Sunday, 28 December 2014

Nesting software for next to nothing to do 2d CNC cutting optimisation

Nesting software for cutting optimisation of curved shapes is expensive

These are notes-to-self by somone who wants to download cheap 2d nesting software and promote a vegan shoe shop. One way of keeping notes is to write a kind of guide to what nesting software is, then a list of discovered nesting software prices and sources, so here goes. I don't claim to have tried all this software or made it work - in fact I am still quite stuck but offer the notes anyway.

Scroll-down if you just want the links.

Nesting software for cutting optimisation of curved shapes is expensive - What nesting software for sheet cutting optimisation is - Download cheap true-shape nesting or sheet cutting optimization software - e-cut.ru: $25 for nesting only- downloadable licensed software - Silhouetteamerica.com : $99 for nesting software & more - Ucancam.com: $145 or $270 for nesting only - free vector graphics software to use with nesting software - a glimpse of what other people pay for CAD nesting software - Nesting software open source - Cutting dies made from Swedish steel strip.

What nesting software for sheet cutting optimisation is

People who have cut material out of sheet for know the advantage of nesting cut-out shapes into the tightest possible pattern on least material. Some people are better or worse than others at doing it by hand, but those who do it for a living are probably good. Those who cut from irregular and blemished products like hydes have to work manually or use even more specialised software. The idea of a computer program to give a second opinion on how to lay-out the parts is good too - particularly if you don't have years of experience, or you don't like the job, or else you are a machine and need vector graphic code to cut from, or if you have discovered that microfiber can be as good as leather with a more regular shape and less blemishes.

The flavours are
  • one dimensional nesting software, for cutting lengths - sometimes free,
  • two dimensional nesting software, for cutting rectangles - sometimes free, and
  • two dimensional nesting software, for nesting other shapes - true shape nesting software - nearly always expensive.
Nesting software for curved shapes is seldom bought or sold, so publishers are coy about prices in the hundreds or even thousands if part of a CAD CAM package for some niche market like igloo-building, ship building, which is the same but the other way up, or footwear, clothing and apparel which is often the same way-up as igloos but has a range of sizes. The machines for making a shape on a screen, or converting to make a shape on a welder or wood carver or lazer are different too. You can see I'm bluffing a little here and will have a look at this discovered link some time about machines for making.

The simplest case,  I think, is to use nesting software to draw a pattern on a screen and then use that as a rough guide for how to cut by hand, maybe using a blade to cut round templates or positioning knives under a hydraulic press and pressing the button before moving them along a bit. Firms like Cricut are warming-up the market for cutter-plotters the size of computer printers which will cut anything less than a foot wide, if you can think of such a thing that needs cutting. Cricut Explore is their latest offering as I write. Two of the programs below are split in two to suit simple cases: you buy a section that shows you how to nest shapes; your buy another section to instruct your cutting machine if you ever save-up for one.

I don't know anything about 3D software nor the overlaps with CAD CAM software that can make searching difficult: a product can be described as free 2d Cad Cam software but not do nesting. When searching, you find a few pages of software and then a lot of references to Viking-invader style attempts to get software by any means.
Nesting software for cutting optimisation of curved shapes is expensive - What nesting software for sheet cutting optimisation is - Download cheap true-shape nesting or sheet cutting optimization software - e-cut.ru: $25 for nesting only- downloadable licensed software - Silhouetteamerica.com : $99 for nesting software & more - Ucancam.com: $145 or $270 for nesting only - free vector graphics software to use with nesting software - a glimpse of what other people pay for CAD nesting software - Nesting software open source - Cutting dies made from Swedish steel strip.

Download cheap true-shape nesting or sheet cutting optimization software

  • Nestlibonline.com charge between $2 a nest and $59 a month for an online cutting optimistaion service to .dxf or .pdf
  • Mynesting charge between $7.50 a nest & $150 a month for an online cutting optimisation service
  • E-nesting.com/faq.aspx tried to offer a free online cutting optimisation nesting service for beta testing, but offer a "busy" message instead when I try to use their test samples.
    Nesting software for cutting optimisation of curved shapes is expensive - What nesting software for sheet cutting optimisation is - Download cheap true-shape nesting or sheet cutting optimization software - e-cut.ru: $25 for nesting only- downloadable licensed software - Silhouetteamerica.com : $99 for nesting software & more - Ucancam.com: $145 or $270 for nesting only - free vector graphics software to use with nesting software - a glimpse of what other people pay for CAD nesting software - Nesting software open source - Cutting dies made from Swedish steel strip.

e-cut.ru: $25 for nesting only- downloadable licensed software

$25 pays for ain.e-Cut.ru of Novosibirsk which the first of the author's youtube help videos shows to be in Siberia. The 1st link is to Pavel Mishakov's A1Nesting page - ain.e-cut.ru - which is a program that nests .ai files. It does nothing else but nest in an attempt to be so simple that it needs no instruction. It works with early versions of the .ai file format described in the introduction to this Wiki page. I haven't yet managed to trace a curved shape in another program and import it as a curve - it's imported as a rectangle with a pattern on it - so ideas as comments below are welcome.

