Speed up Word and other programs with a PDF printer

icon_publisher_13_printerMicrosoft Word, for some reason, checks with the default printer prior to performing various tasks, including opening a document. This can cause a number of delays if your printer is not plugged in, not turned on, or in some sort of “hibernate” mode. This is a particular concern for me when I am out in the field and have not plugged in my printer. The default printer is initially set to the main office printer on my end of the building, which Word takes a long time to determine is not really there.

I have come up with a simple solution to alleviate some of those delays: set a PDF printer as your default printer in Windows. If you have Adobe Acrobat installed (the full version, not just Reader), you should have a PDF printer installed on your computer. Otherwise, I recommend CutePDF Writer, which is free for both commercial and noncommercial use.

To set up a PDF printer as the default printer:

  1. In Windows XP or Vista: Go to Start -> Control Panel -> Printers and Faxes *OR* Start -> Printers and Faxes
    In Windows 7: Go to Start -> Devices and Printers
  2. Find the “Adobe PDF” printer (or CutePDF Writer)
  3. Right-click on the printer and select “Set as default”

An added bonus to this trick is that you never waste paper on mistakenly printed files, like those times you accidently click the Print icon on the toolbar. In those cases, the file will print to a PDF, which is easy to cancel or delete.

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