Remember those headlines, ‘Welcome to the paperless office’, ‘No more paper in the future’. ‘Paper mills set to close, very soon indeed’? Headlines, I’m sure, that PC Pro was guilty of in the dim, distant past. Well, I don’t need to look much further than the past seven days to realise that the paperless office is as likely to exist as Narnia.

You see, I spent Thursday night printing out photographs. An evening that should have been devoted to some random American crime drama on Channel 5 was instead spent cursing photo-editing software. It took me 30 minutes to coerce the damn thing into printing a passport photo that the UK’s near-militant Passport Office might deign to accept – it had already rejected my first offering because the face was ‘too big’.

To be frank, at 10pm that Thursday evening I didn’t give a meerkat’s neck hair for how much it was costing me to print out a 6 x 4in photo. I just wanted to leave the office so that I could arrive home at some time before midnight. But in one of those bitter, ironic twists that Alanis Morissette might have sung about if she’d looked up the word ‘irony’ before writing her song, I’d spent most of that afternoon examining this month’s article about the true cost of ink.

And I have to admit, it’s frightening stuff. Until it decided to break down around a month ago, I was the proud owner of an HP Deskjet 970CXi. I needed a new one, which is why every second I spent reading about inkjet printers in our latest, mammoth investigation was time well spent.

Because this month, we haven’t just stretched the inkjet-testing envelope, we haven’t merely pushed the boundaries. We haven’t simply gone an extra mile. In fact, I struggle for a friendly metaphor. All I know is that Dave Stevenson and Jim Martin – the intrepid duo who put in all the hard work behind our inkjet group test-cum-feature – will never be able to look an ink cartridge in the face again. In their quest for definitive results, they’ve disassembled printers, weighed 204 cartridges to the nearest milligram and used almost two pints of the world’s most expensive fluid: printer ink. No wonder their investigation took over three months to complete.

It’s been worth it, though, because they’ve unearthed secrets even the News of the World would deem too scandalous to print. The fact some printers waste half their ink just during cleaning cycles. The fact a 6 x 4in photo on some inkjets will cost you 25p per print, while on others you’re paying around 60p.

One of our most controversial conclusions is that, much of the time, you’re far better off printing photos online rather than at home. But even this is fraught with pitfalls. As a partner to this month’s ink costs feature, we ‘blind tested’ online photo services and the in-store offerings from Boots and Jessops. In one particular case, the results were startling in all the wrong ways.

But sometimes, you need immediate results. I’d been commanded to get that passport photo done by the end of this week, and an ‘it’s in the post’ excuse simply wouldn’t wash. Luckily, that particular problem has been solved, and I’ve now ordered my new home printer too. It’s not overly expensive, it doesn’t waste ink, and when I do want photos they’ll be superb and the right price. So, Dave and Jim – thank you. Now, who’s going to volunteer for our photo paper test?

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