Other Mishakov software on the e-cut site - http://eng.e-cut.ru/ http://ecut5.e-cut.ru/index.php?lng=EN and htp://illustrator.e-cut.ru - works as a plugin to recent versions of CoralDraw full edition from version X3 or Adobe Illustrator Creative Suite 5+ and does other things as well, but A1nesting is ultra-simple and cheap. There is no dongle but you have to buy a code, confusingly starting with "ain" in small letters before the number-plate-like key that activates the program allowing it to open and save files in .ai format from Adobe Illustrator 8. I've bought a copy with some vague idea of making vegan shoe uppers for a vegan shoe shop and some of the experiments with it have worked.
Nesting software for cutting optimisation of curved shapes is expensive - What nesting software for sheet cutting optimisation is - Download cheap true-shape nesting or sheet cutting optimization software - e-cut.ru: $25 for nesting only- downloadable licensed software - Silhouetteamerica.com : $99 for nesting software & more - Ucancam.com: $145 or $270 for nesting only - free vector graphics software to use with nesting software - a glimpse of what other people pay for CAD nesting software - Nesting software open source - Cutting dies made from Swedish steel strip.

Silhouetteamerica.com : $99 for nesting software & more 

Nobody knows why a lot of people in the US buy desktop plotters for cutting card, except them. Lots of them do it. Their vast mental hospitals in the 1940s and 50s used to teach leather embossing as a theraputic job.  A comparison of the cutters and their default software shows Silhouetteamerica.com/software claims to do advanced nesting for $99 - the only desktop cutter software on the list that mentions nesting at all, and only in its paid-for upgraded versions. The difference between $49 "nesting" and $99 "advanced nesting" is best understood from their $49 designer faq page and their $99 business faq page, they tell me. The programs are crippled to save in native .studio format rather than .svg so you have to search for work-arounds if this is important. For example if a machine with 210g pressure and 0.5mm clearance for material thickness is too little for your ship-building project. (Ship-building is the application that's like fashion design but the other way up, less sizes but more internal parts. Ship builders also use heaver material than fashion designers).
Nesting software for cutting optimisation of curved shapes is expensive - What nesting software for sheet cutting optimisation is - Download cheap true-shape nesting or sheet cutting optimization software - e-cut.ru: $25 for nesting only- downloadable licensed software - Silhouetteamerica.com : $99 for nesting software & more - Ucancam.com: $145 or $270 for nesting only - free vector graphics software to use with nesting software - a glimpse of what other people pay for CAD nesting software - Nesting software open source - Cutting dies made from Swedish steel strip.

Ucancam.com: $145 or $270 for nesting only

I have searched a great deal for cheap or free nesting software and found multiple un-answered threads with one reference to UCanNest. It's from a Beijing Chinese firm at Ucancam.com, known for providing bundled software to go with Chinese cutter plotters. I haven't worked-out the difference between the $145 and $270 versions, but there are some youtube videos and .pdf manuals that might explain. You have to buy a dongle before the software even lets you run a trial, but if $145 is affordable that might be worth it. I guess that people who have bought cutter-plotters have also somehow bought this software, and might have a copy if they're leaving the trade.

$380 Nestprofessor.com and $480 Cutleader are a pair of programs from a Shanghai Chinese company, according to prices from C|net and a coupon code for cutleader on another site. The nestprofessor site gives a range of US dollar prices for extra features such as nesting a part within a part.
Nesting software for cutting optimisation of curved shapes is expensive - What nesting software for sheet cutting optimisation is - Download cheap true-shape nesting or sheet cutting optimization software - e-cut.ru: $25 for nesting only- downloadable licensed software - Silhouetteamerica.com : $99 for nesting software & more - Ucancam.com: $145 or $270 for nesting only - free vector graphics software to use with nesting software - a glimpse of what other people pay for CAD nesting software - Nesting software open source - Cutting dies made from Swedish steel strip.

free vector graphics software to use with nesting software
free illustrator downloads

Adobe CS2 products are now available to download for free, as far as anyone can tell from Adobe's publishing of download links and free universal serial numbers, even if they state that this is a service for people who have lost old details. (The question to ask a lawyer is whether Adobe would prosecute and win a case for use of an old program that they give away free; the question to ask yourself is whether this is like picking something out of a skip.) I don't know of an e-cut plugin for Adobe Illustrator CS2, but it can save and open files in illustrator 8 format if you tick the right box after "save as". The files end .ai just like different more recent adobe illustrator native files.

This older version of the .ai format is very similar to encapsulated postscript .eps files, and if these are renamed .ai there is a good chance that A1Nesting from u-cut.ru will open those as well, and the .ai files it saves can be re-named .eps and read by other software, whether or not it has a setting for .ai.
There's also a chance that the files will open as a .pdf if renamed .pdf - I haven't tested this yet.
Newer .ai files are a different thing.

Viking shop prow decoration possibly made with looted CAD CAM software. (not really)Once saved as .ai files, the files saved by A1cut open in Adobe Illustrator CS2 although the document size doesn't get recognised, reverts to a default, and needs to be re-set and the nested images selected with control+A and one of the lower arrow selectors to be slid back into their frame. A1Nesting also has trouble with overlapping images and probably all sorts of other limitations as well, but for $25 software I find it pretty good.

