Functioning in a printer-less office

Since moving offices more than four months ago, I haven’t yet plugged in my computer’s printer. I keep thinking I’m going to have a reason to use it, but so far that hasn’t been the case. I’ve told myself that if I don’t plug it in by September — the six month mark — I’m going to give the printer to charity.

Living without a printer has become significantly easier in the past couple years. I save important files as PDFs, I attach digital signatures instead of physically signing papers, and I clip articles I want to read to Evernote or InstaPaper instead of printing a copy. And, apparently, I’m not alone in my quest to kick the printing habit.

The New York Times recently addressed this topic and alternatives to printing in the article “Dump Your Printer to Escape the Madness.” Columnist Sam Grobart gives five tips for how to let go of your dependence on a printer, this being his third:

One of the main reasons many people own a printer is because we still live in a world where a scribble of ink on a piece of paper, also known as a signature, is required for many documents. It remains an infuriating process: You have to print the document out to sign it, then mail it or scan it and either fax or e-mail it back to the sender.

An online service, Hello Fax (, keeps a digital image of your signature on file, which you can then position and resize onto any document you upload to the service. Once the document is “signed,” you can e-mail it or send it to a fax machine from your PC. The service can also, for a fee, provide you with a fax number. Incoming faxes can then be viewed — and signed — onscreen.

Even if I plug in my printer before September, I still might get rid of it. I’m fantasizing about what I’ll do with the extra storage space in my office, the money I’ll save, and the frustrations I won’t have when it doesn’t get all buggy or run out of ink or have a paper jam. True simplicity may be found in a printerless office.

68 Comments for “Functioning in a printer-less office”

  1. posted by Jessica on

    I love this idea. I don’t have a printer at home but I do occasionally print things off at work. Before I get too excited about Evernote or InstaPaper, can anyone tell me are they free? I see you can sign up for a free trial but what after that? I would love to know people’s experiences with these programs.

  2. posted by Christine on

    I am surprised to have not seen any comments about students who must submit essays, reports and other hard copies to teachers. There is no way that you could be paperless with students in your household.

    As far as coupons in the US, I am not aware of any store that will give a discount without the actual paper coupon. and these coupons more than pay for my ink.

  3. posted by Em on

    DItto on the coupons. And with a mom in a nursing home, there are many instances of me needing to print and mail things that can’t be done electronically. Plus photo printing, cross-stitch patterns, labels, mailing envelopes, postage on said mailing envelopes (who wants to walk to the post office and stand in line when one can use click-n-ship) and numerous other things.
    I think there’s a fine line between living an uncluttered lifestyle and living a lifestyle where having a lack of things makes life more difficult, and for me, no printer would create more hassles than the tiny amount of space it takes up.

  4. Avatar of

    posted by lucy1965 on

    @Jessica I use the free version of Evernote and it makes my life much easier; I also use Cycles Page to track temps and such on-line.

    I have an older inkjet that was essential while DS was finishing his degree; now it is used occasionally to print out coupons for the pharmacy. If we move, the place we’re thinking of has a printer available in the office and a 24-hour Kinko’s around the corner, so we’ll let DS have it.

  5. posted by Stephanie on

    For paperless I’m loving the Lion OSX upgrade on my Mac – it has a signature stamp for signing documents! I suggest using a slightly thicker pen when you set it up – very cool.

    For having those directions next to my PC when I’m working, I love my iPad for that. I used to keep notebooks for my to-dos and have moved to using notes programs and a stylus on my iPad. My kids are upset because I don’t allow games on my iPad – it’s waaaay too much of a productivity tool!!

  6. Avatar of

    posted by genny on

    Some of these printers are just to sell ink. Mine is so expensive to replace the ink that it has been sitting idle for some time.
    And, I don’t print much, either, mostly black. Then, I read that this printer uses all the colors when it print in black. And I have yet to find an option to print only in one of the other colors.
    I can almost buy a new printer for the price of the ink. It stinks!!

