The printing primer

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Cover page: People working in a formal business environment (or in a super-secret spy organization) are often required to produce a cover page for their printed documents. This option is where you can choose to do that. When doing so, you can select presets including Standard, Confidential, Unclassified, Classified, Secret, and Top Secret (again, helpful if you’re a member of SMERSH). You can also add billing information in the appropriate field.

Color/Quality: If your printer allows it, you can change the output quality of particular prints. Why would you want to do that? To save ink and toner (and thus, money). If you’re printing a fairly expendable document—your shopping list, say, or the first draft of your next acceptance speech—there’s no reason to throw a lot of ink at it. If your printer offers an economy mode, which produces not-as-crisp prints because the printer is being parsimonious with the pigment, use that setting until you need the best-looking printout your printer can produce.

Finishing: Here you can choose the kind of material you’re printing to—plain paper, labels, recycled paper, color paper, envelopes, and so on. Some printers can make adjustments to ink and toner output based on the kind of media they print to.

Supply levels: Some printers will report how much ink they have left in their cartridges. As I mentioned last week, this report isn’t always accurate. However, it’s a hint that you should lay in some new cartridges for the day when your pages don’t print correctly because the printer really has exhausted its ink supply.

Paper Type/Quality: This option will appear far more often with a color inkjet printer than with a laser printer. The choices available include the type of paper to use (inkjet or photo paper, for example), the quality of the print you’d like (anything from fast draft to maximum dpi [dots per inch]), the tray source, and the option to print without borders. You’ll also see a Color Options triangle. Click it and you can choose a different color profile, or adjust the image from within the print sheet—altering its saturation, brightness, and color tone, for example.

You can tweak images within the print sheet

Saving a preset

As you can see, the print sheet provides many ways to tweak your printer settings. But you don’t want to tweak those settings every time you use your printer, do you? Of course not, and that’s why presets exist.

To save a preset, configure your settings as you like, click the Presets pop-up menu near the top of the sheet, and choose Save Current Settings as Preset. On the resulting sheet, you can name your preset and choose to save it for the currently selected printer or for all printers that are available to you. When you next print, your preset should appear as the default. If you’d like to return to a setting that you haven’t configured, choose Default Settings from this pop-up menu.

PDFs and the print sheet

Before we close up shop, I must direct your attention to the PDF button that appears in the print sheet. Click it and you’ll see that you can create virtual printouts—PDF files created from your documents—within this sheet.

Convert your files to a universally readable form with the 'Print to PDF' feature.

You'll find options here to create a PDF file and open it in Preview, to save the document as a PDF file, to save it as a PostScript file (an advanced option useful for designers and art directors), to add the PDF to iTunes (for syncing with an iOS device), to mail the PDF, and to save the PDF to the Web Receipts folder. Depending on the applications you've installed on your Mac, you may see some other options here (see the figure to the right).

This very useful feature allows you to send someone a readable copy of a document even when that person doesn’t have a copy of the application that originally created it. So, for example, you could use this technique to create a PDF file of an iWorks Pages document and then send it to a coworker who has a Windows PC.

Next week: Class dismissed for Macworld/iWorld. See you the following week.

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