PRINTING ON THE ROAD

Printing from a laptop places high on the list of top business travel irritations. Unless a portable printer is weighing down your suitcase, there aren't many options. The proliferation of cable connectors and driver programs makes communication between a laptop and a printer in a business center a nuisance, to say the least, and if you need to print from a PDA, two-way pager, or Internet phone, forget about it.

But things are changing fast. In mid-March, Foster City, Calif.-based Electronics for Imaging Inc. celebrated the official launch of PrintMe Networks, which allows users to print from any computer or wireless device to any printer on its network over the Internet. The launch was at the New York Marriott Marquis, the first hotel outfitted with PrintMe-enabled printers, and the first of 370 Marriotts expected to have the system in place by the end of the year.

PrintMe Networks works like this: When you want to print from a laptop while traveling, point your browser to www.printme.com. There you can sign up as a member, if you haven't already (it's free), or type in your user name and password. From there, a click on the “browse” button allows you to view your hard drive and select a document to be printed. (The system recognizes files in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, HTML, JPEG, PDF, and PostScript formats.) You can print directly to a PrintMe-enabled printer or assign the document an ID number and retrieve it once you arrive at the printer by typing a document ID code into a keypad attached to the printer.

Users don't need any special software or hardware. Documents can also be sent to the PrintMe network via e-mail, allowing printing from any mobile device.

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