Creating a Print File from Which You Can Print Later

Occasionally, you may want to prepare a file to print but not actually print it. Perhaps you want to take it to the fancy laser printer at the office, which can print at much higher resolution than your home printer does, or has color capabilities that your home laser printer doesn't. Or perhaps you're planning to print a newsletter using your local printing shop. In this case, you may need a file that the shop's computers can use directly to generate film that can be used to print your newsletter.

Whatever your reasons, Word enables you to print to file?that is, create a disk file that contains all the commands and information a printer needs in order to print the document. To print a document to a file, first make sure that you've installed a printer driver for the printer you ultimately intend to use?otherwise, Word won't know what commands and information to include in the file it creates.


If you're not sure about the printer's make or model, but you know it is a PostScript printer, Windows's Generic PostScript Printer driver is usually a safe substitute. It's best, however, to check with the people who will be printing your document, and use the driver they specify.

After you make sure that the correct driver is installed, follow these steps:

  1. Choose File, Print.

  2. In the Name drop-down box, choose the printer on which you will ultimately print the file.

  3. Check the Print to File check box (toward the upper right of the Print dialog box).

  4. Click OK. Word displays the Print to File dialog box, shown in Figure 6.3.

    Figure 6.3. Typing a new filename in the Print to File dialog box


  5. Type a name for the file in the File Name box.

  6. Browse to the folder where you want to store the printer file.

  7. Click OK.

You now have a file that can be printed. If you're having someone else print your document, send the file electronically or hand him a disk containing it?and you're done. But what if you need to print the document yourself?perhaps on your office printer?

This presents an issue. You can't open the file you've created in Word and print it. All you'd get is text interspersed with printer commands. You can't even drag the file to a printer icon because Windows wants to know what program it should open to interpret the data. If you suggest a program, you're back where you started?text interspersed with printer commands.

The solution is a throwback to the oldest days of the MS-DOS operating system that preceded Windows: Copy the file to your printer port from an MS-DOS command session. Here's how:

  1. Click Start, Programs, Accessories, Command Prompt. An MS-DOS window opens, as shown in Figure 6.4.

    Figure 6.4. Using a DOS window to send a PRN file to your printer.


  2. At the command prompt, type the following command (where your filename replaces FILENAME, and your path information replaces C:\FOLDER):



The /B switch used at the end of this Copy command specifies that the data is being sent to the printer in binary format. This solves various problems, including incorrect ASCII coding of higher-level characters and timeouts that can occur when a printer must take too long to process a stream of data.

Be sure to include the .PRN extension. Also be sure to include the path to your file's location.

    Part I: Word Basics: Get Productive Fast
    Part II: Building Slicker Documents Faster
    Part III: The Visual Word: Making Documents Look Great
    Part IV: Industrial-Strength Document Production Techniques
    Part VI: The Corporate Word