Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Why a PDF Printer should be your default printer

The convenience of 'Quick Print' comes at a great cost (both to yourself and the environment). If you ever accidentally hit that shortcut, the document is immediately sent to the default printer. If your default printer happens to be a physical printer that's connected to your network or your computer directly, there goes valuable paper and ink churning out pages and pages of a document you never wanted to print, and you probably will trash or shred anyway.

Indeed, I had once been working on a Java source code file in Eclipse and I accidentally clicked the Print button in the toolbar. (Why a source code editor would even need a Print button is beyond me.) The entire 1596 lines of source code got sent to the printer and I couldn't even stop it from printing half way. That ended up on 33 pages, and consequently 33 sheets of paper. Now I have this stack of paper on my desk with one particular version of the source code, all printed and 'set in stone'. Since it is useless printed material, I just keep it around for using the unprinted side as scrap paper.

The annoying superbug with all printer drivers is that if you try use the 'Cancel Printing' option in Windows, it will either never actually get cancelled, or it will more likely just corrupt your printer's memory (which you will see as completely random characters being printed onto seemingly endless number of pages when you try to print something else afterwards). The other option (and the solution to a corrupt printer memory) is to unplug the printer and wait for its memory to be flushed out, but this may be difficult or even against work policy with a network printer.

Thankfully, there are softwares like PDF Printers. If you have Microsoft Office installed, you will probably even have options like XPS Printer or 'Send to OneNote'. Or if you never actually use Fax, it's another viable option. You should set one of these 'soft copy printers' as your default printer.

Once such a printer is set as default, if you ever accidentally send a document to print, it will only create a file or some form of digital representation on your computer. It will no longer waste your valuable resources like paper and ink on your physical 'hard copy printers', or cost unnecessary expenses to your organization. You can simply delete away the "printed" file from your computer, and it's like you never even printed in the first place!

I have also removed the darned Quick Print button from the Eclipse toolbar. If I need to print, I can select File > Print or press Ctrl-P (it brings up the print dialog box). Which reminds me: If you need to print a hard copy, use the Print option (usually marked as 'Print...') that brings up the print dialog box, then choose the physical printer. Note that most applications will remember your print settings for the current session. So once you have chosen a different printer, even the Quick Print option in the application will print to the chosen printer - until you exit the program and start it again (this action will revert it to the default printer).

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