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Getting computers to use more paper

When computers became widely used in the offices of the 1980s, we heard many predictions to the effect that the paperless office would decimate the paper industry. 

In fact, the computers of the day led to significant increases in sales of office paper, largely because it was so easy for everybody to generate documents and print them.

While the paperless office will probably never exist (unless perhaps we follow Shakespeare’s line and “kill all the lawyers”), we all know that the “less-paper”  office arrived around ten years ago, and is cutting seriously into paper sales.

Campaigns to promote the utility and advantages of communications grades of paper have been a natural reaction by the paper industry to the “less-paper” office, and have probably staved off the decline in paper use to some extent.  These campaigns have relied on traditional advertising techniques of presenting the most favorable aspects of paper to the public.  Some campaigns, particularly from Two Sides, have had  success in demolishing spurious messages from the anti-paper organizations, such as the assertions that avoiding printing saves trees.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in January this year, I found a clever, non-traditional measure taken by International Paper to promote the use of paper that is also useful to many readers of this column for daily work.
IP has sponsored the development of software called “Print Hammermill” to make it easy to print from your iThing (iPhone, iPad or iPod) and also from Android pads and mobile phones.

Blackberry recently released an update to their BB10 operating system (version 10.2.1) that is claimed to run any modern Android software, so it is presumably practical to use Print Hammermill to print from your Blackberry.  I have no way of checking this, so comments from readers would be welcomed.

IP observed that something like 50% of users of pads and phones do not know how to print from them.  Many have no effective way of printing, and have to resort to relatively clumsy procedures such as emailing the document of interest to a computer, then printing it from there.  This is such a nuisance, that many people simply do not print.

iThings can of course print quite easily to any printer equipped with AirPrint capability, but only recent model printers are so equipped.  The Print Hammermill software provides equally easy printing service for most other printers.

Essentially, you can print to any printer on your network after you install Print Hammermill.  The software will usually seek out your printer and take care of driver issues, etc.  With the Android version of Print Hammermill, it is also possible to print to a remote printer via the Cloud, but this requires some set-up work the first time used.

If you have no network, it is possible to use Print Hammermill to drive many printers that use the popular USB cables to connect to a computer, but without requiring a computer.

The innovation by IP is important not only because it will lead to the use of more paper, but also as a demonstration of an opportunity for “out of the box” thinking to promote the use of paper.   I have no original ideas of my own at the moment; I must leave this as a challenge to you, the reader.

The paper industry has been quite active in developing software to facilitate paper buying, which I see as a traditional use, but I have not seen anything as innovative as Print Hammermill to increase paper consumption.

Print Hammermill software is available free at this site for Android and at this site for iThings.

There are other programs available to accomplish the same tasks, but they do not rate so well in user reviews, and at least one purports to be free, but pesters the user into buying upgrades.


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