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I pity the fool who bought a cheap color laser. As the pages crawl out, and the pricey toner supplies run empty, it’s already too late to point out that a $400 inkjet offers better speed, print quality, and consumables costs than a like-priced color laser can ever hope to achieve.

The latest proof comes in the form of Epson’s new office-class WorkForce inkjets. They look like any other printer, but they have something new to the category: Epson’s PrecisionCore printhead. Here’s PrecisionCore, in its most basic, chip form: Image: Epson

The PrecisionCore print chip, fresh off the fab. Adorable, isn’t it? Compact, precise, and fast.

The PrecisionCore print chip packs 600 nozzles per inch, and 800 per tiny chip. The drop size is extremely small—1.5 to 24 picoliters—the better to print crisp output.

Epson can build them into printhead arrays of varying size. For industrial applications, a PrecisionCore printhead might span the entire page width. HP already does this with its PageWide technology, available currently on the Officejet Enterprise Pro x585.

Image: Epson

The WorkForce WF-3620 costs just $170 but includes automatic duplexing and an automatic document feeder for the scanner on top.

The new multifunction printers all print, copy, and scan. Two-sided printing is standard, which is great for saving paper (though it can sometimes slow print speed).

The two WorkForce models are designed for small or home chúng tôi WorkForce WF-3620 costs just $170 and offers a 250-sheet main input tray plus a rear feed for thicker media. Two-sided printing is automatic, and a 35-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF) makes it easy to scan multi-page documents using the top scanner unit.

Image: Epson

The WorkForce WF-3640 costs $200 and includes fax capabilities as well as more paper capacity.

The $200 WorkForce WF-3640 adds fax capability, a second paper tray, and a larger, 3.5-inch touchscreen on the control panel.

The WorkForce Pro models are designed for workgroups, with higher capacities and speeds to match. The WorkForce Pro WF-4630 ($300) has a 250-sheet main tray and an 80-sheet rear-feed tray, plus a 3.5-inch touchscreen display. Epson claims it has a monthly duty cycle of 30,000 pages.

Image: Epson

Built for small workgroups, the WorkForce Pro WF-4630 offers an 80-sheet rear feed in addition to the classic 250-page input tray.

The WorkForce Pro WF-4640 ($400) adds another 250-sheet input tray over the WF-4630. Its touchscreen interface increases to 4.3 inches in diagonal width. Fax comes standard.

The ink costs look very affordable. Cartridges for the WorkForce printers cost $30-$35 and last 1100 pages, or 2.7 to 3.2 cents per color, per page. The WorkForce Pro printers have higher-capacity cartridges and therefore lower ink prices: 1.6 cents to 2.2 cents per color, per page, based on cartridge prices of $42-$44 and yields of 2000 to 2600 pages.

Image: Epson

This is about as boxy and brawny as the WorkForce Pro line gets. The WF-4640 means business.

All of the WorkForce and WorkForce Pro lines include Wi-Fi compatibility and a well-developed suite of wireless and mobile printing features, including Apple AirPrint and Google Cloud Print support, plus mobile apps for printing on the go.

Epson’s new business product line has plenty to recommend it, and we’ll be publishing our full review in the near future. Color laser fans, give these printers a fair hearing; they offer a compelling counterpoint to the office laser status quo.

You're reading Epson’s New Office Inkjets Have A Secret Weapon: Fast Precisioncore Printheads

Children Have To Grow Up Too Fast

She waltzes into my room on winged feet — all 3 feet and abit of her, with a pixie cut and huge brown eyes. She is Katy(not her real name), and she is in the first grade. As everyoneelse settles down, Katy twirls in a dizzying display of excessenergy. She is wearing her favorite outfit — a rainbow ponchoand a tiara with pink feathers. The rest of the class sitson the rug, crisscross applesauce. They stare up at me expectantly. Katyis trying to lie across my lap and peer up into my face. She slithers down,bounces up again, and moves to her desk to see what treasures might be inher backpack. Her bottom has never touched her chair. I invite her back tothe group and sit her right next to me — her favorite place in the room.

