From: Jim Noble
Printing on the road from a laptop is something that many of us don't do -- not because we don't want to but because we'd rather not lug around a cumbersome printer or have to configure it away from the office. And even when a printer is small and sleek, the printouts typically are not up to par. But the Canon BJC-70 (800-423-2366; $399), a compact bubble-jet printer, is a surprisingly light -- about three pounds -- technologically advanced tool that helps me create professional-looking color presentations while I'm on the road.

Setting up the printer to begin with was as simple as plugging it into the printer port of my laptop. It worked instantly with most of my company's programs, including WordPerfect and Print Shop. The Canon BJC-70 emulates both an Epson and an IBM printer, which most of our software has been configured to work with. All I had to do was tell WordPerfect that I was using an Epson LQ-2550, and I was able to start printing immediately.

Another nice feature of this printer: it has a paper capacity of 30 sheets. The other laptop printers I've used held only one sheet at a time. That meant I used to have to load one sheet and then wait 30 seconds. I now save a lot of time, which is especially helpful when I have to print long proposals.

My company recycles oil for its clients, which include the state of North Carolina and Jiffy Lube. I'm often on the road giving presentations to clients and potential clients about why one oil-disposal method is better than another. I have found that clients usually understand pictures far better than they understand words. With my Canon, I can create professional color graphs and spreadsheets with speeds that rival my desktop printer (about four pages a minute). I can also print on acetate if I'm going to use an overhead projector during a presentation. In the past if I needed something on the fly, someone in an office in North Carolina would have to send it to me.

I've also been searching for a lightweight portable printer that my truck drivers can use on the road. When a shipment of oil is picked up for recycling, the driver typically leaves behind a manifest with information -- for example, the number of gallons received -- printed on it. Right now, drivers have to write out the manifest, but it might be more useful for them to use this printer. It certainly made a change in my life.

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Jim Noble is CEO of Noble Oil Services Inc., in Sanford, N.C.