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The Epson P906 is a fairly substantial re-design of the ever popular Epson A2 pigment inkjet printer model (previously models include the Epson 3800, 3880 and P800).
This is our own diary, notes and tips on setting up and using this new printer as there are some changes with previous models and, as ever, the Epson documentation leaves a lot to be desired, particularly with the getting-started part of the process.
Note the Epson P706 is basically identical apart from being a bit smaller, so really everything said here applies to that model as well.
This article is a 'live draft' and is being regularly edited - once finished we'll go back and fix typos! Feel free to email us questions or thoughts on what you would like covered - no promises, but we;ll do our best!
Jan 21st, 2021 - Added notes on marks on thicker papers when using the rear (top) feeder.
Dec 17th - Added examples of problems with profile targets, and a complete print-with-icc-profile example
Dec 4th - Added notes on printing profile targets
Dec 3rd - Added notes on initial printing practise
Nov 27th - Unboxing & setting up
These are our own internal notes, thoughts, and tips on setting up and using a new Epson P906 printer.
The idea is if we document how we do it, and the things to look out for, other folks can use this a a resource to get a better set-up-and-get-going experience with their new printer.
Note, this won't be comprehensive as such, e.g. we'll skip things that aren't relevant to us, like printing from tablets and so on. This is all about getting the printer set up for printing from your computer, with fine art papers and proper colour management. Which is, of course, what almost all of our customers and colleagues want to do with one of these!
This is a relatively simple process of getting the printer out of the box - making sure that you support both sides as you lift it out. Ideally get someone to help with this - the last thing you want to do is drop your new $2000 toy. (If you're used to previous A2 Epson models, you will find this one distinctly lighter and smaller).
Do NOT plug the printer in to your computer or the power yet.
The, you must remove all the infamous Epson blue tape....and there is a LOT of it. And in many case you have to open up parts of the printer to get access to the tape, as you go.
Just follow each piece of tape to the end with the loop on it (this is where you start to pull the tape from) - and then slowly and carefully peel the tape off, starting from that end. Open any printer covers you need to as you go. This should only take quite gentle force. If not, there is probably some other piece of tape you need to remove before you can open that cover and then remove that piece of tape.
It's not rocket science, but don't do this in a hurry, and make sure you have a good clear view of all sides and the top of the printer, to make sure you get ALL the tape.
Once you're finished, do one more check of the whole printer, inside and out, for any blue tape. You really must remove ALL of it.
Also, note Epson's dumb choice of shiny black plastic on the top of this printer. If you need to dust or clean this at any point, use a VERY light tough - it's very easy to scratch. They should have just used the matte black for everything, much more robust! (Still, it is a nice looking machine, for a printer, ...and the fact you it is designed such that it forms its own dust cover when all parts are closed is great!).
Plug the printer into power using the provided cord.
Do not yet turn the printer on - you want to install the software first, and only then turn the printer on when it tell you to.
Then, decide how you're going to connect the printer to your computer.
You can go ahead plug in the data connection of your choice, but again, do not yet turn the printer on - the software will prompt you to do this at the right time.
Once actually connected, all the connection types should be functionally equivalent and allow for printing at the same speed - the bottleneck when printing is the movement of the printer head, not the connection type - all the connection types are easily fast enough to keep the printer busy.
There are really three options, and the primary thing to consider is reliability of connection (and of course any physical factors that may come in to play such as cable length and printer location).
Best to worst, left to right:
Ethernet (network) connection.
Whilst perhaps the most difficult to set up initially, this is the most reliable type of connection, and means your Epson P906 will be a full network printer - that is, will be printable to by any computer or device on your network, without any particular device or PC needing to stay turned on.
Use any normal Ethernet cable (and Ethernet cables can be 20m+ in length without issues!) - to connect the printer to your router or a network switch on your network.
The only potential issue with this type of network connection is the potential for the IP address of the printer to change over time. Thus we strongly suggest you create a permanent, fixed entry in your router's IP table (usually this is in the DHCP section of your router's settings), such that your printer is always assigned the same IP address. (Doing this permanent assignment in your router is usually more reliable than setting a static IP on the printer itself, which is also possible but not recommended).
Once your printer has a permanent IP address on your network, this is by far the most reliable connection method. So it's worth the effort if you can do it this way.
