Perk Up Printing
When you choose the Print command in Word, Excel, or some other application, Windows sends the data from the program to a "spool" file on your hard disk. As soon as the first page is spooled to disk, Windows sends that page to the printer. The OS attempts to compromise between getting pages to your printer quickly and freeing your application to do other things.
But you don't have to stick with the Windows way. You can customize your print settings to rev up what's important to you. In Vista, choose Start, All Programs, Administrative Tools, Print Management (or select it from the Administrative Tools Control Panel applet; see "Hidden Performance Gizmos"). With Custom Filters selected in the left pane, double-click All Printers in the middle, and double-click the icon for the printer whose performance you'll customize.
In Windows XP, click Start, Printers and Faxes (on the default Start menu) or Start, Settings, Printers and Faxes (on the Classic Start menu). Right-click the printer you want to customize, and choose Properties.
In Windows 2000, choose Start, Settings, Printers. Right-click the printer you'll customize, and pick Properties.
In all Windows versions, click the Advanced tab in your printer's Properties dialog box, and make your choice based on your priority:
To reduce the time your application makes you wait while printing a large document, make sure Spool print documents so program finishes printing faster is selected, and click Start printing after the last page is spooled (see the screen shot at upper right). You'll need to have enough free disk space to spool the whole document.
To reduce the time pages take to print, choose Print directly to the printer. This option may not be available if the printer is shared, but changing a setting under the Sharing tab can stop sharing. The printer must be turned on for this option to work, and you won't be able to pause the print job.
If neither of these settings is satisfactory, return to the default by reselecting Spool print documents so program finishes printing faster and Start printing immediately.
Speed Up Startups
Administrative Tools' System Configuration option lets you control the software that starts automatically with Windows. In Vista this option is on the menu, but in XP and 2000 you must choose Start, Run, type msconfig, and press <Enter>. Uncheck the programs you're sure you won't use, such as utilities for a printer you've replaced. Reducing the number of autostart applications can significantly speed up Windows' startup. For details, browse to "How to Make Windows Start Up Faster."
Park Your Mouse
Another way to work faster is to keep your hands on the keyboard and leave your mouse alone. For a list of the most useful keyboard shortcuts, see "Use Your Keyboard for Faster Windows Control"; for even more keyboard control, see "The Shortcut King: Active Keys."