I hope u-cut develop a plugin for open source vector graphics editors like Inkscape.org or Open Office Draw or even the free-ish Adobe Illustrator CS2 or free older editions of Serif Draw Plus, to save work-arounds for those who prefer open source, free or cheap software. Something for open source software would be great.
Nesting software for cutting optimisation of curved shapes is expensive - What nesting software for sheet cutting optimisation is - Download cheap true-shape nesting or sheet cutting optimization software - e-cut.ru: $25 for nesting only- downloadable licensed software - Silhouetteamerica.com : $99 for nesting software & more - Ucancam.com: $145 or $270 for nesting only - free vector graphics software to use with nesting software - a glimpse of what other people pay for CAD nesting software - Nesting software open source - Cutting dies made from Swedish steel strip.
Viking prow possibly made with looted CAD CAM software

a glimpse of what other people pay for CAD nesting software 

http://www.fashion-incubator.com/archive/cad_pad_or_tukatech/ shows prices for clothes CAD software at $5,000 or $7,000. These CAD CAM footwear softwear companies don't show prices and probably charge the same or more. Clicking-about on google I saw an "economical" plugin at $500 so the mainstream probably charges more than $500. Some companies split the industry-specific or plotter-specific cutting parts of their software from the nesting parts, so a combined program might be double the cost of a halved one. If I were selling a product that only sells a few downloads a year, I might quote or hint-at a high price and leave it to my commission sales person to haggle if they want, taking other offers into account.

This is a comment from a ship-builder or someone using software for welding with a robot plasma blow lamp: "Trouble with using a 'generic' nesting package is that it will only output a full sheet as a DXF file, so the plasma package will then machine the sheet how it likes, instead of cutting the individual parts out. You can programme sheetcam to cut the individual parts out, but it is a pain if you have to do a lot. With plasma software that has nesting built in, it will be optimised to cut each part out separately". I have no idea what that means, but shipbuilders probably know.

A lot of people also try to raid software instead of paying for it - rather like ancient Vikings. It's claimed that one of the sellers on the fashion incubator list managed to forge the dongles from another software company and sell a re-labelled copy as his own. From a safe distance, you have to admire Vikings for their cheek as well as their designs, which were possibly made with looted CAD CAM software too. Oh and I have a post about Viking office copier paper, which is not so testosterone-fuelled as viking raids.

As for other glimpses...

Plus2D from Nirvanatec has some free versions on download sites, but I guess they're trials because http://www.nirvanatec.com/order.html quotes €650 or €800 for a working core module. Money transfer to their bank is cheap via Transferwise but  €650 or €800 are a lot in any currency - euros are worth about the same as US dollars.

http://www.shopbottools.com/mProducts/softwaretable.htm lists a few programs for "advanced nesting".
The site is about wood carving software so it may leave out some programs that just do nesting
Shopbot Partworks $795 on their site
Vectric Aspire $1,995 / £1,295 / €1,650 while their Vcarve Pro is $599 / £395 / €500 - I don't know the difference between these but if you are into wood carving they might be worth more research.
Delcam Artcam Express with nesting plugin £99 €125 $149 plus the plugin @ £299 €399 $499
Nesting software for cutting optimisation of curved shapes is expensive - What nesting software for sheet cutting optimisation is - Download cheap true-shape nesting or sheet cutting optimization software - e-cut.ru: $25 for nesting only- downloadable licensed software - Silhouetteamerica.com : $99 for nesting software & more - Ucancam.com: $145 or $270 for nesting only - free vector graphics software to use with nesting software - a glimpse of what other people pay for CAD nesting software - Nesting software open source - Cutting dies made from Swedish steel strip.

Nesting software open source

I searched and found none, just some code waiting for someone to make-up into a program if they want and if it works. Wikipedia lists open source embroidery programs for free, which used to be a similar expensive niche. There are open source Computer Aided Design programs listed on the sortable table here with a sort-column for "licence". Some of them look usable for new users, but none has anything like nesting mentioned in their wiki descriptions. There are open source vector graphics programs including Inkscape, with requests on its message boards for someone to write a nesting module.

http://opensourceecology.org/wiki/Open_source_textiles came-up when I searched for "Computer Aided Drafting" after reading some posts on http://www.fashion-incubator.com.
There's no program on the list that offers nesting, as far as I can guess. One of them called Valentia Project is a recognisable piece of software with an installer; others like Sodacad are less familiar so maybe someone better at understanding obscure softare packages should have a look, but I don't think there is a free nesting function in any of the programs on the list.
Nesting software for cutting optimisation of curved shapes is expensive - What nesting software for sheet cutting optimisation is - Download cheap true-shape nesting or sheet cutting optimization software - e-cut.ru: $25 for nesting only- downloadable licensed software - Silhouetteamerica.com : $99 for nesting software & more - Ucancam.com: $145 or $270 for nesting only - free vector graphics software to use with nesting software - a glimpse of what other people pay for CAD nesting software - Nesting software open source - Cutting dies made from Swedish steel strip.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Ink saving software, paper saving software, and some fonts

For printer running costs and fonts see also
I have some other posts about ink-saving and how to save paper with different layouts.