Each device that wants to print to this printer will need to have the driver installed (see below for details) and be pointed at this network address.
Wired always beats wireless for reliability, so the next best connection option is to directly connect the printer to your computer via a USB printer cable (not included in the box with the printer, but just a bog standard USB printer cable available from just about everywhere, even supermarkets, for a few dollars. Not that once USB cables are longer than 3m or so, they can be unreliable - shorter is better with USB.
The printer will NOT then be a proper network printer, but can be still made available to other devices on your network by sharing the printer at the operating system level. Of course then the computer must be on for those other devices to print.
The worst of the three connection options from a reliability point of view, but fortunately modern wireless is pretty good, so if you have to go for this type of connection, you should be ok. There is no speed loss from using wireless (unless maybe your router is ~15 years old..!),
Be aware, though, that if your wireless drops out with any regularity, this is likely to create significant issues with reliable printing. Some routers tend to drop the internal wireless when the internet connection drops, even though they are separate things - so if you have iffy internet, try and avoid this connection option if you can.
Using wireless, the printer operates as a full network printer.
As with Ethernet, you should set a permanent IP address for the printer in your router's settings, as the biggest issue with this connection - and one more likely with wireless where lots of devices tend to come and go - is the printer receiving a different IP address for different session. See notes in the Ethernet section.
Wireless setup occurs during software installation so if you're choosing this, don't do anything yet - the software will prompt you when the time is right.
N.B. - in our case we actually chose wireless as our method - because we know a lot of our customers do - and we thus wanted to therefore stress test this experience under real world conditions - but we'd definitely normally choose Ethernet!
We've printed to all manner of Epson printers for 20+ years at this point, and Ethernet is by far the method that has proven the most hassle-free over those years.
At this stage, your P906 should be plugged into power but still switched off.
Whilst you can go to epson.com.au and manually get all the downloads associated with your printer, it is much easier and more reliable to use Epson's online set up method.
(Note, depending on which connection type you have choses, during this process the printer may prompt you to complete the ink charging stage - see notes on this below).
To start the software installation, go to: http://epson.sn and enter SC-P906 as your model number.
Then, follow the prompts to install the software. This will install the driver, printer manuals (in PDF form), and we recommend you also install Epson Print Layout and the Epson Media Installer when prompted.
The software installation will tell you when to turn on your printer and take you through the connection process you have chosen (e.g. downloading EpsonNet for network connected printers, and prompting you to set up wireless on the printer panel etc. if needed).
(If you want to print from other machines on your network, simply visit http://epson.sn on each machine and repeat the installation process).
At the end of the process it will prompt you about installing 'Epson Connect', which is for printing from devices like tablets etc. We don't use this so don't over this here. Up to you if you want to install this, but you can certainly do it later so mostly we recommend skipping this part.
IMPORTANT - if you're on a Mac: avoid choosing anything related to AirPrint at any point of this entire process. This can end up in you having a cut down driver installed and you do NOT want this driver. We have further notes on this in our Solving Inkjet Printer Issues article. If ever you find yourself in a position on the Mac (e.g. following a MacOS version upgrade) - where all your printer settings seem to have disappeared - this means your Mac has started using a cut down driver. You must re-run the full installation to get back to the proper driver!).
IMPORTANT - Use The Included Charging Inks First!
...if you bought a full set of inks alongside your printer - do NOT use the replacement set of inks initially. You MUST use the initial charging set of inks that came with the printer as the first set ok ink with your printer (or the printer will later refuse to load these).
So, at this point, you should have a printer that is turned on have the driver and other software and manuals installed on your computer. Or at least have been prompted to turn the printer on during the software installation process.
The printer will be prompting you to load the ink tanks. This is a simple process of taking them out of the black box, shaking each ink gently for about 15 seconds, taking off the plastic wrapping, and matching each ink to each ink slot in the printer. Just gently push them in until they click.
Once all are in, the printer will go off and gurgle for about 15 minutes as it primes the head with the ink.
You will have found a spare maintenance box with your printer. There is one already in the printer, so you can just pop this aside for later use.
In our case, at the end of this initial ink priming process we had about half the ink remaining in the cartridges and a small amount of the maintenance box having ink in it. Some customers have reported different results (which is why I presume Epson have included a spare maintenance box?). I presume this process varies depending on factors like heat and humidity and thus
(A general note - printers like wet air - if you live in a very dry environment, consider installing a humidifier in your printing area - around 35 to 55% humidity is ideal for printers).
