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Printer maker offers to help people print less

A leading printer maker wants to help you do less printing.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A leading printer maker wants to help you do less printing.

Printing an article off the Web often produces several pages of waste, including ads, links and boxes for entering text. So the latest version of a Web toolbar from Lexmark International Inc. gives people more ways to block such images from coming out of the printer, saving ink and paper.

Some of Lexmark's tools already exist in standard printer settings, but accessing them normally requires several mouse clicks. Lexmark's free program brings those functions to the forefront. For example, one click converts a Web page into black and white for printing, extending the life of expensive color ink cartridges.

The Web software also extends the "printer-friendly" features many sites offer. Often those printer-friendly versions still carry logos and other graphics; the Lexmark tools let you eliminate those as well.

Although printer companies make much of their money from ink cartridges and other products that consumers constantly have to replace, Lexmark figures it can improve customer satisfaction. Most of the features work regardless of whether your printer was made by Lexmark, Hewlett-Packard Co. or another rival.

Lexmark has versions available for both Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer and Mozilla's Firefox browsers.

The Firefox version offers more functions. Lexmark says Firefox users tend to be more technically advanced, and thus open to more customization. While the Internet Explorer tool lets you eliminate images, for instance, the Firefox version lets you remove forms, links and other elements, too.

Craig Le Clair, a senior analyst at Forrester Research, said the Lexmark tools can help reduce office printing. Companies already have made progress going electronic with insurance claims, bank transactions and other paperwork, he said, and they are now turning to "the knowledge worker and the ad hoc use of paper."

But Le Clair said any effect will be small compared with initiatives such as centralized printing, through which companies can track usage by person or department much better than with individual printers at each desk.