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3 Tips to Reduce Paper When You Have to Print

Friday is Earth Day so this week's posts have a digital theme even if they aren't just for Occasional Genealogists. Yesterday, I posted about eBooks which may or may not help you save the Earth (not driving to a library, having a book mailed to you, or moving physical books could reduce your carbon footprint, so it sorta fits my theme). Today's post speaks to the Earth Day theme.


I admit it, even though I love keeping everything electronically, sometimes I just have to print something out. Genealogy can be unwieldy in many ways. Sometimes you just can't fit what you need on a screen or you just need to mark it up in a way you can't digitally. For genealogists less digitally inclined than me, even more paper is "created." So here are three easy tips to help any genealogist reduce the amount of paper they use. 

These are suggestions for when only paper will do. The best suggestion for reducing paper is to save a digital copy instead (print or save to pdf or save in Evernote, Pocket, OneNote, etc.). Remember, with a digital copy you can "print" to a larger size page to try and fit everything on one page/screen. Most digital tools will allow you to mark up a page so consider if you really need a paper copy. If you do, here are some tips.

1)Learn to use your printer

I can't tell you how to use your printer because they each have different instructions and quirks. But you can figure it out. I've learned some of the quirks of mine by tweaking a large print job (print it in sections with different settings). If you just don't know where to start, think about what you print the most often that runs onto one extra page, or doesn't look right, or just takes a lot more paper than you think it should. Try fixing your issues for this scenario, first. What you learn is likely to apply across the board. Also, if printing from the Internet is your problem, your browser may be making the difference. Compare the print options for a web page and a file to see if you understand one and not the other and then figure out the one that's the problem. Make notes if you have to.

I've found the next two tips particularly helpful when I'm printing genealogy material. I don't know why they are more helpful for genealogy, maybe it's some of the digitial images or charts we print that "normal" people never would!

2) "Print to PDF" then print the pdf

This solution really only helps for those times when information runs over by a few lines but sometimes it will solve strange formatting and might reduce the number of pages for a larger job. The only pitfall is making sure everything remains legible. First, print to pdf with no margins. Every printer I've ever owned yells at me about my margin sizes although most of them have the option for "borderless" photo printing. Printing to pdf doesn't have this problem. Now you're wondering how you overcome the problem when you go to print the pdf, right? You should have a choice that says something like "fit media size." This will shrink the page to fit within the required margin size. As long as the text isn't borderline too small, this will work, the shrinkage isn't much. You may have a printer that allows such small margins this won't help but it's an easy solution to try. If you've never considered it, you may be able to print directly to paper with no margins, depending on your printer. In some situations you may have some text cut off, though, so I like being able to check the pdf.


3) Other print formats

As mentioned already, you can print to pdf at a larger size. Tabloid (11x17) size is the same scale as letter size. I've found some images (of documents usually) will print fine to 11x17 (printed to pdf) but won't print directly to letter size. Once again, you choose an option when printing the pdf to paper such as "fit media size" and the page will be scaled appropriately. The actual wording for this option may differ by the printer or pdf program you are using. Rarely will this help with text as the text would be half the size. 
Along the same idea is printing two pages on one page (side by side). Occasionally, I've even put four "items" on one page. You may have to print to pdf to have this choice, and you may only have it when you are printing to pdf or from the pdf so you'll need to pay attention to the options.
You can also print double sided. Any current printer can print on both sides of a page, just not "automatically." You may have to feed the page a second time (i.e. print one page, remove and refeed the paper in the proper orientation, then print the second page). We used to do this when we'd make handouts for our genealogy society meetings. We'd print the first page for the full number of copies we needed (and it was a large society, so 75-100 copies) and then refeed the whole stack and print the second page. If you are printing certain documents, you can choose to print the odd pages first and then the even pages to do this even when you aren't making duplicates. Just make sure your stack of pages is in the order you need (so page 2 will be on the back of page 1, not on the back of your last page---an option for this is printing pages in reverse order, so you don't have to sort your pages).


Here's a finale note. Often what runs onto a second page is part or all of the citation. A citation on a separate page is like no citation at all. It is just too easy to loose. Even if you aren't interested in saving paper to save the Earth or to save some money, if you are dealing with genealogy records and citations which you will share or store, you need to learn how to get everything on one page. It's best if the citation is on the front of the page with the information or image it is citing, but worst case, print it on the back.

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