June 30, 2001

Just get Fineprint. I never thought I’d say that, least of allabout something as seemingly unsexy as this low-key utilitarian printingsoftware. But I am, and I’ll say it again. It’s the single most useful pieceof software I’ve come across recently. I use it almost non-stop. It would helpanyone who prints in quantity, ie most lawyers! It’s indispensable for Webpages.

I encountered it on a magazine cover disk. That free versiondisplayed ads and printed only Web pages. The full version (which I’m nowtrialling and will certainly buy) prints Word documents, Acrobat PDF files andother formats. It seems superb value for money at US$39.95, or £28 from UKdistributor Software Partners. There are reductions for bulk purchases and alsoa network-ready version with similar bulk discounts.

Why does Fineprint rate such raves? It provides amazing printingflexibility, not just in how many pages you can print per sheet of paper, butalso in editing and combining different print jobs without having to edit theunderlying documents. It’s very user-friendly too.

I mainly print documents ‘2 up’, with 2 pages squeezed sideby side onto 1 sheet of landscape paper – obviously with text/graphics halvedin size. But it can also print 4 up, 8 up, in booklet form, and duplex, ie onboth sides of the paper (even if your printer or source application does notsupport double-sided printing).

Pages printed 2 up are perfectly legible for my own reading, egdrafts, and of course I have now halved my printer ink and paper consumption.Better still, I’m now rid of those annoying final pages often found whenprinting from the Web – you know the sort, with one line of copyright text orsuperfluous graphics using up a whole sheet of paper.

How does Fineprint work? You install as usual by doubleclickingthe single .exe file; and, a nice change, it doesn’t make you reboot (unlessyou’re reinstalling). It crops up simply as an extra ‘virtual’ printer. Sowhen you print, just choose Fineprint as your printer from the dropdown printerlist and hit OK.

After a few seconds the Fineprint window pops up with anaccurate scrollable print preview. Here you pick options before printing. It’svery intuitive, but descriptions also pop up on hovering your pointer over anoption.

You can select scaling (2 up, 4 up, etc – even ‘Repeat’ toprint multiple instances of a page on one sheet – twice with 2 up, four timeswith 4 up etc); set borders for individual pages on the same sheet (on, off,‘smart’); for 4 and 8 up, order pages on the sheet down or across; setmargins (from none to large, or ‘original’) and gutter (none, short, longside); and choose how many copies to print.

Fineprint prints using your default printer but you can pickanother destination printer from its Printer dropdown list. You can also selectthe usual printer Options (portrait/landscape, collation) – plus extras likeduplex settings, PDF font correction, treatment of coloured text, page rotationand extra margins (you can print a test page to check margin correction). Awizard is provided to help test your printer’s capabilities.

In the Fineprint window you can pinpoint those annoying‘orphan’ Web pages with just a banner ad or single line, and rightclick anddelete them. Doing this 1 up prints pages still full-sized, but just withoutthat ‘orphan’ page.

Zoom in by leftclicking a page, out by leftclicking again. Morezoom levels are available by rightclicking and selecting the desired option.(The only non-obvious feature I’ve come across: after zooming to full-screenin order to switch back to the main window or indeed another application youmust leftclick again or close the full-screen window – whereas initially I’dthought closing it would cancel the Fineprint jobs. Alt-Tab doesn’t work, norclicking the taskbar).

Once you’re happy with the options, simply click OK to print:simple. But there’s more.

Don’t click OK but leave the Fineprint window open, and switchto something else: Web, word processor, e-mail, etc. Print another document(choosing Fineprint as your printer) and it is appended seamlessly to the‘print preview’ window. Repeat for several documents from whatever source,ie different Web sites or (with the full version of Fineprint) Word document,e-mail, PDF document etc. The whole batch prints in one go when you finallyclick OK in Fineprint.up

With a 2-up print job having an odd number of pages, where thelast page would use half a sheet, you can use the otherwise blank half bystarting the next job on the same sheet. Obviously that makes sense only withrelated jobs. But this way you can glue together, into one print batch, relateddocuments from many different Web sites or (for the full version) applications.

To tidy up the batch before finally sending to the printer, youcan by rightclicking insert a blank page before or after any page in the‘print preview’; delete individual pages or individual jobs in the batch(and undelete jobs); ‘page delete mode’ lets you bulk delete several, notnecessarily adjacent, pages by clicking each page in turn (delete a range withShift-click); or through the Jobs tab, you can even reorder print jobs.

Conveniently send several unrelated print jobs to print at oncewith a single OK in Fineprint by leaving Fineprint open while you printdifferent documents in a row (there’s a ‘Defer’ feature to assist). A‘Separate jobs’ section starts different jobs on a new side or new sheet, orcontinues a job on the same sheet as the previous job’s – or just manuallyinsert blank pages as desired.

Web pages printing with text cut off at the righthand margin?Before printing, in your browser printer setup choose a bigger paper size likeA4+. In Fineprint’s printer options select A4. Fineprint automatically scalesdown the document to A4. (And yes, can make A4 the default paper size inFineprint’s printer options via its properties in the usual Printers folder,although on first installing it defaults to US letter.) Similarly for Web pages,eg tables, truncated at the bottom instead of the right.

