In all versions of Windows, whether you have one printer or more, only one of those printers is set as the "Default Printer".
The default printer is the printer on which many programs will print, if you click their Print icon. Most programs also have a Print option under their File menu, which will display a print dialog box — which will let you choose between multiple printers.
Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint are three examples of programs that have a Print icon that immediately prints to the default printer.
You can add more icons to the icon bars in Word, Excel and PowerPoint. I’ll cover that in a future newsletter, but, for now, your hint is "Right-click on one of the existing icons (in Word, Excel or PowerPoint) and you’ll get a popup menu with options.
If you only have one printer, you might be wondering why you should have any interest in this article…
The reason is that you can easily create Adobe Reader (.pdf) files yourself from any document that you can print. You can use a free PDF creation program or one of the paid ones (I use ClickBook MMX). Some of these programs create a new file each time you “print.” Others, like ClickBook, will allow you to print multiple documents — even print from multiple applications — into the same PDF file. I use it to document my purchases via the Internet and to document bank and investment data.
Each of these PDF creation programs actually links into Windows as if it was a printer! So, if I want to print, I can select ClickBook "printer" or my laser printer or my wife’s color inkjet printer.
So, how do you change the default printer? First, open the Printer Dialog Box…
Some versions of Windows XP show the Printers and Faxes selection on the Start Menu by default. WinXP Home does this, so selecting the Printer Dialog Box is easy.
Other Windows versions, like Windows XP Professional, have configuration options that will put the Printers and Faxes entry on the Start Menu. Since I use XP Pro, I was surprised when I saw that convenient menu selection on XP Home — so I started looking for it in the Windows configuration options.
In the Printers and Faxes Dialog Box, you can see all the printers that Windows thinks you have.
Yes, I used that choice of words for a reason — you can set up your printers multiple times, as long as you give them different names.
Why might you want to do that? For example, you could set up a color printer once as a color printer. Then, you could set it up again using the Add Printer menu item (within the dialog box, without having to reload your printer’s drivers) and set it to print in black and white only. Or, you could set up separate “printers” in Windows for landscape and portrait printing.
So, how do you change which is the default printer? Just right-click on the printer and select “Make Default Printer” from the context menu that pops up.