A little young, I tell myself on the first day. Not ready for first grade andthe rigors of state standards. I’m new to the school so I do not know herhistory. Perhaps she’s just young for her age. I can’t help thinking someonedropped the ball here. She’s a kindergartner dressed in first-grade clothing.

When I check her file in the office, I am dumbfounded by an inch-thickIEP folder. This is not good news. An Individualized Education Programusually signals some serious area of concern. The plan spells out goals forthe student and how the teacher will monitor and assess the accomplishmentof those goals. Benchmarks are set. Meetings are held. I’ve neverhad a first grader with an IEP. Most students come equipped with a slimfolder holding their vaccination records and birth certificate. What couldpossibly be wrong with this girl that warrants this level of scrutiny?

The answer: nothing. She has an older brother with a learning disabilityand anxious parents who want to make sure Katy doesn’t “fallthrough the cracks.” I keep reading, looking for a diagnosis, some indicationthat there is something wrong with this sprite. But the only thingI see is that she “doesn’t know her entire alphabet.” She can’t write allher numbers to thirty. She’s “inattentive” during instruction.

There is nothing wrong with Katy except that she is a kindergartnerdeprived of kindergarten. Ten years ago she would have been in thedress-up corner in front of the mirror, draping feather boas across herthin shoulders. But on this particular day, she’s a first grader with anIEP and goals that are unattainable for someone at her stage of chúng tôi will go to special classes three times a week to make up forher “deficits.” She will continue to smile boldly, but soon she will startto wonder what is wrong with her. She will leave our classroom threetimes a week and trudge, not dance,down to room 15. She will start tofeel the weight of those goals. Thebenchmarks will pinch just a bit.

Katy is not my first chúng tôi the past five years, as expectationshave continued to expand at each grade level, teachers have scrambled tohelp students feel successful. A good proportion of my class is not at gradelevel. They are taking multiple-choice tests and filling in bubbles with theanxiety of their older siblings. We throw around terms like “algebra” and”response to literature” to six-year-olds who are barely decoding words. Wepush and cajole and yes, sometimes secretly curse the child with her headin the clouds. We are accountable. We are observed. Our jobs may dependon the ability of our students to understand the subtle distinctionbetween strategies like “predict” and “infer.”

There is no kindergarten. It has gone the way of the little red wagon andmud pies. The time when children learned how to go to school, how to usea tricycle, or wait their turn on the swing is gone. These were importantskills — vital to success in the grades to come. We do not have time to teachthem now. We have worksheets that need completing. We have take-homebooks to copy and homework packets to staple. We have accountability.

I look down at Katy while she copies the words from the whiteboard.Every now and then, she holds up her paper for me to see, and smiles. Ilove how the light dances off the rhinestones on her tiara. And I wonderhow long it will be before someone tells her that she can’t wear hats inclass and she can’t dance in the hallways. I will miss the pink feathers andrainbow poncho. But while she is mine, I willdance around the rules just a little and find placesfor her to stand, not sit. I will teach her whatI can to the best of my ability. I will hold off, aslong as I can, the weight of the file that dogs herfootsteps. And I’ll look for a rainbow ponchoof my own to remind me that the Katys of thisworld just might be on the brink of extinction.

Credit: Indigo Flores

M. Jones is a pseudonym for an elementaryschool teacher in northern California.

Credit: Indigo Flores

Zoho Office Suite Taps Ai To Provide A Free, Powerful Alternative To Office 365

If you don’t want to pay for Microsoft’s AI-powered Microsoft Office, there are alternatives—including Zoho’s free Zoho Office Suite. Zoho’s alternatives to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Google Keep launch today, complete with their own intelligent features that are arguably friendlier than Microsoft’s own.

