Like all industries, printers and copiers have common jargon that once clarified makes it simple to understand. Once you understand it, the features you need vs. the ones that would be nice but not necessary become clear. So, in the spirit of making your next printer purchase simpler, here are explanations for eight commonly used printer jargon terms and a special bonus term.


DPI refers to, “dots-per-inch.” If you’re printing text documents, emails and related content, 300 dpi will suit your needs. If you’re printing images, most will look amazing when the printer has at least 600 dpi capability. But if you’re an average photographer or printing image-centric documents where clarity and resolution are critical, 1200 dpi minimum is what you’ll need.

First-Page-Out Time

You know how fast cars pride themselves on 0-60 mph times? In the printer world, it’s first-page-out times that matter. Measured in seconds, this printer terminology equates to how long it takes for the first page of a job to appear in the output tray. Factors include printer warm-up time, print job complexity, printer memory size and the motor driving the paper path.

Duty Cycle

Nobody looks forward to a printer suddenly dying from exhaustion but it happens more often that you might think and that’s because the consumer was likely unaware of theprinter’s duty cycle. This important number equates to how many prints the particular device can output in a given month. Typically measured in the thousands, knowing your output needs in relationship to the printer’s capabilities is one bit of information that will increase the longevity of your printer and reduce service calls.

Total Cost of Ownership

Fitting a new printing device into your budget is more than the price tag on the machine. Total cost of printer ownership takes into consideration how many pages you print per month and if they’re color or black and white. It also considers how long you expect to own the equipment, price and yield of toner cartridges, and extended warranty costs. To quickly understand your total cost of ownership, use this guide.

Paper Handling

How the printer interacts with paper is another jargon filled aspect of printing. Let’s take a look at some of the common paper related terms you’ll want to know before shopping for a printer.

Sheet-Tray Capacity

This term refers to the number of sheets that fit into the paper tray while waiting to be printed on. Typically this equates to 500 sheets, which is the number of papers in a ream. However, there are lower and higher capacity trays available. Depending on your expected output this number can be a big factor in how much time you spend loading paper.


is the ability to print on both sides of a page and is a feature that will save a great deal of money in paper costs if used correctly and often. While duplex capabilities are always a manual option, automatic is a big time saving worth considering.


Pages Per Minute relates to output and will come in handy when time is of the essence. PPM can vary a great deal between devices so becoming aware of your need for speed and checking the PPM output speeds before you buy can save headaches later on.

Bonus! PC Load Letter

And if you were wondering what, “PC Load Letter” means: Early printers abbreviated, “Paper Cassette” (PC) for the paper tray. The rest is obvious: load letter paper! Office Space solved!

When looking for a new printer, it’s easier to navigate options if you have a clear idea of what capacity the new equipment will serve. Looking for more information on how to save time and money on printing and copying? Check out PDS Tips!