My minimalist printer/scanner/copier/fax solution

During home consultations I am often asked for my printer/copier/scanner recommendation. The all-in-one home office machine has become so common over the past decade that many people simply assume that they need one. But in this modern era of digital cameras, IRS eFile,  Passbook tickets, GPSs, and high resolution camera phones, the all-in-one device isn’t quite as necessary as it once was. Some people might still need it, so this isn’t one-size-fits-all advice. But the majority of people I know have basic needs, and want something simple and reliable. So my advice is usually to use an inexpensive, basic laser printer and an iPhone.

Here’s how I:

Print. Probably the most used feature. But let’s be honest, how many of us print more than once a week? I send invoices by email, I use a GPS instead of printed directions, I file taxes over the internet, and I follow recipes on my iPad. Since infrequent printing often leads to clogged inkjets, I usually recommend a black-and-white laser printer which uses dry toner. On the rare occasion that I need to print something in color I can always make a trip to FedEx Office. You can reduce your costs and environmental impact further by going in on a shared printer with your neighbors and friends. Many new printers support internet printing through services like Google Cloud PrintHP ePrint, or Epson Connect, which make sharing a printer that much easier. You can even go one step further if you almost never print, and forego a printer altogether doing your occasional printing at FedEx Office. The printer I use is an HP LaserJet 1102w, which I love for its simplicity and wireless features. The only drawback with this model is that it’s difficult if not impossible to connect to WiFi without using the Windows software. But once it’s configured it works well with Mac and iOS.

Scanner Pro
Scanner Pro turns your iPhone into a document scanner

Scan/copy/fax. Now that we all have digital cameras, we rarely need to scan photos anymore. Instead, scanning and copying is more about data capture these days: scan a receipt to save for your taxes, make a copy of your driver’s license. But something many people don’t consider is that your iPhone camera is capable of this! And coupled with an AirPrint-enabled printer it makes a great copier. One less thing to buy. There are several scanner apps out there, but my favorite is Scanner Pro ($6.99). It automatically adjusts for skew, it can convert to monochrome or greyscale, and it lets you save to Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, WebDAV, print, or even send a fax (for an additional fee).

What solution do you find works best for you? Do you think you could get by without a traditional scanner or all-in-one?