The printer is now unboxed, connected, and has gone through the initial ink priming process.
You're ready to begin printing! Huzzah!
Boring though it is, it's time to learn about nozzle checks and the basics of paper loading.
Nozzle checks are the most basic self-diagnostic test your printer offers and everyone should know how to run one. We run a nozzle check between every print, but most folks just run one at the beginning of each printing session (unless they are seeing odd results in prints).
Nozzle checks just check that all the printers nozzles are clean and firing correctly. We have, again, more information in our Solving Inkjet Issues article, but here's the basics.
You need one sheet of A4 plain (bond) paper for your nozzle check. So let's talk about paper loading now...
In general, you will mostly use the top (AKA rear) feeder for everything except for very thick materials (500gsm+ or anything rigid). This is a change from the P600/800 models, where fine art paper was loaded at the front.
Epson have re-designed the paper loading system and in our own testing so far it seems significantly improved, but it also seems to be the area most fraught with peril/printer failures.
Some basic but important notes:
So the basic paper loading process is:
You can actually run the nozzle check in two ways.
Either use the printer's LCD panel, maintenance menu, nozzle check.
Or, in the utility section of the printer driver, you can choose nozzle check from there.
With a new printer, this will almost always result in a perfect nozzle check, but it's not impossible that it doesn't. If it doesn't, run a head clean (again via the LCD panel or the utility area of the driver) - to further prime the head with a tad more ink. When done, re-run your nozzle check and all should be well.
As mentioned above, nozzle checks are THE key test you can do on your printer if you ever encounter any print quality issues (striping, sudden colour changes, missing colours etc). All your printer nozzles must be firing correctly for the best quality prints. If they are not, you should run head cleans until you get a perfect nozzle check. But note - head cleans ONLY solve nozzle issues, nothing else, and you should not run head cleans for any other reason than blocked nozzles, or you'll just be pouring ink down the drain. For more, see Solving Inkjet Printer Issues.
Here's a sample of a correct P906 nozzle check print - notice all the stair-step lines are present, and there's no gaps or cross contaminated colours.
Right, so now we have the printer physically installed, all the associated software installed, we've checked all nozzles are firing as they should - so we're finally ready to start making some actual prints.
Just like we learn to crawl before we learn to walk, the early stages of learning a printer like this are all about the fumbling with the basics. This means learning how to load paper, and learning how to send prints to the printer such that you get basically what you want on the page, where you want to get it.
Initially, don't stress too much about perfect colour. That's an issue that can be solved once you know your way around the basics of using a machine like this.
Thus, it's worth understanding a few basics of the system - what is what, as it were.
The most important part of running the printer is to be clear on the Printer Driver. What it is, and when you use it. (On Macs, in particular, it's not always as clear as it should be, and the controls are frustratingly hidden behind drop-down menus - this is why Mirage is so popular on the Mac. The PC driver is MUCH clearer and more explicit about what it is doing).
The driver is the part of the software where you set all the printer settings - what paper type the driver should use, what print quality should be used, and so on.
In general, when you go to print something, you go to the application's Print window, set some settings there (including which printer you're using), then from there you go to the Printer Driver (usually via using a button labelled 'Printer Settings' or 'Printer Preferences'. In there, you set all the settings you want, and then you drop back from there to the window you were in and hit 'Print'.
You may find yourself thinking that all these settings are available via the printer's fancy control panel. And that is mostly true. However, an absolutely key thing to understand about Epson printers is that driver settings ALWAYS overrule the settings on the control panel. That is to say, when you send a print job to an Epson printer, all the settings for that job are set in the driver, sent by that to the printer, and will automatically override anything you have set on the printer control panel. So generally, if printing from a computer, the panel is useless. (If you're printing from a device like a tablet to the printer, bypassing the driver, that is different of course).
This is why experienced Epson users simply don't really use the control panel on the printer itself at all - except where we have to for a few physical things. We use it only to load paper, and maybe to run nozzle checks and head cleans (although even those we normally do via the utility section of the driver). That is it - everything is else is better and more reliably controlled using the printer driver. When loading paper, we don't even bother telling the printer what type of paper we're loading - leaving this set to plain paper - because when we actually print we'll tell it then what paper we are using (or, at least, what type of paper we're using...more on this to come!).
