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Many people think that printing a document is as simple as tapping the little printer icon in the menu bar of Word or Excel, and everything should print out perfectly. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly the case. Sometimes, it can seem like an impossible feat to get things to print the way you want.
When you’re printing documents, you have to consider how margins affect formatting, the ramifications of printing one-sided or two-sided, whether printing landscape or portrait is smarter, and so much more.
In this article, I will help you make sense of all of your printing options, and help you with selecting the right settings to make every document you print turn out absolutely perfect.
How Print Formatting Can Help You
Instead of automatically hitting the quick-print icon and hoping for the best, take a few moments to consider what kind of document you’re printing. How you answer these questions will determine the type of settings you want to configure before actually printing — this can save you paper, ink, and time.
The following are a few quick considerations to take into account before printing any document.
- Are you printing any graphics, like charts or tables?
- Do any pages have just one or two awkward, lingering lines (you can check this in print preview — see below)?
- Are you using header or footer text in your document?
- Are you concerned for the environment (this really is an important consideration)?
- Are you constrained by guidelines (like a professor requiring set number of pages)?
- Are you paying for printing per page at a public place like a library?
You can use very simple printing “hacks” to consolidate text onto fewer pages, if you’re facing page-limits or double-spacing guidelines. You can also reduce the number of pages you print so that you can either save paper and ink, or avoid printing fees.
Make Graphics Look Good
When printing charts, graphs, or tables filled with information, the format of the page you print that information onto can make a tremendous difference in presentation. A bar chart shrunk to fit into the top half of a portrait-printed page makes much less of an impact than a chart that stretches across an entire landscape-printed sheet of paper.
So how do you do this? The easy way is to choose to print your entire document in landscape.
Moving forward in this article, most settings will come under the Print option in the main navigation menu.
This area of Word is where you can see a sample image of what your printout will look like. It’s also where most of the tweaks and settings I’ll cover in this article are hidden away.
Just to the left, you can see how Portrait Orientation is the default print format. Once you change this to Landscape Orientation, go back to the editing view and stretch that chart across the whole page. Once you do this, you can see just how big of an impact that chart can make when it’s printed with landscape formatting.
This is really cool, but the drawback is that most people don’t want the text portion of their documents to be printed in landscape format. The paragraphs stretch across a wider page, making the document much less readable.
What the most professional folks do, is to switch up the format depending on the page. For example, the first two pages of your document might be all text, bullet lists, and such, all formatted in portrait orientation, and then page three would be a chart printed out in landscape orientation.
Is this possible? It sure is, and it isn’t difficult either.
- Place the cursor at the very start of the section you want to have in portrait orientation. Go into the Print settings and make sure the document is set for Portrait Orientation printout.
- Scroll down to the page with your first graphic and click on that page, so that your cursor is just before the graphic on that page.
- Go back into Print settings, click on the Margins option, and then scroll down, so you can select Custom Margins… at the bottom of the list.
- Select Landscape Orientation.
- Scroll to the bottom and change the Apply to: setting to This point forward.
- Now you’ll notice that the new landscape formatting only starts at the page where your graphic is. After this, scroll down to the next page where your text starts and repeat the above procedure, setting the formatting back to portrait.
Once you’re through, your document will be perfectly formatted for both text and for graphics.
Make Your Text Look Good
Getting text documents to look perfect can be pretty tricky sometimes. Take, for example, the situation where you’re done writing a research paper and there’s one lingering line on the last page.
Tweaking Page Margins
The answer to getting documents like this to look right comes down to margins. You can easily play with margins in the Print settings area to get your document to look perfect.
It may be that selecting one of these pre-selected formats may do the trick. Maybe cutting a quarter inch from the left and right will do the trick. Maybe you’ll have to cut all four margins down to half an inch. Play around and see what you have to do to just get that final line to fit back into the last page.
By the way, if none of these existing margin setups work for you, you can always click Custom Margins and type in your own margin settings.
It may take a few extra minutes to tweak the margins so that the last page looks perfect, but when you’re looking to impress folks with the professionalism of your document, it’s a few minutes well spent.
Printing Hidden Text
If you are working on several versions of a document — maybe you’re a student working within a group and sharing edits, or you’re a journalist submitting your work to an editor — there is often the need to print out hidden formatting text, so things like paragraph breaks, indents, and other important formatting elements are obvious.
This is enabled by clicking the paragraph symbol icon in the Home menu.
These symbols don’t automatically print out, so if you need people to see this special markup, you’ll need to enable that. To do this, go into the File menu, select Print, and under Settings click the Print All Pages dropdown. At the bottom of this list you’ll see the option to enable or disable printing markup.
By the way, while you’re in this menu, don’t forget to check out all of your other printing options beyond just printing out the actual document.
Document Info printing alone is a powerful feature. This lets you print out critical information about your document, like where it is saved on your computer and how many words or characters your document has.
If you like to track this kind of information with your printed documents, you could print this out and file it along with your printed document. This can really help, if you happen to want to make revisions to the document and can’t remember where on your computer you saved it. If you’ve printed this out, you’ve got the exact path of the saved electronic copy.
Print Select Pages
Sometimes when someone sends you a massive document with a hundred pages (maybe a manual or help document), you really only need to print one or two pages out of that document.
Yes, there are people who print the entire document just to use those one or two pages. I won’t tell you what I think of those people.
However, I’m sure you’re the kind of person who would rather save paper, right? This is so easy that not doing it should be a crime. In the same Print menu we’ve been working in throughout this article, you’ll notice a Pages: field.
Yes, this field is to type in a range of pages you’d like to print, like “1-10” for the first ten pages of the document. But, did you know you could type “1-1” or “1” to print just page one, or “1, 20” to print only two pages, i.e. page one and page twenty? You can even print specific sections of a document. For example, to print section 3 on page 5, you’d type “p5s3”. To add more ranges, pages or sections, just list all of them in order and separate each with a comma. To be reminded of these options, hover the mouse over the Pages: field for a tool-tip summary.
That’s how you do it. So go forth and save trees.
Too few people give much thought to their printing choices. It seems so easy to just tap that printer button in the menu and forget about it, but the selections you make when you print can make the difference between a sloppy document, and a professional looking one. It can also help you cut back on wasted paper and ink, saving you a lot of cash over time.
Do you ever tweak your print settings to cut down on waste, or improve the format of your final printout? Share your own tips in the comments section below!