Fixing weird printing problems in MS Word

Some of my coworkers deal with long documents that give our printer fits. “Fits” meaning that 60-page documents take 30-45 minutes to print if they don’t abort in the middle with a printing error.

The documents in question contain a cover sheet, scanned in at high resolution, and usually have some large charts.

I devised a workaround.

Office 2007 and later have the ability to export a document to PDF. When my boss was faced with a stubborn document that just wouldn’t print, I tried exporting to PDF as a last-ditch, desperate measure to get the thing onto paper.

The PDF export only took a minute or two. The wizard helpfully offers to open the PDF in Acrobat Adobe Reader when it finishes, so I let that. Once the converted document appeared in on screen, I printed it. It printed as quickly as any plain old straight-text document would under the same conditions.

Kludge? You bet. But short of replacing the printer with something that has a lot more memory and horsepower, I can’t think of any other solution. This is cheaper.

3 thoughts on “Fixing weird printing problems in MS Word

  • November 9, 2010 at 3:05 am
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    A long time ago in a universe far far away, I encountered similar problems.

    The printers involved, as it happens, were Kyocera, and near minimal memory – say about 2MB. The PC was feeding info to them to draw an entire page of complex graphics, then they would print it – if they didn’t run out of the necessary memory to hold the image first.

    I found a couple of fixes:

    1. Add more memory. That avoided the problem, but didn’t fix it. Darned administrative assistants for top execs fairly quickly developed new ever more hungry documents.

    2. Tell the PC it was printing to a HP printer in PCL. That worked, but you got horizontal banding on the big pages with complex graphics.

  • November 9, 2010 at 8:36 pm
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    Kyocera? Don’t get me started.

    I’d have to check to see if we’re using Postscript or PCL. Offhand I don’t know. PCL is less memory and processor intensive, so that’s a valid fix, and in this case shouldn’t affect print quality too badly. That’s something I should have thought of too.

  • November 10, 2010 at 10:41 am
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    I work in printing, and overbuilt, over formatted and over graphed documents are the bane of even the biggest digital printers. That 60pp document that is choking the small office printer still chokes a $250K Xerox Docucenter. Far too many people think they know how to build a document in Word when they in fact they just don’t. Improperly embedded graphics (dare I say unneeded, unnecessary and unwanted?) are usually to blame.

    PDFs are perfect for the choice, and that’s the reason they were developed in the first place. Postscript is just too kludgy for today’s office programs, as it is a language that requires an interpreter to generate the image. That cover page you mentioned, along with the charts, dictate the processing speed of each subsequent page. Simply put the printer is going “Process Cover Page”; “Process Cover Page and Page One”; “Process Cover Page and Page One and Two”; “Process Cover Page, and Page One, Two and Three” and so on. No wonder it chokes up! PCL will work better, but you may see a difference in quality, and you’ll still get the occasional choke.

    Commercial printers quickly adopted the PDF workflow to simplify and speed up processing time, and we STILL get caught by a badly created document. Color looks great, but really complicates printing!

    As commercial printing of office documents doesn’t allow the luxury of time, we came up with a few different workarounds for recalcitrant documents. One of which was to break out the cover and charts pages and print those separately. Our equipment has the ability to insert pre-printed covers and “tab “pages (charts!) with the regular B&W text pages. Something an office printer typically can’t do.

    I’ve adopted the habit of printing all documents to PDF first, then print. Even when it’s not necessary.

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