    Ink-saving software.
    ♦ Ink-saving software in this list costs a few pounds after a trial, with the one exception of Greencloud. It works by spreading the ink more thinly. Your printer driver probably already has a draft mode and you are able to print in grey, but refinements are a smoother pale print, while some programs try to make the edges of letters darker than the middle, or allow different settings for colours or types of print.

    ♦ Paper-saving software in the next list tends to be free. It works by allowing you to cut unwanted pages from a print-preview or combine more than one sheet onto a page. You may already have these on your printer driver or your ink-saving software. Refinements allow you to edit the layout of documents web pages just before printing, maybe cutting-out unwanted ads or tweaking the margins.

    The two functions sometimes appear in the same software and often appear in the same search results, showing software with confusingly similar names, so I have made a list of each in alphabetical order, starting here with ink-saving.

    ♦ Malware is a relatively gentle sort of unwanted software that can come bundled with other programs. Gentler than viruses, and so possibly not tracked by your virus tracker. Adobe ask you if you'd like to add a trial of AVG antivirus with their updates. Oracle Corporation ask if you'd like Ask Toolbar with their Java software. Sites like C|net that offer free hosting for file downloads can add surprises too, as well as allowing adverts saying "download" next to their download links. My worst was Tucows download of a program called 4X Ultrasaver, which seems no longer to exist, but the downloader asked my address and income before installing Safesearch.net and Crimewatch.  A search of Malware removal tools finds programs that can remove these. http://deletemalware.blogspot.co.uk has more detail. Malwarebytes Spybot and Lavasoft are well-known ones and Microsoft publishes a malicious-software removal tool.
    Malware takes more time & effort than is saved in ink, so if you're doing this for an organisation, experiment at home first, try to download from the orginal authors' web site, and then try to be nice to IT people at work and warn them what you are about to do.
    ♦ Thrift: on the theme of how to save money in organisations, moneysavingexpert.com/shopping/free-office-software is a guide that could turn geeky interests to good use. Most of the offerings have open source code and are totally free with no attempt to make money from licences to anyone, which keeps things simple. I don't know a good guide to which software is meant to be free for organisations and which is free for home use only, but bitdefender free version works well as a virus checker. The free version doesn't cover malware, and I should probably find a link to the best free programs to check for malware at work. There are also malware and virus checkers being developed by microsoft that are free for organisations to use, so a small business or voluntary organisation like FIFA that's likely to have a drop in revenue can try to cut costs that way. If they need to sell their Zurich offices, there are also online services like google docs that let staff work from home and probably be more efficient than if they all had to commute-in and sit together at work.
    .


    Cleverprint screen shotCleverprint is a €$50 ink saver tool with a 30 day trial period to do things that other programs do for free. It combines up to 8 pages onto a sheet, it allows removal of pages from the print preview, it converts to other file formats, and it does things that possibly someone in the world wants like adding a watermark or counting how many sheets it has printed. C|net's description mentions printing in paler ink, putting it in this ink-saving list but the publishers are quiet about that function so it may belong in the paper-saving list below.

    Ecofont example and logo

    Ecofont have a $25 Word  add-on, $60 for 3 copies or by quotation for more. It removes holes from the middle of typefaces: Arial, Verdana, Calibri, Times New Roman and Trebuchet. Ecofont test results are on this blog page and show a significant saving. Legibility looks better for print than screen, so a document written for both would be best with a tweak to the style sheet to use the ecofont version for print and the black version for screen.

    The holes are said not to show or not to distract when printed in body text, partly because ragged edges to the print spray will tend to fill them in. There is also a utility for printing only the more relevant parts of a document, a 14-day free demo edition, and anyone can download a free Spranq eco-sans typeface. It's based on a font you'd probably want to use on screen rather than for print and so not a great help but it is free. There is more about the impossible job of balancing cost and readability in a font on one of the re-top paragraphs below headed "Ink-saving fonts - first notes to self now expanded on other pages", which is true: there are other pages on this blog about ink saving fonts.



    screen shot
    Ecoprintsaver.com/contact is £35 english-language page from a Japanese company selling ink-saver software called ecoprint2, sometimes available on english language download sites. It has a 50 day free trial and then costs around £35 - the same price as another english language version of another piece of Japanese ink-saving software called Inksaver.com below. Screenprints suggest that they're different.

    Well reviewed on PC Advisor and Expertreviews.co.uk with worse user reviews on C|net  Other user star ratings on Softpedia or Fileforum are in the middle of the range as well.



    Getdimples.com is a piece of software like ecofont for putting grey in the middle of a shape and not the edge. There is no home edition or trial; price by quotation only which they state is linked to what you'll save.




    Greencloud printer driver from obviousidea.com is the only free printer driver that can screen shotspreads ink more thinly, and without large acknowledgements printed onto every sheet. After a few trial uses it requries and email address to give a free licence. The free version only sends ten pages at a time to the printer. After a few hundred pages it updated automatically and now has an modest 8pt footnote on each sheet saying "printed with the free version of Greencloud". It works well with another free product called printwhatyoulike.com below. Greencloud makes no claim of patents or subtlety in spreading the ink thinner. They show unusual confidence in their product by their competitors on a public blog post.

