10.3 Printers and Printing
It's been more than a decade since pundits proclaimed the imminent arrival of the paperless office. That prediction has turned out to be about as accurate as the Dow Jones's topping 35,000. Since printers are still being asked to churn out piles of paper, you need to know how to keep them in shape. This section explains how to get the most bang for your page.
Tip: If you have a choice, use a printer's USB port rather than its parallel port. Parallel port connections use a substantial amount of your PC's microprocessor, slowing down all other programs. In fact, some programs may not respond at all during especially large print jobs sent through the parallel port. (New printers typically connect to PCs using USB ports; many don't even have parallel ports.)
10.3.1 Printing Font Samples
Windows XP features dozens of interesting and unique fonts. Some are fun, some professional, some downright funky. Problem is, when you use a program like Word, you have no real way to preview them. Sure, Word's got a drop-down list of font choices, but you can only see a few characters of each font. What you really need is a full preview of every single character in the font.
The system's built-in font previewer is one of those hidden XP gems that few people know about, and even fewer use. To view and print samples of a font on your system choose Control Panel Appearance and Themes Fonts. Windows Explorer displays a folder with a list of every font on your system.
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Figure 10-5. When you preview a font, XP not only displays how every letter and character appears, but also lists the font type, version number, and the amount of disk space the font occupies on your system.
Tip: For a quicker way to access your fonts folder, open Windows Explorer and go to C: Windows Fonts.
When you double-click the font you want to view, a screen like the one pictured in Figure 10-5 appears. You can view the font onscreen or print a handy sample by clicking Print. (For future reference, you may even want to create a "font book" by printing a sample of every font on your system and filing them in a three-ring binder.) Once you're finished, click Done to close the window.
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Using the Command Line to View and Print Fonts
If you're a big fan of the command line (and who isn't?), you can view or print fonts without using menus or Windows Explorer. First you need to know the font name and its location, including its full path . (As a general rule, fonts are found in My Computer C: Windows Fonts. ) Once you know the file name and location, open up a command prompt. Then, to view a font, type fontview [pathname] [filename] ( [pathname] should include the full path to the font, and [filename] includes the font name and extension, such as .ttf or .fon). For example, to print the Algerian font, named alger.ttf, you would type this command:
To print the font, use the /p switch command, like this: fontview /p filename . For the Algerian example, the print command would look like this:
fontview /p C:\Windows\Fonts\alger.ttf
10.3.2 Receiving a Message when Your Print Job Is Done
With a little bit of tweaking, you can program your printer to tell you (in the form of a pop-up message) when your print job is done. If you work in an office where the printer is out of eyesight, or if you share it with other people, this trick can save you a lot of checking up ‚ especially when someone else's 300-page document is slowly churning out.
Note: Your printer uses the Windows Messenger Service (not related to the Windows Messenger instant messaging program) to alert you when your print job is done. If you turned off this service to block spam (Section 6.2.3), you can't use this hint.
To set up a printer alert, run the Registry Editor (Section 15.1.2) and then go to My Computer HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE SYSTEM CurrentControlSet Control Print Providers. Find the DWORD value NetPopup. If the value isn't there, create it. To tell your printer to notify you when it finishes printing, set the value to 1. To disable the notification, set the value to 0. Exit the Registry and restart XP to trigger the change.
10.3.3 On-the-Road Printing Strategies
Unless you're the type of road warrior who carries a printer in his rucksack, you're facing the eternal laptop-in-transit dilemma: how do I print something? Fortunately, you've got a few options.
Kinko's has a nifty downloadable tool that lets you send a file over the Web and print it out at most Kinko's branches. Here's how: go to Kinko's Web site (http://www.kinkos.com) and from the Online Printing menu, select "Print to a FedEx Kinko's" (Kinko's is now part of FedEx). Then download and install the File Prep Tool, following the instructions listed on the site. Once you've got the tool installed, you can print from almost any program. Printouts cost anywhere from 10 cents per page on up, depending on the paper stock you choose.
10.3.3.2 Print workaround: fax it
What if you're not near a Kinko's? If you happen to be near a fax machine, you have another good option. Before you hit the road with your laptop, install XP's fax program (it lets you fax any document from your PC). To install the program, insert the XP installation CD into your CD drive; when the opening screen appears, choose Install Optional Windows Components Fax Services. (For more help installing and using the fax program, see Section 4.3.1.)
Then, when you're ready to print, open the file and fax it (choose File Print and select the fax icon from the print screen).
Tip: If you're faxing to a hotel, be sure to check to see whether the hotel charges guests for receiving faxes; many hotels do.
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Print Like a Pro
Here're some downloads that can bump you from printing layperson to printing pro.
Fine Print . This handy piece of software gives your printer a slew of capabilities that go beyond a simple 8.5 x 11 page. Among the options: You can print booklets; print two, four, or eight pages on a single sheet of paper; resize Web pages before printing so they fit better on a page; eliminate ads from printed Web pages; and create specialized stationery. ($39.95 shareware; http://www.fineprint.com).)
The Font Creator Program . If you fancy yourself a type designer, give this program a try. It lets you create your own TrueType fonts from scratch, or take existing TrueType fonts as a starting point and edit them to your tastes. (TrueType fonts are the most common kinds of fonts and come with Windows XP.) You can also convert bitmap graphics to TrueType outlines, so you can create fonts based on your signature, handwriting, or logo--cool stuff. ($50 shareware; http://www.high-logic.com).
CrossFont . This unique program lets you convert TureType and PostScript Type 1 fonts between Macs and PCs. That's all it does, but it does it exceedingly well. ($45 shareware: http://www.asy.com).)
10.3.3.3 Create a print queue
Finally, there's a way to line up the documents you want to print so that when you return home and plug in your laptop, they automatically start printing. This is called setting up a print queue . To make it happen, choose Control Panel Printers and Other Hardware Printers and Faxes, and right-click the printer you want to use. Then choose Use Printer Offline. After changing this setting, any documents you print sit in the print queue, waiting to be printed. When you return home, choose Control Panel Printers and Other Hardware Printers and Faxes, right-click the printer you've chosen , and select Use Printer Online. Without further ado, all of your queued documents start making their way to the printer.