So You Don’t Have a Printer… Now What?

If you switched to working from home (WFH) quickly, you likely had little time to prepare and may still be making minor adjustments to get your ‘home office’ just right.  One adjustment that can be the hardest to tackle for some is switching to a work-life without a printer.

Though I’m a save-the-trees, don’t print unless you absolutely have to kind of person, I understand that there are some things that are just better done on paper. Additionally, with all the extra screen time we’re getting coupled with fewer breaks in between virtual meetings, moving as much of our reading off-screen as we can is better for our health. With that said, the often quick functions of scanning and printing that most of us took for granted in a typical day at the office have now joined the growing list of basic functions we’ve lost to this pandemic.

Thankfully, technology can help us work around this too.


If you have an iPhone or iPad, Apple’s Notes app makes it possible to scan, markup, and share or save documents through any number of methods (email, Google Drive, etc.)

Screen shot of Apple's Notes app used to scan a document

Apple’s markup feature is especially useful if you need to ‘sign’ something electronically and don’t have access to an Adobe product that lets you do so, like Acrobat Pro or DC.

Similarly, Android users only need to have the Google Drive app to scan and save documents as searchable PDFs to their Drive.


If your job requires you to fax documents, check with your campus or firm IT staff to see if they subscribe to an IP Fax service (I just learned my University does).  If that’s not an option and you really need to send a fax, try an online fax provider–some of which offer between 7 and 14 free trials.  (Just make sure the one you choose offers security!)


If you can’t get back into your office to take your work printer home (or your workplace won’t let you remove office equipment), you may feel like your last resort is to buy your own printer. (I found a Canon ink-jet printer on Best Buy’s website for as little as $35, but they are currently sold out and will likely be for a while).  My advice before buying a printer is to first think of possible alternatives to printing.

If you have things that will eventually need to be in print but aren’t necessary right now, save them in a Google or Box drive folder with a name like “To Print” and set yourself a reminder to do so when you’re back in the office.  You may even find that some things you thought you would need to print can continue to live online.

Scree Speak options on an Apple iPhone

If you work with a lot of text-heavy documents and would normally print them out to read, or if you’re just tired of reading so much on a screen, consider using a screen reader to listen to them instead.

If you really need something to be on paper, try writing it out by hand. While yes, this can be a lot slower than typing–who else has used the virtual equivalent of a post-it on your desktop just so you didn’t have to write one out by hand?—it may lead to better retention.

In the end, each of us will have to find the way we work best without being able to quickly scan or print. While this can be annoying, it does present opportunities to rethink how we work with print materials and come up with new solutions. And who knows, some of those solutions may persist even after we finally get back to our offices…