Windows Tips: Quick and Easy Ways to Master Windows Printing
Quick and Easy Ways to Master Windows PrintingPrint faster and smarter by tweaking Windows' printer settings; get more control over the Windows print queue.Printing is one of the activities we've come to take for granted in Windows--until it doesn't work. Don't wait until then to dig into the secrets of Windows' printing powers. These tips make getting hard copies faster and easier.Every time you tell one of your applications to print, the information goes to a spool file on your hard disk before being sent to the printer. Windows starts channeling data to the printer as soon as the spool file has enough information to print the first page, even if the data is still moving from the application to the spool file. This is a compromise between freeing your application sooner and getting your printed document quicker. If you're not in a compromising mood, don't settle for Windows' default arrangement. (Note that these tips may not work for some printers, including network printers and devices set to print to a file.)To find the settings that govern the spooling feature, choose Start or Start, Settings and click or double-click Printers or Printers and Faxes. Right-click the icon for the printer you want to tweak and choose Properties. In Windows 9x and Me, click the Details tab and then select the Spool Settings button. In Windows 2000 and XP, click the Advanced tab.If your top priority is to minimize the time your application forces you to wait, make sure Spool print jobs so program finishes printing faster is selected (it should already be selected by default) and then choose Start printing after last page is spooled underneath (see FIGURE 1). This option requires more free disk space to store the spool file, however.If you want to see those pages coming out of the printer faster, and you don't mind keeping your application busy longer, select Print directly to the printer. In some versions of Windows, this option is disabled if you share the printer; if you want to enable this capability, click the Sharing tab and choose Not shared. This setting requires that your printer be on, and you won't be able to pause printing.You can return to this dialog box and restore the defaults if you find that neither of the two options works for you. Select the spool command to let the program finish printing faster, and then choose either Start printing after the first page is spooled or Start printing immediately. When you're done, click OK.Print When You WantWhen you print a document, pages normally start coming out of the printer after only a short delay. But in Windows XP and 2000, you can print your documents at a later time--say, during your lunch break or after hours--without having to remember to send all the necessary documents to the printer at that time. Setting specific print times can make busy network printers more efficient by letting some documents print right away and others print later. It's also handy if your printer is nearby and you want to minimize noise while you work.To schedule printer availability, open the Properties dialog box for your printer as described in the previous tip and click the Advanced tab. Select Available from and use the controls to the right to set the start and end times for Windows to send jobs to your printer (see FIGURE 2). Then click OK. From now on, you can add files from your applications to the print queue whenever you want, but nothing will print until the preset time. Just make sure the printer is turned on at that time.You can also designate a printing time for individual documents in the print queue rather than using a blanket setting for all the queued files. First, double-click the printer's icon in the 'Printers' or 'Printers and Faxes' window to open the print queue. Double-click a document in the list to open its Properties dialog box. Under the General tab, click Only from in the Schedule box and specify the start and end times during which this document can be printed. Click OK.Print It Your WaySometimes you may want to spool documents so you get access to your application sooner, and other times you want the printout pronto. Or on some days you may choose to print everything at night, and on other days you want to print right away. Another possibility is that you're prevented from using the tips above because you're sharing a printer connected to your computer. Fortunately, there's an easy way to print what you want, when you want, and without your having to dig through dialog boxes to configure your printer every time. The trick is to install multiple icons for a single printer and then set each icon to one of the preferences you're most likely to use. (Note that this tip may not work for networked printers on Windows 2000.)Open the 'Printers' or 'Printers and Faxes' window and use the tips described above to configure your printer with the settings you'll use most often. Select the icon for the printer you just configured, press F2, type a name that will remind you of this icon's settings--for example, spooled printing--and press Enter.Now double-click the Add Printer icon, or in XP click the Add a printer link on the left. Step through the Add Printer Wizard as if you were installing your existing printer all over again. When the wizard asks whether to keep the existing driver or use a new one, select Keep existing driver (recommended) and click Next. When prompted for a name for your printer, type something appropriate for the settings--for example, direct printing. Click Next and follow the prompts to finish the wizard. Now select the icon you just created and follow the steps above to configure this shortcut with your alternative settings (see FIGURE 3).Now choose the appropriate custom printer icon from the print dialog box. Usually you'll see your custom printer icons in a Name drop-down list. Select the one you want, specify any other dialog box settings you prefer, and click OK or Print. Preview With ThumbnailsIf your printer supports it, Windows lets you print several pages at once on a single piece of paper. This is a great way to make archival hard copies of files, analyze a document's layout, or make paper-saving proofs of large-type documents (such as presentation slides). Open your application's Print dialog box, select the desired printer, and click Properties or Preferences. If the Print dialog box has a Layout tab, click it. You may need to right-click the printer icon and choose something like Printing Preferences. In the box next to Pages Per Sheet, make a selection--the options are usually 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, and 16, plus a Booklet setting. You'll see an example of the resulting layout elsewhere in the dialog box. When you're done, click OK or Print.Mind Your Ps and QueuesWindows' print queue shows you which documents are waiting to be printed and lets you cancel print jobs or determine the priority order of awaiting documents--provided you have the necessary permission. You usually control only the documents you sent to the printer yourself.Open the queue window by double-clicking the printer icon in the system tray of the taskbar (near the clock). Or open the 'Printers' or 'Printers and Faxes' window as described above and double-click the icon for the appropriate printer. If you sent multiple documents to your printer, the files will be listed in the order that they were submitted to the queue.To change their print order in Windows 98 and Me, just drag items up or down the list. In Windows 2000 or XP, double-click a document in the queue to open the Properties dialog box. Under the General tab, set the Priority slider to the left to lower the document's print priority, or to the right to increase its print priority. A numeric value appears below the slider to help you set a precise level between 1 and 99.Windows 2000 and XP give you another way to set your printing priorities. Open the Properties dialog box as described above and click the Advanced tab. Check Print spooled documents first to give a higher priority to documents that Windows has already sent to the hard drive. This setting overrides the manual priority settings discussed above and (according to Microsoft) improves printer efficiency.To cancel a print job in any version of Windows, right-click a document in the list and choose Cancel Printing or Cancel. Or select the document in the queue and press Delete. Click Yes if prompted.Print in a FlashMost people print a file by opening its application, then opening the file, choosing File, Print, and finally closing the app. To save on mouse clicks and keystrokes, try the following technique instead. Open Windows Explorer and locate the file or files you want to print. Right-click the file or a group of selected files and choose Print (see FIGURE 4). For most file types, the associated application will automatically open, send the file to the printer, and close without further ado. Sometimes--for example, with image files in Windows XP--the right-click Print command will launch a special process, such as the Photo Printing Wizard. This adds a few steps, but if you're printing with the default settings you can zip through the wizard without changing anything.A Better Way to Rename FilesWindows has always been brain-dead when it comes to renaming multiple files and folders at once. Windows XP lets you give several files the same name followed by a number (see August's "Rename Multiple Files or Folders at Once"), but it doesn't let you search for and replace text within file names, change the numbering style, or alter capitalization, among other options. The $15 Better File Rename is the most versatile and easiest group-file-rename program I've ever used. Just select the files or folders to rename in Explorer, right-click, and choose Better File Rename to see a dialog box with abundant options. The trial version limits you to renaming ten files at the same time. Go to PCWorld.com's Downloads for your copy.Send your Windows-related questions and tips to email@example.com. Windows Tips pays $50 for published items. Scott Dunn is a PC World contributing editor.