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Software saves trees, cash and headaches, says creator

  • Story Highlights
  • Software prevents computers from printing unnecessary pages from Internet
  • It might save millions of trees, millions of pounds of pollution, creator says
  • At 6½ cents a page, one user saved enough to pay for software in one day
  • World Bank member and Fortune 500 companies are also testing it
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By Diane Hawkins-Cox
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(CNN) -- It's happened to all of us: You print something from the Web, and all you get is a sheet of paper with nothing but a URL or something equally useless.

New software is designed to prevent printing blank pages from the Web, its inventor says.

New software is designed to prevent printing blank pages from the Web, its inventor says.

This printing pain in the neck happened to Hayden Hamilton so much that he invented a solution: GreenPrint, software that analyzes what a computer sends to a printer.

It looks for pages that have no type or just a few lines of type (users can set the parameters). Then, the software automatically eliminates these pages from the print job.

Users can reselect the pages if desired and deselect any other pages they don't want to print -- say, the pages of legal jargon at the end of an airline reservation.

The software lets users eliminate images from a print job -- for instance, the maps generated in online driving directions -- thus saving ink.

GreenPrint also allows users to avoid printing altogether by saving documents as PDF files.

"The average employee prints about 10,000 pages a year, and roughly 20 percent of that is waste," Hamilton said from his GreenPrint office in the Old Town section of Portland, Oregon.

"We estimate if [GreenPrint] got into widespread use, in the U.S. alone it would save tens of millions of trees a year and hundreds of millions of pounds" of polluting carbon-dioxide gases.

Leigh Stringer, a vice president at the Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum architectural firm, heard about GreenPrint from bloggers and decided to give it a try.

"I'm an architect by education and print a lot of large drawings as well as a lot of documents," she said from her Washington office. "So the ability I have to self-select just a little bit saves a lot of paper fast."

With GreenPrint, it takes a few extra seconds to print. But, Stringer said, "In a way, that's a good thing, because you take that pause and decide if you really wanted to print it or not."

GreenPrint tells users how many pages, and how much money, they have saved. Stringer said that based on a rate of 6½ cents per page, she paid off the $35 cost of the software in one day.

But now, GreenPrint is offering a free version of the software for non-business use, supported by advertising. Tens of thousands of people have downloaded the program in the weeks since its January 28 debut.

"Our goal is nothing short of ending wasteful printing worldwide," Hamilton said.

The International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank, is using GreenPrint in a pilot project, sending feedback to the company to help fine-tune the software for the corporation's needs.

And Hamilton said that more than two dozen Fortune 500 companies are testing out the product. He's hopeful that several deals will be closed this year.

So, is Hamilton getting rich off this? "Not yet," he said with a laugh. "It's still early days, but hopefully over the next couple of years I'll start at least making a salary."

All About InternetNature and the EnvironmentPortland (Oregon)

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