    My inkjet printed photographs well enough, I thought, on a medium setting but still squirted enough ink to soak through the cheap paper a little, showing that I'm no expert on choices of ink and paper. This printer driver takes a few seconds to load on my XP machine - slower than the driver that came with the printer - but it has thee settings of paleness, a quick tick-box for printing in black ink only, and a neat way of ticking or crossing the pages you wish to print on a display. This screen shot from their web site is from an earlier edition with less icons for deleting pages and less clear options for saving ink. Combining two or four sheets onto a page is the same. The program is free but requires an email address to receive a free licence code after a few trial uses. A more corporate €27 version with more reporting is available to buy, and donations are encouraged. The paid-for version of this printer driver for any program is more expensive than Leanprint for Word @ $20 and Priprinter personal edition @ £25. There are very few reviews on C|net


    Greenprint 2 from printgreener.com is $20 software for printing paler - no promises are made about how the print is made pale and whether it's better than any other shade of grey like the draft mode you've already got on your printer driver. There is a page preview that lets you delete unwanted pages, and the latest version will even highlight potentially deletable sections like web page headings according to C|net.

    Staples customers may also get a free access code from their account managers, although I can't find a reference to it on the Staples site. I did get a free reward card a few weeks after signing-up to their site which says "want special offers? simply email us and include your member number", so maybe if I emailed I'd get offered greenprint as a freebie.

    Greenprint 1 was available to free software hunters. Reviews of the free Greenprint are on C|net I tried the download on XP and got version 2 of the software, which installs a neat option of a precursor to your usual driver, coloured bright green, and slow to load first time in the day according to their video. All it does is preview pages together, which your software might do for you already. If you're printing from a web page or such it might be useful. Version 2 tries to show you an advert, but the link telling you how to advertise didn't work for me first time. I got an "unexpected error" first time trying to print, and uninstalled before trying anything more. Another link to a CNet review mentions the company's specially-commissioned condensed font called Greenprint evergreen regular which gets a bad review here.


    screen shot of fineprint 8Fineprint.com have a $50 program from the makers of PDF Factory, with a few features for people who do regular fiddly jobs. There is not much off for quantity.  A free version with a purchase link printed as a bold footnote on each page exists, possibly with a time limit, much as with the similar Priprinter software has a red purchase link.
    This is how Fineprint describe the software:
    -Universal print previewer
    -Delete unwanted pages
    -Convert to grayscale
    -Lighten content to save ink
    -Remove blank pages
    -Crop pages
    -Edit text
    -Print multiple pages on a single sheet
    -Print electronic letterhead
    -Archive print jobs. The "lighten" function is a tickbox under "convert to greyscale" on newer editions.
    Fineprint gets a good review on PCMag and high star ratings from C|net users.


    screen shot of ink guard software
    https://Inkguard.com charge $10 a year or $15 for 2 years, and by quotation for larger organisations. The url only works with "https", not "http".
    You can also claim a free year's licence if you buy an ink cartridge from the US company, reviewed here which also sells industrial inks, pigment, CISS inkjet converstion systems and universal refills.
    The graphics of the program are brash, but claims of careful management of ink coverage to reduce overlap are subtle - very similar to Preton below.




    Inksaver software control panel - like a printer driver, but with a slider control for the level of ink economy. There is a button to print a sample page. The image is animated, showing one or two slider settings.
    Inksaver.com sells Inksaver in english @ $36 for patent methods of making your type grey, running seamlessly in the background after a quick slide of a slider control and printing a preview if you want to show how each level of ink-saving would effect a sample paragraph: the samples are neatly printed on one page.  Medianavi.co.jp is the parent site in Japanese with more variations, more support, and higher prices - this is a translation. They also sell a program to help you cut the backgrounds off photographs. English and Japanese programs have a free two week trial. I've downloaded a version and found that it makes my black lazerprint address labels hard to read, with a mesh of little holes in the black, but to be fair the program is only intended for ink jets.

    Reviews on
    http://inksaver.software.informer.com/ Inkfarm.com/Printer-Software-for-Saving-Ink

    PCAdvisor.co.uk/features/printing/3291440/10-downloads-to-help-you-save-money-on-printing/



    screen shot of Adobe Leanprint software to re-format word excel and browser pages for printing, as well as trying to spread ink thinner
    LeanPrint from Adobe is under $20 for one computer or by quotation for larger offices where it could work well. They don't make it obvious how long the free trial period is, but there is one. According to PCAdvisor, Leanprint only works on recent adobe software or microsoft word or excel as found in large corporate office, "using patent-pending methods to redo the layout of documents and intelligent techniques to cut down toner consumption". A video shows text converted at a click to different column and margin sizes instantly, which is impressive (although a cheaper program called Printeco claims to reduce white space in one click, with no thinning of ink). A PCAdvisor review finds the program rather unfinished except for the specific market of people who use Word, Excel, and recent Adobe products. If an organisation is using them, it could probably save a lot by using open source alternatives from osalt.com and think about ink later. On the other hand a lot of organisations have a religious devotion to Microsoft and Adobe, so this program could help them. It's also good for large formal organisations where someone sets the page layout centrally; this is a way of laying out the pages better.


