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Save those trees! Printing compressed copies of large documents

Save those trees! Printing compressed copies of large documents post image

Unless otherwise noted, all instructions and screenshots are from Microsoft Office for Windows.

If your law office is like most of the ones I’ve seen, you’ve got a lot of paper. A ton of paper. Probably more paper than you know what to do with.

Even with all that document digitizing we’ve all been doing in recent years – scanning, e-filing, case management databases, etc. – law firms still do an awful lot of printing. Even so, all those calls for firms to “go paperless” are starting to gain traction.

That said, it’s still true: we do so love our paper. And even the most digital-savvy among us has to admit that hard copies have their advantages. It’s tough to choose.

But what if I said you could have your cake and eat it too? Print as many pages as you want and still use less paper?

Take a cue from your court reporter

Virtually every attorney has seen it: the condensed deposition transcript. Some call it a travel transcript, and with good reason, because these 4-to-a-page, duplex-printed formats are much thinner and more briefcase-friendly.

But what many users of Microsoft Word and other Windows programs don’t realize is that virtually every application can print in a condensed format – 2 to a page, 4 to a page, all the way up to 16 to a page (and beyond). To demonstrate, I’m going to give you some application-specific examples, plus a little trick you can use with your printer driver.

Microsoft Word

Within Microsoft Word, you can choose to print a document 2-up (two document pages printed on one sheet of paper), 4-up, 6-up, 8-up, or 16-up. In version 2010, go to the File tab and click print along the left hand side. Near the bottom, you’ll see a drop-down that defaults to 1 page per sheet. Click the down arrow on the right and choose the format you want.

In version 2007, click the Office button in the upper left-hand corner (or in versions 2003 and earlier, click File on the left end of the menu) and choose Print. Once in the Print dialog box, look in the lower right-hand corner for a section called Zoom, then select the correct layout from the Pages Per Sheet drop-down.

Adobe Acrobat

Whether you’re using the free Reader or the full version of Adobe Acrobat, printing in a condensed format is pretty straightforward. Go to File | Print and, in the lower left quadrant of the Print dialog box, you’ll see a section called Page Handling. Under that section is a drop-down called Page Scaling. Choose Multiple Pages Per Sheet from that drop-down, and you’ll see some customization choices pop up. Format the page to your liking, checking the Print Preview over on the right as you go, then click OK.

Photo printing

If you’ve got a bunch of color digital photographs (say, pictures produced during discovery), the price of color toner or ink alone is enough to discourage you from printing them one to a page. If you really need them printed, do this instead.

  • Select a group of photos by holding down the Control key and left clicking several photos with your mouse.
  • Right-click and choose Print from the contextual menu, the default Windows photo printer will present you with a number of print layouts. Pick the layout that strikes the perfect balance between toner-saving and picture clarity.

That way, you get a hard copy of the photos in your file without going through your entire color toner supply in one print job.

What if your application doesn’t support condensed printing?

Even if the Windows application you’re working with doesn’t have specific settings in its Print dialog for condensed printing, you’re not stuck. Virtually every up-to-date print driver will allow you to print in condensed mode. Generally, once you’re in the Print dialog box, you can click on Printer Properties to go to your print driver’s Properties dialog.

Although every printer is a little different, you can generally find these settings on a tab called Finishing, Layout or something similar. Your printer model will determine what layout choices are available to you. After you’ve selected one, click the OK button to return to the Print dialog box in your application.

Life is full of little trade-offs

Obviously, you can’t give every document the “travel transcript” treatment. When you start printing two or more document pages per sheet of paper, readability becomes an issue. Print one sheet’s worth of pages first, then decide if you really want to print the entire document in condensed mode.

And don’t forget to turn off condensed printing when finished with a particular document. You don’t want to blithely send a bunch of subsequent print jobs to the printer in condensed mode, only to end up killing more trees when you have to reset and reprint them in regular mode.

Still, condensed printing (along with duplexing — a.k.a. printing on both sides of the paper, if your printer will support it) is a great trick to have up your sleeve. It can help save room in your overloaded paper files while you gradually move toward paperless nirvana.

by Deborah Savadra

I spend an inordinate amount of my time playing with computers and attempting to explain technology to lawyers and law office staff. It's not always easy, but someone's got to do it.

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  1. I have trouble printing two or more to a page. No matter how I change the page order, I can’t seem to end up with my pages being printed correctly; i.e. if two per page, then 1 on the left, two on the right, three on the left, four on the right, etc.

    And forget trying to left/right left/right on four to a page!

    I’ve tried all the various combinations to find one that works, and none of them will do so consistently.

    What’s the secret of getting the pages to print in the numbered format I would like?

    1. Instead of doing the “2 per page” etc. setup in Word or whatever application you’re using, try clicking Properties in the print dialog and seeing what options you have there (see above at “What if your application doesn’t support condensed printing?”). Each printer will have its own scheme for whether and how much you can control about the layout, so what you’ll find in terms of controls will depend on what brand/model of printer you’re using.

      What kind of printer are you using? And do you have the latest available print driver for it? The answers to those two questions will determine what you’re able to do with condensed printing.

  2. Wow! This is a great article! Condensing my printing has saved me a lot of time, money, and paper, especially when I was trying to print off lots of photos from my recent trip abroad for an office presentation. Thanks a ton!