Another great feature to save paper, ink and time: print Webpages or other documents without graphics (tick Skip bitmap output under theSettings tab). You can do this even after you’ve printed to Fineprint – theprint preview automatically updates to show the no-graphics version (if youchange your mind, just untick Skip bitmap output).

On leaving Fineprint by clicking OK or cancelling, itautomatically saves the job to an Autosave folder (you can set how many files itautosaves). So you can print, in one go, a previously printed job, eg a batch of‘parcelled up’ documents, or retrieve a cancelled job from the Autosavefolder, set options as usual and print. You can also, via the Jobs tab, manuallysave a job and name the resulting .fp file, or simply rename a job.

To extract text from a job (even Web pages), save as .txtinstead of .fp, with line breaks or without. You can also save as a metafile(see below). The full version allows saving a sheet to clipboard as a bitmap(mono or colour), or JPEG or TIFF file.

Share a saved Fineprint file, eg by e-mailing it to others whohave Fineprint. They can open it, print, save text from certain pages, changelayout before printing etc, exactly as if they had printed the documents in thesaved batch themselves.

Youcould make Fineprint your default printer driver, because a Bypass option sendsprint jobs to the printer as normal (ie one full page per sheet), and then youcan select 2 up etc if appropriate for a job. Or just hold the Shift key whenprinting to Fineprint, to put Fineprint in bypass mode (by enabling Quickbypass).

Other useful things? Print just onesheet by rightclicking it in the print preview; even change to 4 up, print asheet and change back to 2 up etc. By rightclicking, save a sheet to clipboardas text to paste elsewhere, or as a metafile (a scalable rendition of the sheet)or a bitmap. The Settings tab’s display controls enable maintenance of anycolumns in documents, and right to left ordering for languages reading in thatdirection (a thoughtful touch). An informational tab’s resettable countershows how much you’ve printed and how much paper you’ve saved via Fineprint,useful when preparing a business case for buying Fineprint.

With the full version you cancreate a form (eg letterhead) from any document you’ve printed to Fineprint,then print documents from any application, eg Web or PDF, onto the form.Similarly with ‘stationery’, ie adjustable watermark, header and footer(which can include date/time stamp, page info, user/printer name etc). Is thereanything these people haven’t thought of?

What about problems? So far, only one: certain Web pages stopprinting part way through a physical sheet, or claim to be printing thoughnothing emerges from the printer, and the printer driver/queue freezes, forcinga reboot. This has only happened with 3 or 4 Web pages I’ve encountered (eventhough other pages on the same sites print fine) so presumably it’s the waythose pages have been written that Fineprint can’t cope with. But they printusing my normal printer driver with no difficulty. Given that it’s 3 or 4pages out of over 2000 printed so far, I can live with it. Otherwise, it seemsmore stable than most.

Both inbuilt Help and the Fineprint Web site are excellent –good tutorials and FAQ on the latter. Tech support responded the next day theone time I contacted them, although one of my questions was covered in the FAQ(cardinal sin!). Testimonials I saw on Fineprint’s Web site (sinceinexplicably apparently removed) included, interestingly, a law firmemployee’s, enthusing about how clients and others loved the output. My ownreview seems very unoriginal, in repeating a common theme there (‘the one mostuseful utility I’ve found!’ etc).

Free trial versions are downloadable of Fineprint Standard,Enterprise (the networkable version) and 3.1 – no time limit but only printsup to 8 pages, with Fineprint advertising at the bottom. The free ad-supportedWeb page-only version was unfortunately discontinued, reportedly due to problemswith the ad software, though I’ve had no difficulties with it myself. I’venot tried the networkable (Windows only) Enterprise version but Fineprint seemto have given some thought to this: features described on the site includecentralised installation/updates from a server, network client support and NTsecurity support. There’s also a free SDK download so developers can useFinePrint as a development platform for custom printing applications.Refreshingly, the prices for Enterprise version licences are no greater than forthe standard version, with similar reductions for bulk purchases.

In sum, for the price I really can’t fault Fineprint. It’sbrilliantly thought through, gives a great deal of control over your printing,is a doddle to use, saves paper and ink, is good for your finances as well asthe environment, and saves bulk and weight when carrying papers around – allat a very reasonable price. If I could invest my pittance in the company, Iwould It is apparently unglamorous utilities like this that just quietly get onwith the job, and do it excellently, which will take over the world …

System Requirements:

Windows 95, 98, ME, NT4 or 2000 (even a US$19.95 limitedfeatures version for Windows 3.1).


£28/US $39.95 (single licence), £27/$36 each for 2-14 licencesetc on a scale down to £20.70/$29 for 50-249 licences (with more options in theUS, going down to $15 each for 999+ licences) but Software Partners are offeringa small discount equivalent to one step up in the scale, to SCLmembers.Installation on multiple computers if not used simultaneously is allowed(Standard version only), but there’s no concurrent licensing option for theEnterprise version.

Further Info/ContactDetails:


Software Partners (UK distributor),phone 01926 842998

WK Hon is a BankingInformation Lawyer at Sidley Austin Brown & Wood. All trademarks and servicemarks acknowledged.