Zoho does charge $3 to SMBs to use the suite, and $6 per user for enterprises. If you’re a single home user, you pay nothing, though you’ll need to sign up for a Zoho account. All of the Zoho Office Suite apps are available on the web as well as on iOS and Android, but require an Internet connection. The exception is the new version of Writer, which is now available in an offline mode.

Writer’s new features include the Zia-powered spelling and grammar checker, which includes Flesch-Kincaid readability analysis as well as writing tips; offline mode and a dark mode; and forms and signature integration. In Sheet, Zia can automatically construct pivot tables and reply to plain-language queries, even on mobile. And in Notebook, Zoho’s Zia now constructs the sort of “cards” you might find in Twitter or Facebook, where a link will expand to show the title and any art associated with the link.

What this means to you: Microsoft’s Office suite is undoubtedly the powerhouse office suite, and as we’ve recently seen, Microsoft will do just about anything to keep you locked into an Office 365 subscription. Zoho, though, has been quietly providing a solid alternative for years. You can still import Office files (Writer, for example, accepts DOCX, DOC, DOT, TXT formats and more, and exports to DOCX, too) while keeping your files within Zoho’s workflow. Microsoft may make it a bit easier to save documents in its OneDrive cloud, but you can also connect to a cloud service within Zoho. The key point, of course, is that it’s all free to the home user.

Zoho Writer 5

Zoho’s apps have always catered to the business user, even if it’s an individual working at home. Many of Writer’s new features are geared toward helping automate business tasks like filling in forms, or integrating with Zoho’s other tools like Mail, Cliq, and Zoho Connect. But Zia’s Writer integration should directly appeal to the consumer.


The large, friendly dashboard within Zoho Writer points out areas for improvement.

Other features within Writer 5 include: 

A document automation hub, with document generation and automation tools to help you create automated forms, including the ability to generate fillable fields

Form automation, which allows clients to generate their own forms

Integration with Zoho’s CRM tools, which pulls in customer data as a data source

Signature collection, both e-signatures and “wet ink” Zoho

Zoho Writer integrates with Zoho sign for electronic signatures and “wet ink” management. This illustration shows off the new automated forms as well.

An offline mode, where your twenty most recent documents and anything new you’ve created are stored offline, than synced when you reconnect

A dark mode

Content creation tweaks, including a “focus typing” mode that highlights the current paragraph and an optional “typewriter” clacking noise that can play as you type.


“Focus typing” highlights the current paragraph.

Zoho Sheet 5


Zoho’s Zia can be used to ask questions of data stored in Zoho Sheet.


Frustrated with how to construct pivot tables? Zoho says it can use AI to help.

Other new Sheet features include:

Drag-and-drop columns

File import/export between OneDrive, Google Drive, box and Dropbox

Three new chart types: histogram, pareto, and wordcloud

Multirange selection support, among others


The new look for the web-based Sheet interface

Zoho Notebook

The first version of Zoho Notebook looks a lot like Google Keep, and that’s a good thing. Like Keep, the app’s mobile interface appears to be the primary form of interaction, though there’s a web interface as well. (Each syncs to the web automatically.) There are several types of Notebook notes: plain text, a checklist, audio, photo, sketch, file, and a “smart” note.


Translating a recipe into both a card and a checklist is a nifty use of AI within Zoho Notebook.

It’s the last format where Zoho intelligently applies context to a note, such as a recipe. Put a link to a recipe inside a smart note and Zoho Notebook will not only list the entire recipe with illustrations, but turn the ingredient list into a checklist as. Drop a YouTube link into a smart note, and it will open the player; drop a link to a news site and it will expand the story. More types of smart cards or notes will be added over time, Zoho said.

Zoho Show

The Best Secret Santa Platforms, Ranked

This story has been updated. It was first published on December 14, 2023.

