Ask a Geek: Papercut, but the good kind


Dear Geek,

Happy Summer! Hope you are enjoying it so far. I have two questions for you. The first is where the heck have you been (only asking because I like seeing your articles), and the second is more geeky. We have a handful of printers in our office, all different brands, and keeping track of toner is a bit of a headache. Any advice on making that easier so we don’t end up running out?



Bruce (but not the shark)


Hi Bruce,

Thanks for the note. I laughed when I read your first question. Even though the off-season is (in theory) slower than the summer, I’m a single parent, and between my two kid’s combined music, hockey, soccer, and lacrosse, and the endless stream of cooking, dishes, and laundry, I kind of got buried. Still geeky, but was either feeling the need to clone myself or had to take a break from a few things, and this article was one of them. I’m back, though, and really love writing these articles, so it’s fun to be back. I especially enjoy it when I bump into someone and they tell me something I wrote was helpful. I think this one will be for anyone in your situation with multiple printers in their office (or home).

I manage around 20 printers/copiers at my workplace, and though I try to buy as many of the same make/model as possible, we have an assortment of toner I need to keep on hand and track. I needed a better way to track toner levels than someone sending me an email or calling my name. I tried various software titles that were supposed to help, but only found one that I really liked, called Papercut ( Normally I’m no fan of paper cuts, but this one is different — it’s painless.

Papercut can manage many aspects of printing, from charging people to print, helping with printing from the web/mobile, and scanning features, various customizable printing policies, and most important for your question, reporting. Here’s what you need to do in order to receive emailed reports when your printers are low on toner:

  1. Select a computer in your office that will run the Papercut software. This computer should always stay on, and needs to have every printer in the office installed on it. When adding your printers, give them a name that also refers to the toner it uses — for example “Accountant Printer HP401(toner 80X).
  2. After signing up for Papercut and installing it, click on the printer tab to make sure you can see all of the printers you have installed.
  3. Go to options > Notifications, and enter the appropriate information under SMTP Server Options (this will allow the software to send you email notifications and reports).
  4. In the same Notification area, scroll down to “System Notifications” and find “Low Printer Toner (for supported printers).” Here you can tell the software to send a notification when a printer toner level gets below a specific percentage, and whom to send it to. To start out, I set this level at 100 percent so my first report would show all of the toner levels for all of my printers. After that, I adjusted that down to 30 percent, which I use as a reorder point.
  5. That’s it, you will now receive a list of printers with toner levels below your indicated percentage as they fall into that status.


This notification feature is really just a small piece of what this software can do, but for me it’s the only feature I need at the moment, and I’ve come to rely heavily on it. I am the only one using the software, and licensing is free for under five commercial users, so that fits the current budget associated with this task. I may use more of the functionality in the future, which would put me in their paid plan, which would be fine. This is a software vendor to support, since their software really is that good. Normally I don’t go into this level of detail with instructions, but finding where to set up these notifications is a bit hidden, so as your Geek I wanted to steer you as best I could.

Thanks again for writing in; hope your summer is off to a great start!


The Geek


Adam Darack is the IT administrator for the town of Edgartown. He writes about the technological issues facing Island business owners. Got a question? Send it to with the subject line “Dear Geek.”