Walt Mossberg

How to Eliminate That One-Word Page That Trails a Print Job

In the digital world, all the hype and attention paid to flashy products and services often drown out simple solutions to smaller, but still important, consumer needs. Yes, it’s great that we can listen to music on iPods or post and view videos on YouTube. But why do we still have to waste paper when printing Web pages?

You know what I mean. You pull up a Web page, and you decide to print it out for easier reading, or for filing. But you wind up with one or more wasted pages, usually at the very end, consisting of mostly blank space with just one line of useless text — perhaps just a copyright notice. Or, you waste a lot of ink printing images on the Web page that aren’t germane to the article.

There are ways to minimize this. You could use the “printer friendly” option on many Web sites. That may eliminate some unwanted graphics and text, but not all, and it doesn’t solve the problem of the wasted page at the end. Or, you can use a print preview feature, hope the preview is accurate, and then manually try to adjust the range of pages printed. But this doesn’t always work and it’s time consuming.

Now, a start-up company in Portland, Ore., has come up with a software product that aims to solve the wasted-page problem. It’s called GreenPrint, and it automatically detects these unnecessary pages and eliminates them from your printouts. The company, GreenPrint Technologies, promises that its simple software not only will save you money on paper and ink, but also will help the environment by saving trees — thus, the name.

GreenPrint inserts itself between your Web browser (or any other program that prints) and your printer. It takes the form of a faux printer. You print to this virtual printer, called GreenPrint, as if it were real. Then, it analyzes the document, identifies and eliminates wasted pages, and hands the document off to your actual printer, which prints it.

The product also has some other nice features. It can save any Web page as a PDF file, which can be called up later in the free Adobe Reader program. It can also show you a detailed preview of a Web page, or any other document you’re printing, and allow you to manually eliminate pages from the printout.

GreenPrint costs $25 after a 14-day free trial (it goes to $35 after the holidays) and works only on Windows XP and Windows 2000 for now. A Macintosh version is planned for next summer. It’s available from the company’s Web site, printgreener.com.

I tested GreenPrint on two Windows computers. Each was connected to my home printer, an H-P DeskJet 5850 model, which automatically prints on both sides of the page.

In my tests, GreenPrint worked well, correctly identifying and eliminating wasted pages and properly creating PDF copies of Web pages. I tried it with both the Firefox and Internet Explorer Web browsers, and also with Microsoft Word, for non-Web documents.

After you install GreenPrint, it adds two new entries to your list of printers. One, called GreenPrint, is the virtual printer you use to eliminate the extra pages. The other, called GreenPrint PDF, is used to directly save Web pages and other documents as PDF files. GreenPrint doesn’t erase your actual printer from the Windows printer list. You can still select your regular printer and bypass GreenPrint, but you won’t get the benefits of GreenPrint. In fact, while it makes sense to make GreenPrint your default printer, you don’t have to do so.

GreenPrint can work automatically in the background. But, if you want to make sure it’s only eliminating unimportant pages, or if you want the opportunity to cull the printout manually, you should use its preview feature. This presents a very nice print preview, better than the one in the new IE 7 browser.

If you double-click on any page in this preview, it turns red and won’t be printed. You can also right-click on any page to have GreenPrint eliminate images or text before printing. From this preview screen, you can also save the document as a PDF file.

You can tweak how GreenPrint works. For instance, you can specify how few lines of text a page must display before it’s considered worthy of elimination. Or you can add or subtract other factors GreenPrint uses to decide if printing a page would be a waste, such as whether a page has nothing but a border, or nothing but a single image.

If you want, you can set the program to analyze and eliminate only the final page in a document, or to only display its preview if it finds a wasted page.

There are some rough edges, however, and the product is something of a work in progress. At first, GreenPrint wouldn’t allow my printer to print on both sides of the paper. I asked the manufacturer about that and the company quickly sent me a new version of the product that fixed the problem. GreenPrint also crashed several times in my tests after I changed configuration settings. The company says a new version that avoids those crashes will be available for download by the time you read this.

Overall, GreenPrint is a good product — a simple solution to an annoying and wasteful problem.

Email me at mossberg@wsj.com.


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