specify print settings in any open application go to File, Print or File, Print Preview, then choose Print Preferences. The options available will vary depending on the printer model you’re using, but you’ll probably be offered the ability to print in Draft or Economy mode and to a set page range.

Save ink and paper step 1

Step 2. If you’re printing long documents, reduce the page margins to fit more lines on each sheet. Open the program the document was created in and alter the margins in the document settings. Alternatively, you may be able to reduce the margins using the ruler guides. In WordPad, you’ll need to look in the Page Setup menu.

Save ink and paper step 2

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