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Keeping track of and ordering printer supplies for a large organization, such as a school, can be challenging. Every model of printer uses a different type of ink cartridge or toner, and each ink cartridge will print a different number of pages before it needs to be replaced. Although you could keep track of ink-cartridge ordering the old-fashioned way, with a paper-and-pencil-generated list, creating a spreadsheet to store all the relevant information will save time and allow you to budget for ink more effectively over time.
Create a new empty spreadsheet to track ink-cartridge ordering using your computer’s spreadsheet program. Chances are your computer came with Microsoft Excel installed as part of Microsoft Office. If you don’t have Excel, download and install a free office suite, such as OpenOffice, or use an online tool such as Google Docs, which you can access at no cost if you sign up for a free Gmail account.
Determine which information you want to track. This will vary on a case-by-case basis, and one of the benefits of using an electronic spreadsheet is that it’s easy to change the information you track as your needs change. To start with, try tracking the room number where each printer is installed, the type of printer, the types of ink cartridges or toner the printer uses, how much you paid for the ink and the date when you last ordered replacement ink.
Enter the headers for your spreadsheet columns first. Notice how the blank spreadsheet is configured. There is a row of numbers running down the vertical axis and a row of letters across the horizontal access. In the first cell, or row 1 column A, type "Room Number." In row 1 column B, type "Printer Model." "Ink Cartridge Model" goes in row 1 column C, and so forth, until you have entered a column header for each piece of information you wish to track.
Choose the first printer you want to enter into your spreadsheet and begin by typing the room number in row 2 column A. Type the printer model in row 2 column B and then continue entering all the relevant information into the appropriate column, including the date you last ordered ink.
Enter information for the next printer, starting with row 3 column A, and then enter the other data for that printer in each appropriate column. Continue entering information for each subsequent printer in a new row until all your printers and printer information are listed. When you're finished, save your spreadsheet to the computer’s hard drive.
Create additional blank date columns to record each time you order ink for a particular printer. Save the file to your hard drive when you're finished so you can use it the next time you order supplies.
Use special formatting to highlight important information or as an organizational aid. For instance, use a bold font for column headings and a colored font to group together printers in the same organizational unit. For example, you could use green for faculty-use printers, blue for student-use printers and orange for printers set up in a library.
After some time has passed--a semester or a school year, for example--total the amount spent on each printer's ink during that period. You can use this information to note whether some printers are being used more often than others, whether one printer is more cost-effective than another and even which departments or classrooms use the most ink--information that can be useful for both reordering and budgeting purposes.
Alex Gardner is a freelance writer and researcher who lives and works in suburban Detroit. Since 2005, she has written extensively on sociological and psychological topics for private clients, and currently writes for LIVESTRONG.COM Lifestyles, eHow.com and Answerbag.com. She holds a Master of Arts in English from Wayne State University.