Whilst the control panel on these new printers is fancy looking and surprisingly responsive in use, compared to older models, it is in fact mostly unneeded when printing with these printers. All it is really good for is to show progress of printing and the odd error message. Otherwise, you can mostly ignore it.
At this stage we suggest you work your way through a box or two of paper, trying out prints at various sizes. Try to get an image centred on the page, and try and produce a print with deliberately uneven margins - such as 3cm top, left and right, and 5cm at the bottom.
Experiment with driver settings and print quality levels to see the difference.
Try different types of paper - fully matte fine art papers, semi gloss, gloss and metallic. Again, you're not worrying about colour (as long as you're using high quality papers like the ones we sell here, all of them are capable of superb results when used properly)...really just getting a feel for the different things on offer and how they can be used with your new printer. If you're used to printers like this, you can of course use stock paper profiles from the paper manufacturers for this early testing - we have some notes to help you find stock paper profiles for these new printers. But this stage is really not about colour, it's about learning the physical handling side of the printer.
At the end of this, you should be familiar with loading paper, and the basics of printing. After that, when you're no longer fretting over these basics, then it is time to move on to achieving really accurate prints, with exactly the colours that you want on the page, reflecting what you see on your monitor.
This brings us to Colour Management.
Colour management is the science of getting devices to reproduce colour accurately.
If you really want to understand Colour Management and the other fundamentals of digital images, we have an entire free online course on it - the Fundamentals of Digital - to give you a thorough understanding of all the important aspects. (Free online version, the eBook version is available in PDF/Kindle/ePub form for just $10).
...but with respect to these printers, Custom ICC Profiles are the path to truly fantastic printing results with your favourite papers. (This is why we include two of these with every printer we sell).
So - how do you begin the process of getting custom ICC profiles for your favourite papers? Well, we have comprehensive instructions of course. But we'll go through a specific example here to help you get started.
In short, you must follow some instructions - very carefully - to prepare a very specific and special type of print, on the specific paper you want profiled. This print is a complete map of your printer's behaviour on that paper (hence the 'custom' in custom profile). You send this profile target print to us, and from it we then make and email you a profile of the highest possible accuracy.
Whilst 'stock profiles' available from paper makers are often fairly good these days (as long as, and only, if you use them with the correct settings!), proper custom profiles for your printer give you that last few percent of absolute best quality with your printing. So for your favourite papers, they're the essential part of achieving the absolute best print quality.
(Do follow those instructions in full, though, when you come to actually preparing your own profile targets...we're just showing the essence here, not the full detail!).
This basic process is this (but again, when actually doing this please take care to follow our full instructions that have a lot more detail):
A very very common misconception about ICC Profiles is that they somehow magically take care of printer settings for you. This is not true. A profile is simply a very very accurate description of the behaviour of your printer in a certain state and only in that specific state. Thus you must take note of the settings you use to print the target, and always use exactly those same settings when you actually print the the profile (here we are referring to settings that affect print quality & colour as listed in #3 above - you can of course vary other settings like size and shape of paper!).
(This is of course also true if you download a 'stock' ICC profile from e.g. a paper manufacturer. You must also download and use the driver settings the profile was made for!! I'd say some 50% of people downloading profiles are just oblivious to this, and thus are getting nt benefit or accuracy from the downloaded profile at all...indeed will likely get worse results than simply not using a profile!).
So the first two steps above are pretty obvious, but we should talk about what print quality settings to use.
The first and most important setting is which Paper Type should you use in the driver. This determines the inking level the printer will use when making your prints, and is the most fundamental control in the driver.
As usual, we have a full article on this with lots of detail. But it's actually generally very easy on Epson printers.
Yes, we know it says something else on some of the paper boxes. No, you should not follow the paper maker's advice, because it wrong. You should use these 3 types for just about everything. This is based on 20 years of experience with doing exactly this, and making thousands and thousands of profiles.
Print Quality Level:
One of the cool things about Epson printers is that the driver has been designed such that colour remains very consistent when using any of the higher quality settings. So in fact, you can have a profile made for e.g. the very highest quality setting available for that paper type, and the profile will still be valid for quality settings a step or two down (if you go for really low quality modes, this may stop being true, but it certainly holds for the top quality levels).