    Diagram of how Preton pixel optimiser claims to reduce the overlap of circles printed by your printer in order to save inkPreton.com/technology.asp have a $33.60 program which claims to reduce overlap of circles made by inkjets and laser printers. Support and use on more terminals cost extra; business packages with ways of controlling your colleagues and setting defaults are sold by quotation. Preton have flirted with free offers but their preton.com/free.asp page now diverts to Preton.com/pretonsaver_home.asp, with a confusing "free download" label for the trail edition and charges for a second re-installation of the paid-for edition. Preton gets a 3 star review on C|net .

    The program claims to measure saving, but you'd need a very accurate weighing machine under your printer and two identical long print jobs to compare it with default settings or a printers' built-in economy mode. I found one article that claimed 600 dot per inch (dpi) printing looks exactly the same as 300 dpi printing on normal paper, but uses more ink; you can cut costs straight away without special software just by changing the default to 300dpi.

    Experience: starting to work more often, but too much trouble. I paid for a software licence to use this on my XP machine and old inkjet printer. I could not find a trial; I don't believe a trial is available, which begs questions about why not. The paid-for software produced a quarter-sized image of my page from Chrome, and then no image at all: it produced error messages to report to Preton. Used from Firefox, I just gets error messages with a screen offering to report them to Preton..I tried asking on their facebook site what page of their help files to look at, but have had no response. After a while I found  /ContactUs_Support.asp on their web site... but the software started working anyway about a month after I bought it. CONTROL+ALT+DELETE on my Windows software shows it running in the background, "PRETON > LAUNCH" on my file menu gets it going a bit more, and if I select an ordinary printer driver from Firefox instead of Greencloud then I get an option to print a test card at six levels of ink saving. The settings are slightly more subtle than Greencloud. Slider switches instead of 0 + 3 fixed levels of ink saving in Greencloud. Three switches for text, graphics and photos instead of one in Greencloud. A day or two later the system stopped working again. Meanwhile I had printed a few letters at diffferent levels of ink saving and magnified them to try to understand this subtle patented technology. Nothing to see. Fairly random dots represent letters - not dots round the edge or anything so subtle.

    Meanwhile I think some of the ink is running low so it's not a good test, with black coming-out as red on higher saving levels.



    screen shot of print and save from ab-tools.comPrint and Save from ab-tools.com @ €30 has a slider bar for reducing colour intensity and options for deleting of combining pages from a print preview.

    The previous version 1.0 was free on a 14 day trial with a bundle of programs via something called IQinstall that gets bad reviews. Version 1.1 seems to be available from ab-tools.com directly.
    Features on the screen shot look the same as the free Greencloud program except that ink-saving is done on a slider bar instead of a choice of three economy settings.



    screenshot of printfab
    Printfab @ €50 after 30 days' trial is aimed at fiddly photo jobs including more colour profile information than I understand. Screenshots of the different pages look well-designed and clear, so a few of these fiddly jobs might justify the effort of learning how t use them. On the last tab of menus and towards the end of the manual it states "Total Ink Maximum: with this control you  can limit the maximum amount of ink appklied per printer dot. Its purpose is mainly to prevent oversoaking of the paper and "bleeding"."
    "intensity of colours does not increase linearly with the amount of applied ink ... similar to a saturation curve ... in the upper region an application of 20% more ink results in only a 1% increase in colour saturation. By cutting back in this region, you can save ink quite effectively"

    "Combined ink cartridge ... reduce the limit of the ink that tends to be used up first (in most cases the yellow ink) - this was the lifetime of the cartridge can usually be prolonged by up to 30%" Reviews on C|net are positive except for the price.




    screen shot of Pripinter print driver showing rulers and a magnifier for editing, and ink-saving options from about 5% to 70%
    Priprinter.com - a bundle of pre-press features for regular fiddly layout and editing jobs - ink saving by printing thinner with protection for sharp edges, paper saving by easy deletion of unwanted pages, changing margins with very careful measuring guides and magnifiers. The more expensive version allows automated scripting, saving to pdf, and more detailed editing options. All these options take-up several menu pages which cost in learning time as well as purchase price, but for people who do this work regularly the learning-curve is less important.

    There are too many options to describe without understanding them well but the help file says this: "Inks saving settings are available in the effects tab and optionally in the print preview pane. Ink saving can be controlled with level - from 5 to 70%. Where 5% is related to best quality and less ink saving. 70% gives best ink saving. Amounts in menu are for reference only and may not show results of real savings. However they are quite close. These levels was calibrated on our test pages, mostly made from standard text.
    Real saving may vary from page to page, depending on contents. This is absolutely fine, since priPrinter tries to maintain quality of edges. Great number of such edges in relation to solid filled areas can reduce ink saving ratio. At the same time it allows to achieve better quality of the whole printout."
    Free with an 18pt red diagonal message on the bottom right corner of your printed page to say "printed with priprinter trial software. Buy at http://pripinter.com", or paid-for with options from $25 to $95. Priprinter gets near a 5 star review on C|net http://www.priprinter.com/features.htm

    Tonersaver.com appears separate from inksaver. It is geared to recent microsoft operating systems and non-postscript printers. Ink isn't mentioned.

