How to Print a Document

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Printing a document is not difficult unless you are doing something on a professional level. Graphic designers and other professionals use expensive software and very expensive special printers to get those high quality printouts that we all admire.

As beginners we need to know only the bare bone basics and that is exactly what I am going to discuss in this section.

Hopefully your printer has been properly setup and it is in good working order. Before you attempt to print anything, make sure your printer is turned on and you have paper in your printer.

Different programs give different printing options. But at the very least, you should first use Print Preview before printing. These options are all under File on your program's menubar. The screenshots I am going to use in this section have been taken using a late version of Microsoft Word. So the dialog boxes shown here contain some extra details which we normally wont need.

Before printing, if possible, you should setup the page margins. The following screenshot shows how to set that up from Page Setup dialog box if your software gives that option. If available it should under File.

Page Setup dialog box.
Page Setup dialog box.

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The margins shown are my preferences, but you can change them to your liking. You can press the arrowheads with your mouse pointer to increase or decrease them. Or you can click on the right side of the number, backspace, and type in a new number. You already knew that. Didn't you? The most important thing here is page orientation. Portrait is vertical orientation which is normally used for printing a page of text and it is the default setting. Landscape is horizontal orientation which is often used for printing a horzontally oriented photo. Change the orientation if you like by clicking on the appropriate box. Spreadsheet documents also usually need Landscape setting. So make sure you click on the correct box. Under the Paper tab, make sure your paper size is correct. Standard American letter size is 8.5"X11". The source for our purpose is always tray. Unless you have a special need, you can leave the Layout tab alone. You are now done with Page Setup. So click on the OK button. The Page Setup dialog box will close.

Next must click on Print Preview under the File menu. In Microsoft Word the screen looks like this:

Page Preview screen in Word.
Page Preview screen in Word.

Here you can see exactly how your printed page will look like. In a text document if you are not satisfied with this look, either you change margin etc. on Page Setup dialog box or make adjustment in your document itself. If you are trying to print a photo, if your photo size and photo quality is not OK, go back to your workspace and edit it. If those are OK, it is usually very important to make sure that the positioning of your picture on the paper is correct. A good photo editing software will give you automatically center horizontally and automatically center vertically options in the Print Preview screen. Or you can manually drag the picture anywhere on the paper using your mouse pointer. Look at the following picture:

Print Preview screen in PhotoImpact.
Print Preview screen in PhotoImpact
- my photo editing software.

Notice I have chosen Landscape orientation for this picture. I have also chosen automatic centering (the control buttons are on the left side) though if I wished, I could have manually dragged the picture to any location on the page. Notice my mouse pointer has become a cross and a hand when I placed the pointer on the picture. That lets me drag the picture anywhere for complete control of its location on the page. The page has rulers lenghthwise and breadthwise and also a cross-hair to show the exact center of the page. If you can read the small prints, you will notice all my selections. I am happy with this print preview. So I can just click on the Print button on the lower left corner of the screen, if I wish. Or I can close the Print Preview window, go to File, click on Print, and then before printing I can setup the desired printing quality, printing color, specify paper quality and size, number of copies desired, and so forth as detailed next.

Once you are satisfied with the print preview, normally you will close the print preview screen. Then go to the File menu of your program again and click on Print. The Print dialog box will appear. The Word's Print dialog box looks like this:

Print dialog box in Word.
Print dialog box in Word.

In this dialog box, you should first click on Properties to set the printer properties. The Printer Properties dialog box will appear which looks like this:

Printer Properties dialog box in Word.
Printer Properties dialog box
in Microsoft Word.

Again it is important to remember that these dialog boxes are slightly different in every program. Yours may look a little different depending on which program you are using. In the illustrated dialog box, under Setup tab, choose the desired pint quality. Normal is the default. keep it that way, unless for special cases you really want the best quality. Best quality uses more ink, ink drying time is more, and printing is slower. For experiments or for things for your own use select Econofast (or Draft or Proof). Printing will be much faster and your ink cartridge will last longer. I choose Econofast for most of my printing jobs. Then you should select the paper options which, in most cases, you can go with the default options unless you are printing out a home made greeting card or something like that.

Under Features tab, unless you want to print on both sides of the page, the most important selection is Landscape or Portrait orientation. The dafault is Portrait. Change it if you like.

Then go to the Color tab. The important thing to do here is to choose whether you want colored printing or black and white printing. If your original document is black and white it does not matter. The default setting is color. Even if you do not change it, the printer cannot add color to your black and white document. The printed document will be in black and white any way if your original is black and white. But it matters when your document is colored such as a colored picture. Colored prints look good, but color printer cartridges are much more expensive. So for ordinary purposes you might choose to print a colored document in black and white. To do that check the box that says Print in Grayscale. You will also choose Automatic here (default setting) unless you are an expert. In that case you may click on Manual and then click on Options. But since you are not an expert we will skip that part.

Now we have chosen all the printer properties. So hit OK button on the botton of the Printer Properties dialog box to close it and return to the Print dialog box. Here you want choose the pages to be printed (All or current or pages from -- to -- or Selection, if applies). It is possible to print only a part of a document. If you want to do that, you must first highlight the part and then choose Selection here. In the illustration above, Selection is dimmed (not an option) because I did not highlight any portion of my document. In this dialog box you should also specify the number of copies wanted. The default is 1. Now you are ready to print. Just hit the OK button on the bottom of the box.

For instructions on how to print something from a Web page click here.

An important tip:

When printing a page from the Web (which invariably has many colors), even if you choose to Print in Grayscale, the printer will always print in color. This results in unnecessary wastage of colored ink which is much more expensive than black ink. There is a way to go around this. Open the Web page you want to print. Hit the Print Screen button on your keyboard. Open your word processor. Press Ctrl+V. The Web page contents will appear in your screen (Word processor document). You don't have to save it. Hit File, then Print. Now in the Printer Properties dialog box choose Print in Grayscale. Then print the document. You will now get a black and white printout!

Quick Quiz:
Your neighbor is frustrated because her brand new printer always prints the pictures on the top left corner of the page. Is there anything you can do for her so that the printer prints the pictures wherever she wants them on the page?

Answer: That is the default setting for all printers. If she is using a photo editing software, the Print Preview should give her an option of centering the picture on the paper. If she is printing from a word processing software, she should go to Page Setup and adjust the page margins so that the photo is placed on the center of the page. Before printing she should use Print Preview to make sure the photo looks well placed on the paper (wherever she wants to place it on the paper).

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