Thus, we generally recommend you print your profile targets at the highest quality setting available for the paper type you have chosen. Later, you can (and probably will) use lower quality levels most of the time in practise (as a step or two down from the maximum level is already marvellous quality and almost indistinguishable from the top level yet noticeably faster to print and uses less ink, so you tend to only use the highest for a few types of images, e.g. very high key ones where you want the smoothest possible highlight tones).
Note these new printers have a 'carbon black' option with semi and gloss type papers. This dramatically increases print time and offer very little visual improvement, so again you would likely only use this for exceptional images (e.g. very low key images where you want the absolute best possible blacks).
We want to measure the printer's behaviour in its raw state, without the printer applying any colour 'magic' to try and 'fix' things. This means we must use the No Colour Adjustment mode in the driver.
On the PC you must manually select this. On the Mac, if using the ACPU, this is automatically selected for you (although it can be a little confusing in how it displays this, but ignore that - this is really the whole point of the ACPU tool).
Also - if you're on a Mac, make sure 16 bit printing is OFF. It's notoriously buggy on the Mac (breaking colour management) - and offers zero quality improvement in practise.
A good and correct profile target is what gets you a super profile. So check:
Once that is all confirmed, send your target in. Here's a quick photo of our own targets on Hahnemuehle Photo Rag and Ilford Gold Fibre Gloss.
If your targets look pretty much like those, you're ready to send your targets to us.
Here's a couple of photos to show common problems you might hit when printing a profile target...
The first example shows a head strike - we'll be talking more about this shortly, but this is when the printer head rubs against the paper. It usually shows up as marks around the corners of your page.
It's not a problem for profile targets, as long as there's no marks like these within the colour patch area. We'll solve this issue for general printing below, soon.
Example of a relatively minor head strike.
Unsightly, but does not mean you need to re-do your profile target.
Next is an example of a target that has accidentally been printed by a Mac user who managed to install the AirPrint driver instead of the full Epson driver.
You can see how patches that should have been distinct colours have been compressed to be the same tone - note how the more saturated greens, in particular, have blended together.
You might get a similar result if you accidentally assigned a profile to our profile target image (that is deliberately and specifically an untagged image, i.e. does not have a colour profile attached). Or if you had failed to disable colour management in your printer driver.
We talk about the AirPrint in Solving Inkjet Printer Issues. (A small percentage of Mac users run into this issue, and it's hard to be sure entirely why - but you can easily check by going into System Prefences -> Printer -> Your Printer and checking next to 'Kind' there is absolutely no mention of AirPrint).
Target printed using the AirPrint driver.
Note the gamut compression - patches that should be separate are not.
This cannot be used to profile your printer. You must use the full Epson driver!
Head strikes are a common problem with inkjet printers and high quality, thicker papers.
They happen because paper has a tendency to curl, particularly at the edges, and this can cause the moving print head to come in to contact with the paper, when it shouldn't.
We have articles on head strikes/blotches and paper curl.
For the last 20 years or so, there was an easy fix for this issue - you'd go into the Paper Configuration section of the printer driver and set the Platen Gap control to be Wide, or Wider. This moves the printer head away from the page and tends to solve this issue completely, unless your paper is really very curly.
Unfortunately, Epson have made this a little harder with these new printers. This control has been removed from the driver, and you now need to use the 'Media Installer' tool to make a new custom media with this setting.
This tool should have been installed during the initial installation process (if not, you can go and get it from epson.com.au).
Fire it up, and it will show you a list of your installed media. What we need to do is copy one of these, and adjust the Platen Gap for this new media. Select the base media you want to use (the same one you used to have your profile made for, most likely) - and then hit the copy button at the top:
After a few seconds a copied version of that media will appear, and you can use the edit button (just to the right of the copy button) - to edit the media settings.
Here, we duplicated Epson Archival Matte (our base media type for all fine art matte paper use/profiles) - and we're setting both the Platen Gap and Paper Thickness controls out a fair amount. We've named this 'All Fine Art Matte Papers' as these are the same base settings we'll use with all of these. The only thing that varies is the ICC profile.
(It's interesting one can also set an ICC profile here, and I presume that would then be automatically used, but only in Epson software...but not yet sure on that, we'll discover more as we go!).