    Free paper-saving software

    Print driver software to help you spot waste pages is something you might have already. One artical suggests that Samsung printer drivers nowadays offer options for converting to black and white or line drawing. Subtler programs like Printwhatyoulike let you highlight bits to delete from the temporary draft on its way to the printer, making this an good first step to use before one of the grey-scale programs above. Hewlett Packard offer some of their printer driver as a free standalone product for printing web pages from Internet Explorer or Firefox called HP Smartprint. Mine installed itself in Chrome as well, but hasn't taken to Firefox. It turned my vegan shoe shop front page into a neat grid of pictures that would be a good start for something to send to customers with orders. It left-out one big picture and linked text from the top of the page, concentrating on the detailed grid of pictures further down that it suggested printing under a generic title layout.

    There are too many paper-saving print programs to list - some adapting print drivers and others adapting browsers for printing html pages off the screen. They come-up on the same searches as ink-saving programs, so there are also too many to ignore. This is a list of a few.

    Printeco @ £5 has a free advertising supported version. It does not spread ink thinly, but does have a one-click refomatting option to reduce white space in a socument. I mean document. It works in windows 7 or 8 and doesn't mention Windows XP but seems to work on it. It prints from a limited number of programs and the free version puts a tiny advert for an ink company on the top right of your Word menu. There is a Chrome browser version. C|net gives them a mention and mentions plans for a future office suite.

    Printfriendly.com also tries to cut-out the complication of making printer-friendly versions of any page, so you can have an automatically-updated printer-friendly link for any page like this one for this site, without having to write a CSS file. I find that the draft for my commercial site - a vegan shoe shop - doesn't show enough of the pictures I'd like to print for customers. When I last looked, it showed one big picture from the top of the page and left-out all the smaller ones. The page may have changed since then.

    Printwhatyoulike.com is similar with more options by default. I find the draft for my vegan shoe shop a lot more promising at a first go. You can also use it from their web site to process any url, so there's no need to download or install anything if you're using someone else's computer. I've taken to using it as a first choice, and hope to use something like Greencloud or Preton as well in order to make the images a bit paler and not to soak through the paper so much.

    screenshot of Iprint paper saving softwareMore obscure are programs that add an extra printer driver with extra printer options, for any kind of print.
    Clicktoconvert.com/iprint/ - free print driver that identifies empty pages, helps you remove pages from the total print queue, and makes 2-per-page easy. I've installed a copy as my existing print driver was quite basic, and now have an option to print 2 or 4 to a page or reduce size which I didn't have before. It loads like an alternative printer. Clicktoconvert.com sell cheap software for converting to html and pdf.


    Obviousidea.com/windows-software/greencloud-printer/is a similar free print driver that I've put in the top paragraph next to paid-for software because it has an option to spread ink more thinly



    Ink-saving fonts - first notes to self now expanded on other pages

    Spranq eco sans saves ink compared to Deja Vu sans, the open-source Verdana-like screen font that it copies except for holes towards the middle of the shapes. Obviously, people print in grey or "draft mode", with holes evenly distributed throughout the shapes, but Spranq think their system emphasises the edges more, to aid readability. They think you hardly notice the grey, and the interest created by a new font might encourage you to use it anyway if you weren't using draft mode.

    Century Gothic saves ink compared to Spranq Eco Sans, because it's light and spindley, with a bit of fatness to compensate. You need more narrower margins to fit the same text on a page at the same point size. It might also be tiring to read as paragraphs; one glance suggest it should be used on the bold setting, which is like a fat Helvetica. Spranq sell software for taking holes out of other typefaces, including Century Gothic if you want to pay; that's a more fair comparison.

    It's probably possible to compare serif typefaces in the same way: Ryman Ecofont is grey by default v Garamond which is black. Ryman do not sell software for making text grey in a readable way; they just give-away the one grey serif font made of lines along the pattern of the shapes to appear almost black.

    If you have £18 to spend you might try an all-grey font designed to look black at paragraph sizes:  Fontcraft inksaver . Some free fonts are listed below.

    Finally, one article states that inkjet printers should be left on standby. Turn the mains off by pulling-out the flex if you really have to, because plugging it in again might not trigger their re-booting cleaning cycle that wastes a lot of ink. Using an inkjet regularly is another way of saving this cleaning cost. Another article suggests the opposite: use a surge protector to avoid your printer using any trickle of current while on standby.
    • http://www.ecofont.com/ - Spranq Eco Sans in grey with white holes down the middle
    • http://www.rymaneco.co.uk/ - Ryman Ecofont serif in grey with white lines down the middle 
    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Century_Gothic#Printer_ink_usage -Century Gothic (spindly sans serif)
    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garamond (spindly serif. Spindly fonts need more space & less margin)
    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Times_New_Roman

      Inkfarm.com/Recommended-Ink-Saving-Fonts--- is the best test and suggests Baskerville Old Face as a cheap font which fits generally accepted ideas of legibility in body text.
      Strategicsourcing.gov/print-wise vaguely suggests the last three fonts on the list, but their other daft advice suggests everyone in a given area walks to a central printer so what do they know?
      A basic test from Which magazine put Times Roman top, ahead of Calbri and then Century Gothic, with Trebouchet and then Arial behind - making you wonder why the public sector tends to use Arial. Bottom of the Which list of five are the screen fonts Tehoma and Verdana, unless you read them on screen, in which case they use no ink at all. Which did not test the two ink-saving fonts.
      A basic test by Printers.com put Century Gothic, Ecofont and Times Roman as the top three close competitors, Calibri noticably behind, and Arial among the screen fonts Tehoma and Verdana near the bottom. Franklin Gothic Medium was worst while Garamond, Ryman Ecofont and Greenprint Evergreen were not tested.

