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Print to File Explained

Jim from Hernando Beach FL asks:

When printing, the box pops up for you to choose printer. In that box there is a little square to check that says “print to file”. How do you print to a file?

Why Print to File

Printing to a file is useful for documents that need to be printed at a commercial printer. After you print to a file, layout information is stored in the file. This file is then used by the commercial printer to produce the print. To print the document or photo, the commercial printer does not need to have the software through which you created the document. For example, suppose you have created an amazing eBook using Microsoft Word or Adobe Illustrator. To reproduce hard copies of the eBook, commercial printers do not need Microsoft Office or Adobe Illustrator installed in their systems. All they need is the “print to file”.

Let’s see how this is done. I’ll use a document created in Microsoft Word 2007 as an example.

Step 1: Create the document that you would like to send to a commercial printer.

Step 2: Click File > Print > Print, as shown below.


Step 3: Select the Print to file checkbox and then click the OK button.


Step 4: Specify a file name and click the OK button.


This is the file that stores the information, such as layout and spacing, which is important for commercial printers. Notice the extension of the file is .prn. You can send this file to a commercial printer to reproduce large copies or to print in a higher resolution than your personal printer.

You might be wondering what happens if the fonts used in your document are not installed on the system of the commercial printer. In such cases, the commercial printer will automatically replace the fonts you have used with the fonts already installed in his or her system. This may result in a document that isn’t exactly as you’d want it. The best way to avoid this situation, is to inform the commercial printer about the fonts you have used. The printer will update their system, or ask you to update your document with fonts compatible with their printers.

~Rupen Sharma