Perhaps the computer peripheral that is used most often is the printer. Many people use the printer with whatever default settings they happen to have without ever thinking about changing anything. These standard settings are generally good enough for many purposes but sometimes there is an advantage to tweaking the printer configuration. The major brands come with software specific to a particular model but there are a number of generic Windows printer settings also. In this article, I will discuss a few of these. A selection of short tips is given in the sidebar.
Spooling and Advanced Settings
To decide what printer settings you might be interested in changing, it helps to understand the actual process that occurs when you hit the “Print” button. Printing is a slow process, and generally it is not desirable for the whole computer (or the application controlling the printing) to be tied up while a print job is being executed. So that the computer can continue to go about its business while printing is in process, something called “spooling” is used. What this means is that a temporary place on the hard drive, the “spool”, is set aside to hold the information that is to be printed. The term dates back to the days of yore when tapes were used. Files are first sent to the spool and from there can be sent to the printer without interfering with other processes on the computer. Another advantage of spooling is that print jobs do not have to run immediately. Maybe you forgot to turn the printer on or you want to do the printing later when you are at lunch. The desired print job (or jobs) can sit in the spool until it’s time for the actual physical printing.
To see the spool settings (Windows XP) go to either Start-Printers and Faxes or Start-Control Panel-Printers and Other Hardware-Printers and Faxes. For Windows 98 go to Start-Settings- Printers and Faxes. A panel with an icon for each installed printer will open. Most home systems will have only one installed printer. Right-click on the computer icon and choose “Properties” from the context menu. Figure 1 shows an example of the properties sheet that opens.
Figure 1. Printer properties sheet
Click on the “Advanced” tab (for Windows 98/Me “Details-Spool settings”). This brings up the box shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2. Spool and advanced settings
The default setting is to use the spool but there is also a setting “Print directly to the printer.” You might choose this setting if you have a lot of jobs waiting in the spool and want to print something else in a hurry. Unless you are short on disk space, you can use “Start printing after last page is spooled”. Figure 2 has selected the other setting “Start printing immediately.” Most people can stick with their default settings. If you have a substantial printing job and want to do it at some later time, Windows XP allows for scheduling of printing. Select the radio button “Available from” and pick a time. Figure 3 shows a setting for 12- 2 PM. To return the printer to print on demand, select the radio button “Always available.”
Figure 3. Scheduling printing
Depending on your usage patterns and the type of printer that you have, you may wish to explore some of the other settings.
Moving the spool folder in Windows XP
By default, the spool folder is usually a subfolder located in the Windows folder and is called Windows\System32\Spool\Printers. You may be able to speed printing up by moving the folder to another partition, or better yet, to another hard drive if you have one. First, create a new folder where you want to relocate the spool. Then follow these steps:
Figure 4. Relocating the spool folder
Print to file
There is a special kind of printer that can be useful for obtaining a record of certain kinds of text-based data. Actually, it is not a physical printer at all, although it is installed in the same way as a regular printer. It uses the driver for a generic text-only printer to create a file of some collection of data that you wish to copy. I find this facility useful for making a file containing the output of certain types of Windows applications where the ability to create a text file directly is missing. I also use it to capture Web page output that is not available except through a print command. This capability is especially useful when there would be a large number of pages to actually print. Instead of a paper print-out, a file with extension PRN is created. This file can be read with Word or Notepad. Some of the formatting of the original may be missing but the information is all there.
To install go to Control Panel-Printers and Other Hardware (or to Start-Printers and Faxes) and click on “Add a printer.” You will get the Add Printer Wizard. Click “Next”, then “Local Printer Attached to This Computer.” Uncheck the box that says “Automatically Detect and Install my Plug and Play Printer”. Click “Next.” Select the drop-down menu “Use the Following Port ” and scroll to “FILE: (Print To File)”. Click Next. In the left box named “Manufacturer”, choose “Generic.” In the right box named “Printers”, choose “Generic / Text Only.” Click "Next". Give the printer a name and make sure NOT to make this the default printer.
|<<Home||©2002-2013 Victor Laurie||Home >>|