      The reason I call these basic tests is that nobody seems able to find an expert who can test for ink use, layout on paper, and readability all at once. Inkfarm's recommendation is based on a good hunch about legebility - the typeface part of it - but the others simply compare the same text in different fonts. As a result, they state the obvious: a light font uses less ink than a bold font; a grey font less than ink than a black font. The nearest they get to discussing readability is to assume the case of someone sending a short letter that easily fits onto a side of paper, so readability can be sorted out with a larger or smaller type size or margins after the short list of fonts has been chosen. Adobe's leanprint has gone further in suggesting a readable layout for less money, but other software and reviews stick to a given set of words in a situation where ease of reading is not important.

      We seem to live in a post-technical world. For example I was going to add http://www.fonts.com/font/greenprint-technologies-llc/evergreen/regular (greenprint evergreen) to the list of ink-saving fonts until I read this review, which says it is just a condensed font done in a botched way with a tree-like gimmic for the T.

      One expert, Gerard Unger who taught typography at Leiden University, believed he had a more economic font for newspaper columns than Times Roman, and managed to sell it at extraordinary prices. (It is possible to download a typeface called Gulliver for free, but whether it's the same one or legal I don't know). Googling of "Gerard Unger" & "Gulliver" reveals that he thinks serif typefaces are more economical for a given level of readability for body text, but that tests are not sufficiently clear to callibrate with numbers. He also claims that an Adobe type management program can measure the surface area of a given font, but it turns out that his font expensive to buy - has anyone tweaked one of the cheaper font managers to calculate the surface area of a typeface from a font file or a page of text? I don't know so I wrote an ink coverage page about what I can google. Other people have used the one month free trail of a program called apfill to compare font coverage.

      Lastly, the anecdote about Leiden University halving their paper costs was after they changed the format of documents as well as the typeface to something just as readable for less money. Maybe they put all the text into average 10-word columns ragged right like a newspaper. So more technical information is needed to to a good test of layout, font, and readability together. It would be nice if college graphics departments offered this kind of information for free, but no.

    The address to use in a window envelope should be readable by machines - OCRB is a classic machine font.
    In the UK where there is no formal address format, you can reduce ink by aiming for three lines as a default, and suggesting three lines on any boxes where people fill-in their addresses, so that the writer has to think what the essentials are, and may leave-off a bit of free text like a job title, a name of a trading estate, or a county. 

    The body of the text should be readable by humans with serif typefaces generally found easier to read. 10-word ragged right columns work well for newspapers. Humans are those things that aren't computers, and include humans over 50 without their specs on who like 13-point, humans in two minds about whether they want to read the text or like reading at all, humans in bad light with the TV on as a distraction, and humans trying to read while commuting. Humans trying to deliver for Royal Mail as temporary staff, working when it's cold and rainy are particularly important. It shouldn't matter how the text is crammed on a page to suit humans, but fat text will need smaller margins or lower line spacing and so be less easy to read. A two column layout with a ragged right margin might be possible on an A4 sheet, although surprising, and Adobe's leanprint solution might be able to re-format automatically if that helps.



    I have another post headed "paper" about where to get cheap A4 80gsm paper


    Bottled ink or toner is cheaper

    One day I will get the hang of using bottled ink - I did if for a while and found it fiddly. There's also a post-industrial lack of information on the web about what type of ink is made by who in the UK at how much per litre, but playing on ebay gets a good deal in the end.
    http://www.wikihow.com/Refill-and-Reuse-a-Printer-Cartridge shows how to refill with a syringe; a search of "CISS" shows systems like medical drips for trying to top-up your cartridges as they run through flexible tubes from ink bottles - a good system once it's working and often used in print shops for posters or T shirt printing.

    Dry powder for toner cartridges - for example in the cheap duplex Samsung machine - can be re-filled by melting a hole in the cartridge with an apple corer and sealing-up with tape, but chips on the newer cartridges are increasingly awkward for refillers while the Samsing machine bellows-out unused toner into a special bin instead of putting it back into the cartridge. Lazer printers also
    had expensive drums inside, last time I used them, that are a chore to replace but leave lines and marks on the page when worn-out. There is also a chance of embarrassment for someone who puts incompatible toner into a machine. So the process only suits people who have researched the best machine to try and refill and at least one refill company offers a list of recommended models including some of the Brother range, that can be refilled by pouring powder into a drawer and can print double-sided.


    This blog comes from Veganline.com, the site that sells UK-made vegan shoes online for vegetarians & vegans The next post is about a different subject - cheap Nesting software for 2D curved pattern cutting optimisation, such as the pattern cutting needed to make flat sheets into shoe upper shapes