Vaccines, masks, and boosters have brought back some sense of normalcy this holiday season. Some got to see their families for the first time in two years this Thanksgiving and were probably planning a similar gathering for the end-of-year festivities. But then omicron happened and there may be some who are not so sure about traveling or attending a crowded home anymore. If that’s you, at least know these new complications haven’t canceled gift-giving.

Several virtual platforms have allowed people to celebrate digital Secret Santas over the years, and you can get in on the fun too. But finding the right online tool to organize a socially distanced gift exchange can be hard.

Save yourself some time and headaches and take a look at our list of best Secret Santa platforms. Consider it our gift to you.

Like most of the websites and apps on this list, Secret Santa Organizer has the basics: It lets you draw names, send anonymous messages, and ship invites with the time and URL of your gathering. But unlike the rest of the platforms on this list, it gives you the option to request that all your data be deleted when you’re done.

[Related: Can’t get a gift in time? Here are 14 you can make yourself.]

Result: 2 out of 5 🎁

Functionally, Sneaky Santa isn’t bad, as it has all the features you’d expect: You can send invites, draw names, write messages, and create wish lists. In fact, it offers the most flexibility of any tool on this list when it comes to giving your loved ones some gift inspiration. You can also make exclusions, but you’ll need to check the names of the people each participant can draw and not the other way around. This is more than a bit annoying—if you don’t want your aunt to draw your uncle’s name, you’ll have to check the names of all the people in your party except for your uncle’s. If you have a lot of people playing, that can be a bit of a headache.

This platform isn’t associated with any store or vendor, so you can paste any URL into your wish list. You can also add interests or hobbies, or simply drop the name of a store you like without specifying a particular item.

If you’re including kids (or someone who doesn’t want to deal with learning another platform), you can start a wish list for them without having to create a separate account. The downside is that this sets you as that person’s contact, which means that when names are drawn, you’ll need to tell them who to give a gift to.

Visually, Sneaky Santa is unattractive and unintuitive, so it takes the prize for the worst-looking interface of the bunch. Another drawback is that everyone has to create an account with a password to access the platform, and you don’t have easy login alternatives, such as using your Facebook or Google accounts. But if you’re planning to use the same setup next year, you can use the same account and group, and the platform will automatically exclude this year’s picks for everybody, so folks won’t have to give a gift to the same person two years in a row.

Finally, if setting a budget is important to you, look elsewhere, as this is one of the few basic features it doesn’t have.

Result: 3 out of 5 🎁

Lots of features, but maybe too many: Elfster

Elfster seems to have it all, but the devil’s in the details. You can draw names, make exclusions, draft wish lists, and you’ll be able to organize your gift exchange party by adding a time and place to your invites. The interface is nice and friendly, though a bit cluttered. But it’s intuitive and easy to use, so even the least tech-savvy of your friends will be able to work it without your help. Elfster also has a mobile app (available for iOS and Android) that provides the same functionality as the web platform, but in a much cleaner, user-friendly environment. 

To start, Elfster will require you to create an account, though it offers login alternatives using Google, Apple, or Facebook. Unlike the rest of the platforms on this list, name-drawing happens on a date you set when you create your event. But before people know who their Secret Santa is, anybody on the list can invite more people to join by sending them a link. Elfster is also the only platform here where you can opt out of your own event. That means if you’re feeling like a Grinch but are your family’s designated IT specialist, you can set everything up without having to partake in any gift-giving.

Like Sneaky Santa, Elfster lets you start a wish list for a child or anybody who can’t manage their own profile, but you’ll need to create another account with a new email and password. Making wish lists is easy: You can search for specific products from sites such as Amazon, Nordstrom, Zappos, or Dick’s Sporting Goods right from Elfster, and add them directly to your list. And if you can’t or won’t make it to the actual gift exchange event, you can plug in your address so your Secret Santa can send your present straight to your door.

