5 printing secrets every Mac user needs

Everyone knows how to print from their Mac, right? You just hit the Print button (or Command-P) – but are you using these print-related tricks?

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Everyone knows how to print from their Mac, right? You just hit the Print button (or Command-P) – but are you using these print-related tricks?

How to print from the Dock

What if you didn’t even have to open documents to print them? What if you could just print from the document icon in Finder using drag & drop? You can — here’s how:

  • Open System Preferences>Printers & Scanners.
  • Look to the Printers list and select the printer you want to use.
  • Drag & drop the printer icon from the list to your Dock.
  • You should see the icon for that printer appear in your Dock.
  • Quit System Preferences.

In the future, you’ll be able to print items just by dropping them on the print icon in your Dock. When you drop, you won’t see the usual print tools, but you will see the printer’s management window in which you can cancel printing if you want.

How to print from Spotlight search

Here’s a fairly typical scenario: You want to print something, but you don’t know where it is on your Mac. Typically, you’ll use Spotlight/Siri to find the item, open it and print from there. But armed with the Dock icon tip above, you can simply drag & drop the document icon directly from the Spotlight search results onto the Print icon in your Dock and print from there, which can be considerably faster.

How to print screen on the Mac

There’s no single print screen command on the Mac, but there’s a workaround. When you want to print the entire contents of the screen just tap Command-Shift-3 and an image of the desktop contents will be saved as a file to your Desktop (or add Control to the sequence to take an image and save it to your Clipboard for pasting into the app of your choice). You can then print the file from inside Preview or by dragging it to the Dock icon as described above.

(You can also print elements of what’s on screen: Command-Shift-4 lets you define an area to capture, and Command-Shift-4 followed by Spacebar lets you choose and capture a specific application window only. (You'll find a bunch more keyboard shortcuts here.)

How to beat the print queue

A more complex tip: If you work in a shared office space, it’s possible you also share a selection of printers on the network. This can be useful, but it does sometimes mean your print job gets stuck in a lengthy queue when you assign it to one of the shared printers. Fortunately, there is a better way — create a printer pool:

  • Launch System Preferences>Printers & Scanners.
  • Now select all the shared printers in your office you use — click the first one, then hold down Command while you select additional ones.
  • Click Create Printer Pool, give it a name.

In the future, when you print, remember to select the pool, and your print will be completed using the first available printer from your collection.

If you want to print multiple copies of a document, you’ll get best results by printing each copy individually to the pool. When you do that, the job will be handled by the first available printer, meaning you’ll have your copies printed simultaneously across your print pool.

How to print multiple items really, really fast

Here’s the scenario: You have a huge number of items you need to print, but you’d like to avoid the rigmarole of opening each document before hitting print.

Here’s a much faster way:

  • Open Printers & Scanners in System Preferences.
  • Select the printer you want to use in the list of available printers.
  • Tap the Open Print Queue button to the right of that list.
  • The Print Queue for that printer will open.
  • Now drag & drop the items you wish to print into the Print Queue — your Mac will then open each item up, print them, and close the application.

There’s another way to do this: Just select all the items you wish to print in Finder and tap Command-P (or choose File>Print). If your system can print those items, it will.

Bonus tip: How to print to PDF really, really fast

David Sparks got this one a long time ago: You can create a shortcut that lets you print any item to PDF following instructions you’ll find at this site.

Got any more useful printing tips for Macs? Please let me know.

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