Notes from the Technology Trenches – Fine Print 2000 to Cut Down on Printing Costs

Roger V. Skalbeck is the Technology Services Librarian and Webmaster at George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, Virginia, and he is a web committee member for the Law Librarian’s Society of Washington, D.C. Opinions included in this article do not necessarily reflect those of his current employer or any other organization.
This column is, of course, 100% free of any legal advice.

At the law school where I work, somebody recently suggested a product called FinePrint to consider for keeping printing costs and volumes to a minimum. Intrigued by the possibilities of print utility that could cut down on printing utilization while providing better control of printing, I decided to check it out. FinePrint is a software program originally developed in 1995 as a means to print software code efficiently by printing multiple pages on a single sheet of paper. Soon after the initial version was released, new features and functions began to be developed for the consumer market, and the current version stands as FinePrint 2000. This month I’ll take a quick look at FinePrint, because if you haven’t seen it before, it could save you a lot of money and headaches in printing complex documents.

Overview of Features

FinePrint 2000 functions as a printer driver within any Windows application, and it essentially sits between your application and the printer as an intermediary. After you download and install this small program, it is available as a printer option from within any Windows-based application on the computer where it is installed. Within an application such as Internet Explorer, Microsoft Word, you simply select to print to FinePrint 2000 as the destination printer, and print jobs are sent to the FinePrint program for you to preview, organize, customize or even cancel.

There are about four major elements of the program, encompassing the following:

  • Layout: customize the number of pages that appear on a single sheet of paper (between 1-8), adjust page margins, add borders for better organization and insert page gutters to provide room for a 2- or 3-hole punch. See Figure 1 below for a screen shot of the main layout screen.
  • Jobs: the software automatically saves individual jobs that are sent to the printer, and you can elect to save, load or delete a range of print jobs. Here you might save the specific settings for a brochure or report, and keep it available for on-demand printing needs.
  • Stationery: here you designate header, footer, watermark and some selected variable information. Standard watermark variables such as “draft” and “confidential” are preloaded. See Figure 2 below for a screen shot of the stationery organization screen.
  • FormFactory: This element can be used for saving letterhead or form-based information.
Figure 1: Sample view of main print dialog screen for FinePrint 2000, here showing a page layout which places four pages on each sheet of paper. Figure 2: This is the Stationery creation screen, showing a customized watermark along with the added date variable at the top of the sheet..

For another overview of the features and a tutorial on how the program functions, see the FinePrint Software: Tutorials page.

Possible Applications for FinePrint

If you regularly print out caselaw, legal briefs, or really just about any substantial volume of printed documents for review, FinePrint can certainly help cut costs in paper and toner usage. I tested the program with documents on Lexis, a variety of web pages and found it to be very flexible. I was able to print selected pages from documents and exclude unnecessary page fragments. Also, since the print preview functions of Internet Explorer (up through at least version 5.0) are essentially nonexistent, FinePrint provides some very useful assistance.

Another feature that I really like about the program are the stationery and form options. With the stationery, you can quickly add watermarks, headers and footers, as well as variables such as dates or page numbers. Most of these options are already integrated within word processing programs, spreadsheets applications and databases, but FinePrint allows the output to be uniform across multiple software programs.

The FormFactory feature would be useful for producing output templates that you create within other applications to be saved for later use. Here you might develop a specialized letterhead with logos or even a search results template page, and the form can be used to frame the output of any print job. Though FormFactory could be used for producing legal forms or similar pre-formatted documents, it would probably have limited use in this area. The feature could be used to store “fill in the blank” forms to print on demand, but FinePrint is not tied directly into the output of any specific application, so it would take some degree of finesse to develop advanced form templates for everyday use.

The Fine Print About FinePrint: Pricing

Well, all of these useful features and functions aren’t available for free, so you should note that it costs $39.95 to register a copy of FinePrint. Once you purchase and register a copy, you can print out documents of any size, and the nagging footer text: “Printed with FinePrint – register at” will no longer appear on every page that you produce. Enterprise licensing of the product (which would allow it to be loaded for an entire organization) appears to be priced at the same $39.95/user, so you should factor this into any consideration of possible firm-wide deployment of the product.

Note that before you download and register the program, there is a slight chance that you could already own it. FinePrint Software indicates that their software is shipped with all Compaq branded inkjet printers in the United States. If you should happen to own one of these line of printers, check through the system software for FinePrint. For an individual interested in cutting down printing costs and taking explicit control of the print jobs that you generate, FinePrint looks to be really attractive, as long as really small type does not place an undue strain on your eyes.

I think that it is most cost-effective for individual use, but some companies might find that the potential savings could justify a multi-user purchase. For simplified tracking of savings with the program, FinePrint software has included a feature that tracks the number of pages printed compared to the number of individual sheets sent to the associated printer, which gives you a percentage figure for cost savings.

Copyright © 2001, Roger V. Skalbeck. All Rights Reserved.

Posted in: Notes from the Technology Trenches, Product Reviews, Technology Trends, Utilities (Software)