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Printing documents from Microsoft Office 2007 (SP2) uses more ink than printing from Office 2003?

Issue #0928/2 – As software packages are upgraded to include more sophisticated features and ‘look and feel’, there can be an impact on Total Cost of Printing. We tested Microsoft’s Office 2007 against Office 2003 to discover that Office 2007 could cost a user as much as 11% more on printing.

Noticed when printing some copies of the CharisCo office colour test page, we decided to put it to the test and see if Office 2007 really is using more ink. We carefully weighed each cartridge in an inkjet printer (four individual ink system) before starting the tests and then printed 100 pages from MS Excel 2007 using normal mode printing on plain paper. Then the cartridges were weighed again.

CharisCo colour test pageCharisCo colour test page

Immediately after re-weighing the cartridges, a batch of 100 pages was sent to print from Office Excel 2003, again using normal print mode and plain paper. Then the cartridges were all weighed again and the amount of ink used during each test run calculated.

This showed that more ink is definitely being used when printing the test page from Excel 2007 but not by the same amount across the inks.

Cost of Printing

Office Excel 2003 vs. Office Excel 2007

Black was found to have the biggest difference, at 18%! At the other end of the scale though, only 1% more yellow ink was used. With Cyan and Magenta using 13% and 12% more ink respectively, this brings the average increase to 11%.

It is not surprising that it is the black that is most affected, for the reasons outlined below.

Pie Chart printed from Office 2003Pie Chart printed from Office 2003
Pie Office 2007Pie Chart printed from Office 2003
Line Office 2003Line printed from Office 2003
Line Office 2007Line printed from Office 2007
Text Office 2003Text printed from Office 2003
Text Office 2007Text printed from Office 2007
Small text Office 2003Small text printed from Office 2003
Small text Office 2007Small text printed from Office 2007

Clearly the main feature of Office 2007 that is guilty of pushing up the amount, and thereby the cost, of ink used during printing is the rendering of fill areas in some Microsoft Excel charts. Microsoft has enhanced the characteristics within Excel 2007 to include graduated fills within pie charts and, while this certainly increases the attractiveness of the chart, it also increases the amount of ink used.

Black is being used to provide a large proportion of the darkening within the graduations, hence black ink usage going up by 18%, but it is also clear that more of the colour inks are also being used to give a really dense and vibrant fill.

Although there are some minor differences in the way fills and graduated fills are handled in other chart types, and also in MS PowerPoint and MS Word, none are as noticeable as those in the Excel pie charts. In fact, pie charts in Word 2003 and Word 2007 are all-but identical, so Excel is definitely the prime culprit here.

However, not every page created and printed includes pie charts and this is not the only factor pushing up ink usage.

Some lines are printed in a noticeably heavier weight from Excel 2007, again primarily affecting the black ink usage. In our test page it is most noticeably the chart boundaries, together with axis and grid lines. In fact, almost everything about the Excel 2007 charts is heavier and denser.

What does not appear to be affected in the same way is text. Although it is possible to believe that printed text is bolder, differences are not substantial enough to be readily measurable. The same goes for text printed from an MS Word document (CharisCo office text page).
The only discernable evidence that text printed from MS Word uses more ink is in the small footer text. Here the text looks a fraction heavier, noticeable by there being a smaller gap between letters.

What this also emphasises strongly is the significance of the software side of the equation when testing for toner and ink yield. To adjust the test page so that the printed coverage is 5% or 20% is a nonsense because users just don’t do that (see article for further comment on yield measurement pre-ISO standards). Testing has to be undertaken in a manner that directly compares the output from different printers, taking into account the impact of the printer driver and data processing, rather than effectively just measuring the amount of toner or ink in the cartridge (which can be accomplished in other ways).

Overall, MS Office 2007 users probably will not experience an average 11% increase in printing costs but the fact remains that they will experience some increase and those printing a high proportion of business graphics will be most affected.

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