How To Configure a “Draft Mode” Printer

Define a virtual printer to trick users into doing the right thing

One of the tricks listed in every “save money when printing” article? Use the “draft mode” on your printer to reduce the amount of ink or toner used. Some printers produce good enough results with draft mode to use that all the time (laser printers especially). Often, however, the draft mode is recommended only for test prints and proofing, not the final document. Let's talk about a way to help your users pick draft mode every time it's appropriate, and save some money. Asking users to remember to go into their Print > Properties page and change a printout to draft mode each and every time won't work. The users will look at you like you're an idiot for asking them to do all that extra work (even though it's really not that hard). Even the ones who understand why you want them to do draft mode and know how to change the settings, will forget. To encourage draft mode printing, make a draft mode printer available to users. Yes, you can make a copy of your printer's driver with draft mode enabled that looks like an entirely different physical printer. We won't bore people here with the explanation of virtual printers by way of multiple print driver entries into the available printer pick list, but that's what we're doing. If your users see a printer named “Main Laser – Draft Mode” when they choose a printer, they're likely to remember the value of draft mode for cost savings and pick it. Go to the Printer > Properties page and select the configuration for this version of your printer. You may want to make a color printer only black and white, for instance, to save on color ink. Or you may want to set the printer to draft mode, as we've discussed. The more features your printer has, the more useful virtual printers you can create. Set the printer details the way you want, then click the “Set as Default” option to lock in the configuration. Next time a person uses that particular printer, the settings will be as you configured, such as draft mode. Create a new printer with these settings by choosing your existing printer driver and tell Windows to “Keep existing driver.” Name the printer with the configuration detail, like “Main Laser – Draft Mode.” Do NOT make that the default printer. The next time a user needs a printer, they'll see the draft mode printer listed, and maybe, just maybe, remember your lectures about cost savings using draft mode, and pick that printer. Stranger things have happened. This goes along with my philosophy of technology: people will do the right thing, if that right thing is an option on a pick list.

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