Print Manager Plus reviewed by Jon Honeyball in PC-PRO Magazine's February 1998 issue.
One area where Windows NT is very weak is in the field of print quota management - the facility to keep track of who's printed what and when. The sort of situation where this matters would be in a department that charges for printer usage - a university department is a classic example - though it could also be used for interdepartmental charging of some expensive resource like a full-colour A3 printer.
NT itself has only very basic resource management for such devices. You can log all use of a printer, but you can't stop any user using the printer too much. You can set up queues for specific users, which only become available at certain times. for example. To do this, go to Print Manager folder, select the Properties of the printer and click on the Scheduling tab. A printer can be made available at all times, or only during certain times, which means you could, say, set up an evening batch printing queue called 'Night-Print' which kicks off at 6pm. During the day, you spool all low-priority printing to that port. But if you wanted to limit some users to printing ten pages and no more, or to ten pages per day, you're stuffed, as NT just doesn't have any such facility.
So welcome to Print Manager Plus for Windows NT, which you can download in a trial version from www.cleveland.co.uk. With this you can set up, by users and groups, how much access users have to your printers. So you might allow full unlimited access to the cheap laser printer, but limited access to a colour inkjet, for example.
You can track usage too, which is ideal if you charge for printing, or you can monitor usage and also deny service to any user who exceeds a certain number of pages in a certain number of days. So, for a school environment, you might want to limit access to the colour printer to five pages every five days, which allows the users much more flexibility that a limit of one page per day, of course. If a user tries to exceed their quota, their printing facility gets shut down. Obviously, a merciful administrator would like the ability to squirt a few bonus pages into someone's account, and Print Manager Plus lets you do this without having to reset the master allowable-usage count for the user. All the usage data gets written out into a database file, which you can query in an easy fashion using tools such as Access or Excel, making the preparation of a monthly chargeable figure for users and departments no problem at all.
The price is reasonable too: just £295 per server, with an educational discount of 20%. Obviously you'd need to be doing a lot of printing to make this pay for itself, but with the highest-quality high-resolution dye sublimation printers costing £5 per page, it does offer you the opportunity to keep a close eye on costs. Overall, I found Print Manager Plus very easy to install and manage. While I can't really see this product appealing to the average company, for schools, universities or facilities houses which charge for a service it could be a real boon. Recommendation is mandatory.