LaserTools develops new, thrifty printer tricks

But LaserTools Corp. has an inexpensive utility called Power PrintCache that can
dramatically expand the abilities of almost any printer, save time and cut consumables up
to 50 percent.


LaserTools officials told me that independent research shows about 75 percent of
business printing is for internal document review, drafts and personal file copies.


Power PrintCache leverages this simple fact. It teaches even old printers new tricks
with what the company refers to as PageFXes. A PageFX minipage prints thumbnail pages-two,
four, six, nine or 16 document pages reduced onto one side of a sheet of 812- by 11-inch
paper.


Pages produced with presentation software are quite legible printed nine to a page but
marginal to illegible at 16 to a page. Standard text documents reduce nicely with two or
four to a page but can't be read if reduced further.


Double the savings with the manual duplex printing option, which squeezes up to 32
minipages onto a single sheet of paper. Power PrintCache even gives an instruction sheet
and prompts you to turn over the paper for two-sided print jobs.


The handy booklet-printing feature takes a single document or multiple ones and prints
them as a pamphlet ready for stapling. Multipage jobs automatically print in the correct
order. All you do is fold and staple the stack of paper that comes out of the printer.


Other PageFXes let you apply customizable watermarks such as "top secret" to
a minipage or across an entire page. You can put borders around the minipages. Combining
special effects lets you mix and match at will.


A feature called DragNet combines a string of separate print jobs into one. DragNet
creates a holding area in your computer's memory when you click on the tool bar. You send
documents to this holding area with standard print commands from your applications.


DragNet is useful for printing e-mail, spreadsheets and documents produced in different
applications. E-mail clients and World Wide Web browsers usually treat every e-mail
message or Web page as a separate and distinct print job, turning out one at a time on a
separate sheet no matter how brief.


But with Power PrintCache, you can move from app to app, putting a variety of
spreadsheets, e-mail and graphic files into the print job. If an object can be printed,
you can put it in the holding area. When you're ready to print, release the jobs to the
printer by pressing the DragNet button on the tool bar.


Power PrintCache doesn't produce the dramatic print speed improvements we once saw with
MS-DOS print utilities, but I found it did reduce the time to spool up and start printing
over a local Microsoft Windows NT network.


I tested Power PrintCache by making a statistics report. After opening the stats page
on GCN's Web server with a browser, I selected pages that had statistics of interest and
sent them to the holding area using the browser's print command. I finished the job by
choosing the booklet PageFX option and releasing the print job from the holding area.


I wound up with a neat booklet suitable for external distribution. Of course, I could
have done the same thing by cutting and pasting the pages from the browser into a word
processor or desktop publisher. But Power PrintCache produced a finished booklet in three
mouse clicks.


The application installs easily. Online documentation is good but can't be accessed on
the tool bar, and a couple of the installation menus were unclear. The thorough user
manual is excellent by today's standards.


This program performs adequately over networks but has limits. It can't accurately
detect printer states and may fail to transmit printer messages if the machine runs out of
paper or jams. Power PrintCache seems to work best with direct-connected printers.


LaserTools offers free voice support but failed to return my call within the hour as
promised in its voice-mail recording.


In real-world use, you'll probably find that minipages cut your print time around 85
percent, because up to 16 pages come out in the same time it usually takes a single page.


An agency could save a lot of trees if it encouraged employees to use this
product judiciously and decide in advance if they really need a full-size copy of every
print job.


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