Once you save the edited media, it is actually saved to the printer itself, and will be available on both the printer's control panel and in the printer driver.
Ok, so we have now got ourselves really ready for printing - we've set up the printer, we've printed a profile target (and then we made the actual ICC printer profile here of course, and installed that, as per our instructions on using ICC profiles) - and now we're ready to actually make our first, hopefully awesome, proper print.
The first thing we print, thoroughly boring though it is, is a PDI Printer Test image. Just so we know that everything is working as expected. (We also sell prints of that image here, on a variety of popular papers, so that you can compare your printing at home to the categorically correct printing we do here at Image Science!).
Here are some screenshots to show how we actually do the print.
You can see in Photoshop we have specific that Photoshop Manages Colour, we have chosen the printer profile, we're using Perceptual or Relative Colorimetric Intent (*always* with Black Point Compensation turned on).
We then click on Print Settings to go into the driver.
When we hit 'Print Settings' we then go into the actual P906 driver and set the settings as appropriate in there (remember, these must be the same settings you used to print your profile targets!).
You can see we're using the media we made using the Media Installer ('All Matte Fine Art Papers') - which is based off the Epson Archival Matte base media type (i.e. the paper type we used to print our profile target) - and we've set the print quality to highest, and the colour mode to No Colour Adjustment as we did when printing the target as well.
Once all that is set, hit 'OK' in the driver and 'Print' back in the Photoshop dialogue, and your printer should now print out a lovely image using the custom ICC profile and custom media set up with the wider platen gap!
And the results are some just beautiful prints. These machines - the P906 and P706, are really as good as any printing machines on the planet right now, when used properly.
Of course you can't really tell from basic phone photos like these how good the prints really are, but take our word for it - they are absolutely spot on.
These machines appear to be what they were promised to be - an evolution of an already fantastic printing platform from Epson. They're not radically better than the previous models, but so far we're finding these machines to be easiest yet to get going with - there have been some changes to the driver and so on, but they feel very familiar and without question offer the best print quality to date from any small studio pigment inkjet printers.
One of the things Epson made a big deal of in their initial marketing for these new printers was the re-designed paper feed, meaning that (contrary to the previous P600/P800 models) - fine art paper could be loaded via the most convenient option, the top (rear) feeder.
And so far, in terms of successfully loading paper - one sheet at a time, as is always the case with fine art papers - this has indeed proven quite successful.
Now, we mostly print matte papers here, but decided to do some more extensive testing with Ilford Gold Fibre Gloss. We then very quickly noticed an issue with marks appearing on prints. Coincidentally, a customer wrote in with the same issue as just about the same time (Hi, Alana!) - and she even sent us a photo which shows the issue quite well, although in her case the mark is on a matte paper. But it's the same mark - appears about a third of the way down the page (on A4) and is a bit over a cm wide. It's a subtle mark, but a definite and visible one - you only tend to notice it on deeper colours, though.
No mucking about with page thickness settings, or platen gaps, will stop this mark occurring.
We asked Epson for help, and they were as helpful as they usually are - i.e. not at all...indeed, we're yet to hear back from them two days later. Sigh.
Still, Alana managed to extract advice from them - which was to use the front feeder. This does indeed work, in that the prints then do avoid these marks, but this advice is contrary to the advice from Epson themselves, as per their manual:
So, using the front feeder does result in prints without this mark.
But it's definitely a somewhat more fiddly way to load paper...although much improved from the notoriously temperamental front loading on the P800, at least! And has the disadvantage that the printer must be physically re-positioned some distance from the wall - i.e. most of the length of the portrait side of the sheet size you're printing - as the paper comes out of the rear end of the printer when this path is used.
So, it's not ideal.
We'll wait a bit longer and see if Epson bother to come back to us with any other solution, but I am guessing this is unlikely and is the first serious frustration we've run in to here, and I think a bit of a miss in the design if, in fact, typical 300gsm fine art papers can not be used with the top feeder reliably, without marks on prints.
Whilst we've now covered most of the basics, and you should at this point be feeling fairly comfortable with your new printer, we plan to add more next year.
Feel free to send in suggestion of things you would like covered, or specific questions you might have!
- Tracy H -
I received my print today - it looks fantastic and was packed by a pro!! Thank-you again for your wonderful, helpful, professional service !! ... sadly a rarity these days.