It’s important to know that unlike the rest of the sites on this list, Elfster is not only a Secret Santa site but more of a gift-giving social media platform. This means you can add friends and create events, and you’ll get notifications when there’s a birthday coming up. This may be a little too much to deal with if you only want to make sure the couples in the family don’t draw each others’ names, or if you’re uncomfortable sharing personal information just so you can participate in some seasonal festivities.

Result: 4 out of 5 🎁

First runner-up: Secret Santa Generator

It’s true that most people love the holidays, but some (without being Grinches) just want to get things done so they can quickly move on to the quieter half of winter. If the shoe fits (we won’t judge, we promise) Secret Santa Generator may be the answer to your gift-giving prayers. 

The first two are a dropdown menu and a checkbox, but the latter is trickier. Secret Santa Generator has a highly stripped-down interface, and you’ll need to type or paste the names of the players, one name per line, into a single HTML text box. You’ll need to add any exceptions after each name between curly brackets, separated by a comma—that is NAME, {exception1, exception2}. This can be a bit complicated, but if you make a mistake, the platform will tell you exactly what you did wrong and where it is so you can easily fix it. 

After you have the list of sorted names, you can add the participant’s email addresses so everyone gets a notification. If you’re acting as the master of ceremonies and want to do things old-school, you can also write down the names and let people know directly who they got. 

Secret Santa Generator is easy to use, and since it requires the least amount of data to do its job, it may be the most secure platform on this list. Still, some people like more feature-rich options, so this one may be too simple for you. 

Result: 4 out of 5 🎁

A great balance between options and simplicity, DrawNames has all the features you want a Secret Santa platform to have while remaining super user-friendly. The fact that you don’t have to confirm passwords and input captchas before you start is exactly the stress-free experience one needs this time of the year.

[Related: This is the perfect year to quit wrapping paper]

Wish lists are easy, and even though they work well, they may be the least appealing aspect of this platform. For starters, you won’t find as many options as Elfster when it comes to vendors, but DrawNames still offers direct integration with sites like Amazon, Walmart, Etsy, Macy’s, and Columbia. Also, this feature is not as flexible as on Sneaky Santa. You can paste URLs as text in the Hobbies/Interests field, but you won’t see a content preview.

Beyond easy signups and invites, one of the best things about DrawNames is its interface, which is clean and utterly intuitive. This may seem like a small detail compared to the features this or any site on this list offers, but it is not. The easier it is to use a platform, the easier it will be for us to share our time with our loved ones. And that is the real gift.

Result: 5 out of 5 🎁

Google Surveys: The Secret Of Successful Products

Does it make more sense to enter a market and get to know your customers as you go, or enter the market having a strong understanding about them? The second option seems the most logical, but getting this information is not always easy.

Google Surveys might not be the most known service offered by the search engine giant, but it is definitively very useful for medium and large businesses (I am not saying small because it doesn’t come for free and many small business owners would be better served investing their money elsewhere).

How It Works

Creating a Survey

The process is a very simple three step procedure. First, select a survey name and select your target Audience (if you identified yourself as a website owner you will have the option to select the visitors of your site as your audience). If you select “general population in a selected country” you will be able to filter your results by gender, age, or geography.

Select the format you prefer. You will be able to modify your decision later on in the process. You can now create your survey and get a real-time preview of your work, such as:

Who Will Answer Your Questions?

Concrete Examples

There are many ways you can use Google surveys to benefit your business. The first could be creating a survey to find the price sensitivity of your target audience to a given product. This will allow you to use the perfect price on your site to maximize the conversion rate.

A second use could be to figure out the frequency of use of a given product to understand how often and how many customers will return to your site to purchase your product multiple times. This might help you in determining whether you can apply a lower price to begin with and maximize your earnings via a long-term relationship with your customers.

You will have endless opportunities at your fingertips! Additionally, Google offers you free one-on-one hangouts to answer all of your questions


You might know a lot about your customers, but there definitively plenty to learn. Getting this information out before launching a product or a strategy will save you time and money. That is where Google Surveys come in play. Use their $50 coupon to try out the service and see what you can find out about your customers?