  7. posted by gypsy packer on

    I gave up the inkjet for a $50-on-sale tiny monochrome laser. It stays in the closet unless I need it, usually two or three times a month. Correspondence for my boss, a creditor who has no e-mail and needs a printed invoice, and the occasional request from a tenant for a map, manual, or PDF make it necessary to keep one; my boss has a computer and color inkjet printer, but no MS Office and he will not let me install OO on his machine.
    I keep a flatbed scanner to archive. Total space requirements: about two shoeboxes’ worth. I’m still furious at the printer companies for pulling their cheap little cylindrical models in favor of the pricey “portables” which use hideously expensive paper.

  8. Avatar of

    posted by Mimi on

    thanks a lot, i uncluttered my printer today :)
    i can print at the office, where i am six days a week. no need to keep the printer at home.

  9. posted by Pamela on

    The only thing I still print out are the knitting patterns I’m currently knitting. And sign up sheets for events at church. Haven’t figured out a way around that….. lol

  10. posted by Pamela on

    By the way, it is technically stealing from your place of work to print out personal things there….. At my office, it costs 10-20 cents a page to print things by the time we factor in paper, toner, rental fees, and maintenance agreements.

  11. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Pamela — It isn’t always stealing to print things at work. For example, if you own the company and you’re okay with you printing at work. Or, if your company policy says it’s okay. Of all the offices I’ve ever worked in, only one had a corporate policy that didn’t allow for any personal photocopying. It would only be stealing if your employer prohibits such actions.

  12. posted by Leah on

    We’ve got a printer at home. We also go through a ream or less a year. It doesn’t take up too much space in the office. While we use it rarely, we find it really useful to have the time or two a month we do need it. I could technically print things at school (I’m a grad student and a TA), but I live an hour away and thus can’t print things easily when needed.

    We do have two printers, and I should probably get rid of the second. It’s part of the “two households merging” bit we’ve been doing. We did get rid of the duplicate DVD player and things like that.

  13. posted by Julie on

    I’m jealous of everyone and their printerless habits! Going back to school I’ve wasted more paper this year than many others combined. Now that our school doesn’t have any funding we are expected to print all the handouts teachers previously would give. This is nice because you don’t need to print them all but many (formulas you can bring to an exam, class discussion topics, etc) are must haves. Additionally, all assignments are due printed, no emailed copies will be taken by any professor I’ve had.

  14. posted by Jadielady on

    Throughout out home buying process, our agent or mortgage broker would find additional forms for us to sign. they would scan it in, email it to us, and my husband would load it up on his Ipad. We’d sign with an touch-screen stylus, and email the form back.
    Not only did it save tons of time for either waiting for mail or personally delivering the forms, but we saved tons of paper too!

  15. posted by Paul on

    We have two printers (which are also scanners/copiers/faxes) in our house, but they are mostly used by my partner for his business – printing things like tenancy agreements as we have a property management company, so it’s a bit inescapable. Printers, and printer driver software especially, are really vile frustrating things – I lost patience with them when a piece of HP printer driver software wanted me to close all other programs to install it and be prepared to restart my machine afterward – on a Mac! Utter junk. Half the ‘Help!’ calls I get from my partner are to do with a printer not doing it’s thing and I hate them. I don’t have a printer in my office (we both work from home) – I used to miss it, but in the 18 months or more I’ve been working from home the only things I’ve printed have been expenses claims about once a month and those can be done to PDF and printed at my employers’ office when I’m there. Sadly they still require the bit of paper with a signature on it before they will actually pay the expenses claim!

  16. posted by Mark on

    I still rarely print things like woodworking plans that I want to take into the (dusty) shop when I’m building.

    But other than that, I still the need my printer because it’s a multi-function, and I use it to scan all paper that comes into the house, so that I don’t have to keep it around.

    currently, I’m trying to scan through (14!) boxes of old family photos.

  17. Avatar of

    posted by Laetitia in Australia on

    I’m doing coursework that requires me to print assignments. Then there’s the music I learn to play – sorry, but even if I had an e-reader, I don’t think my music stand would appreciate that kind of weight on it. ;-)

    Like Mark above, ours is a MFD so we also use it to scan and copy various things. We’re pretty happy with it even if it’s fairly bulky so I don’t see us getting rid of it for quite some time.

  18. posted by Ran on

    A printer – less office might also be a disadvantage. The same thing with a resume builder who has no printer at home. Writing resume is very important so as to printing it right away.

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