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Different results when printing on different printers

Stable Layout on Different Printers

Summary: Printing a document on different printers can result in different results, particularly when it comes to where lines end and where new pages start. This tip discusses some of the reasons for this, along with a couple of suggestions on how the problem can be minimized. (This tip works with Microsoft Word 97, Word 2000, Word 2002, and Word 2003.)

Is there is a way to keep the layout of pages in a large document the same regardless of which printer she uses to print the document?

Believe it or not, this is not that simple of a question. To make it simpler, let's consider a scenario where a single document is printed on two different printers, A and B. If printers A and B are identical and use the exact same printer driver, then the printout on each of them should be the same if you are printing from a single machine. If you are printing from different machines (and the printers and printer drivers are identical) the printouts could still be different if the systems use different versions of Word, different fonts, or even different implementations of the same fonts from different vendors.

It is also possible that you could get different printouts--even if printers A and B are identical--if printer A is operating at a different print resolution from printer B. If printers A and B are identical but the printer drivers are different (such as different versions of the same driver), then the printouts can be different. Finally, if printers A and B are different makes and models, then it is virtually guaranteed that the printouts will be different. This occurs even if the printers use the same printer driver, such as a generic PostScript driver.

As you can tell, there are a lot of factors that come into play when printing your document. Printer make and model, printer resolution, printer driver version, and fonts all play a role in determining what ends up on the printed page. For this reason, many people who need to make sure that they get the same thing on different printers will often convert their documents to PDF format for distribution. The PDF format was designed to eliminate (or at least minimize) differences in printed output on different platforms. The traditional way to create a PDF file is to use Adobe Acrobat, although there are a number of less expensive alternatives to Acrobat.

If converting to PDF format is not possible, you should at least choose Tools | Options | Compatibility Options tab and make sure that the Use Printer Metrics to Lay Out Document option is not checked. This option is turned off in a standard Word installation, but someone may have turned it on. Some information on this setting is found in the following Knowledge Base article:

This option was introduced in Word 97. It was at that point that Microsoft added a "virtual printer" to Word in an attempt to minimize document recomposition when the printer driver changed. While turning off the setting (which means that Word does layout according to internal metrics rather than printer driver metrics) can minimize changes from one printer to another, it won't get rid of them entirely, particularly in large, complex documents that use a lot of text boxes or frames.

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