Featured image a screenshot of Google Surveys, found via WebProNews

A Passion For Projects: Students Have A Voice — And A Choice

“When students talk about their own work, they get so excited,” says May, who is currently president of the Washington State Board of Education . She was struck, too, by the amount of effort the young people — even those with a tendency to slack off — put into their projects because they were able to choose a subject about which they were passionate, were allowed to take learning wherever they pleased, and knew they were going to present their work publicly to local experts and community members.

Traveling to a few high schools that had adopted “project-based” and “performance-based” learning, committee member Bobbie May remembers her pleasure at seeing how enthusiastic the students were as they presented their projects to peers, teachers, and visitors.

It was the early 1990s, and a Washington state education reform committee was investigating what learning looks like when students are allowed to choose the subjects of long-term, cross-disciplinary projects.

Impressed by what they saw, the committee recommended that the state require students to complete a culminating project that demonstrates growth in key academic areas as a graduation requirement. “We specifically stayed away from a senior project and called it a culminating project because we’re hopeful it will show progress over time,” says May.

In 2001, the state Board of Education accepted the committee’s recommendation and voted to put the requirement into effect in 2004 with the incoming freshman class that graduates in 2008. The board also totally revamped teacher certification programs so that teachers would be prepared for a performance-based system. May credits the Legislature’s patience (“They didn’t expect miracles in two or three years!”) with allowing for an orderly process and providing sufficient time to win support and build a strong foundation of teacher knowledge.

A Good Fit

The culminating project proposal fit nicely with four educational goals outlined by the Washington Legislature in the 1990s: mastery of reading, writing, and communication; knowing and applying the core concepts of math, the social, physical, and life sciences, civics and history, geography, the arts, and health and fitness; thinking analytically and creatively and integrating experience and knowledge to form reasoned judgments and to solve problems; and understanding the importance of work.

The “how” of implementing culminating project requirements is left up to local districts. Lake Washington is among a handful of school districts that already have a culminating graduation requirement in place. Technology is an integral element of every project.

“Technology should be a natural component of everything [students] do,” says Heather Sinclair, district director of secondary curriculum and staff development for Lake Washington. “It should be a natural tool they use on a day-to-day basis. It shouldn’t be something that is scary or contrived. It should be authentic and realistic.”

PowerPoint ® is becoming routine. Students also make videos using digital cameras and movie editing software. They burn their own CDs. They use the Internet to converse with their mentors and conduct research. One student created a steam engine out of Plexiglas; another used computer-aided design (CAD) software to design a sailboat.

Because students choose their own projects, the nature of their study is as varied as the teenagers themselves. Projects can range from working with real scientists on the Human Genome Project and sharing their experience through video or written reports to writing and producing a play or building a “battlebot” robot and explaining how it was built and how it works. One Lake Washington student who suffers from dyslexia conducted research on the disease and then used this information to work with younger boys with dyslexia.

But endorsing projects alone is not enough, some educators warn. Despite her belief that “the most powerful way to learn something is to use it,” educational consultant and former Washington high school teacher Eeva Reeder says she would “have a hard time arguing in favor of [a project graduation requirement] unless it’s done right.”

Reeder, who has created project assessment rubrics for several districts, knows firsthand the difficulty of creating projects and assessments of those projects that challenge students and measure important skills. She had her geometry students design a Year 2050 school that was judged by local architects.

There’s a big difference, Reeder says, between rebuilding a car for the first time and rebuilding it for the tenth. She says teachers and students need to be clear on a long list of assessment criteria — from extending the student’s knowledge to demonstrating analytical, logical, and creative thinking to effective background research and evidence of initiative. It also means starting substantive project-based learning in the early grades.

But done right, Reeder says, the culminating project “has the potential to be the single most powerful change agent in the school.”

Diane Curtis is a veteran education writer and former editor for The George Lucas Educational Foundation.

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