If there is one basic function that everyone is familiar with and yet remains shrouded in mystery, I would have to say that would be the "print" command.
Of course, everybody is familiar with the print command - click the print button and your printer spits out a hard copy. But the reason it's shrouded in mystery is there are a ton of options and controls available - most of which no one takes the time to learn - that give the user a lot more control over the printer output.
Let's take a look at some of these functions and see if we can figure out what some of them are good for and why we would want to use them.
Using the print button in the toolbar of many applications (or the "Quick Print" option in Word 2007) will do just that - quickly send whatever is onscreen to the printer using the "default" settings. What that means is that the computer has a series of preset settings that it will use "by default" if you don't tell it to do something different. For instance, if you have more than one printer set up (perhaps your "real" printer and maybe a fax program listed as a printer) then the computer will have one printer set up as its default. If you don't tell it to print to another device then that's the one it's going to print to. Other defaults include paper size, whether or not you want to print in color or grayscale and print quality. Clicking the print button on the tool bar will send the print job to the printer using these default settings.
But what if you want to change something? Suppose you want to print to a different printer or maybe you want to print using the low quality settings (draft) to save some ink, how can you adjust these settings if the print job sends straight to the printer when you click print?
To get to the print menu that gives you full control, look for the "File" pull-down menu at the top left hand corner of the program you are using. Now, be aware that not all programs have the "File, Edit, View..." pull down menus that we've grown fond of over the years. If you don't have the File pull-down (a few programs don't), on your keyboard press and hold the CTRL button and then click P. That will open the print dialogue window.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking, "why go through all that business with the File pull-down menu when CTRL + P does the same thing?"
Well, the reason I try to steer people in the direction of the pull-down menus is simply because there are other commands in there right next to Print that may not be available with the keyboard shortcut. For instance, you may notice a command called "Print Preview" when you click the file pull down menu. Print Preview is a great command that saves you paper by actually showing you a preview of what's about to come out of the printer should you commit and click print. The preview saves paper by letting you decide what adjustments you want to make before sending the print job to the printer.
Now, back to our print command, clicking Print in the File pull-down or pressing CTRL+P will open the print dialogue box and the first thing it will show is what printer it's going to send to. This is where you can tell the computer to send to a device other than the default. Clicking the properties button lets you change things like paper size, quality and color. The properties menu will change from printer to printer but the core is the same. It's the place where fine changes can be made on the printer.
Further down the print dialogue box you can tell the computer what pages to print and how many copies and after making any changes here, clicking print will then send the job to the printer with the changes that you selected.
Sean McCarthy fixes computers. He can be reached at (772) 408-0680 or help@ComputeThisOnline.com (no hyphens).