Managing printers doesn't have to be taxing as Kat Orphanides find outs when she puts the Printer Dashboard management utility to the test.
If you're responsible for a network including multiple printers, you're sure to have experienced the frustration of trying to diagnose errors based on vague user reports. Even a simple problem can waste significant amounts of time once you've had to decipher an inaccurate description, check out the problem for yourself and finally achieve whatever it takes to resolve it.
ThinPrint's Printer Dashboard is designed to aggregate the status information of every printer on your network into a single internet-accessible interface.
ThinPrint's Printer Dashboard is designed to aggregate the status information of every printer on your network into a single internet-accessible interface that makes it easier to see what's going on, even if you're not connected to the local network or even in the same building.
The service is free to use while it's in beta and a free version will still be available when ThinPrint eventually start charging a fee. You'll have to put up with adverts for printer ink and paper down the side of Printer Dashboard's browser window. We were pleased to find that the generic advertisements for HP ink and brand-X paper were replaced with links to Amazon pages selling toner and hardware that's compatible with our printers. Unfortunately, the Printer Dashboard doesn't appear to have much grasp of geography, as all the links were to the retailer's US site.
When you first log in, you're prompted to download an agent and "install the agent in the network you wish to observe". You'll need a Windows system to install it on, as there's currently no Mac OS X or Linux version. Obviously, the PC has to be on the same network as the printers you want to monitor. The web interface requires Mircrosoft's SilverLight to function, but works well under Chrome and Firefox as well as IE.
The first time you log in, you'll be prompted to download an appropriate agent to allow the Printer Dashboard to access all the printers available to your PC.
Operating system: Windows XP (client or server versions including 64-bit versions) or later
Software: .NET Framework version 2.0 SP2 or 3.5 SP1