Understanding Virtual Printers – CompTIA A+ 220-901 – 1.14

Much of our printing today doesn’t create a physical printed page. In this video, you’ll learn some of the more popular techniques when using virtual printers.

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These days, you may not be printing to a physical printer. You may be printing to a virtual printer. There’s no physical output involved. You’re not printing to a laser printer or a dot-matrix printer. Instead, you’re sending information into a file that’s going to be stored inside of your computer.

This means that you don’t have any ink, or paper, or printer that you have to worry about. There’s no additional hardware to use this virtual printing capability. If you’re sending files electronically, this is perfect. You can take the output of what you’ve been working on, print it into one of these virtual formats, and then send it to somebody over the internet.

One way to print virtually is to print to a file. This is if you’re at home, but your printer is at work but you would still like to take the output of what you’ve been working on and set it somewhere on your hard drive, so that when you get to work you’ll be able to print it out. To be able to use this capability, there’s a function in the print driver itself, where it has print to file. And you can check that and it’s going to save this as a file on your computer. This file is going to be in a very specific output format that can be read by this specific printer. So it’s already in the printer language that you’ll use to be able to output it, once you get back to work.

This is not something that you’ll be able to load up into another program and edit afterwards. It’s now in its final form, and the next step will be to send it to that printer. There’s no simple way to send a print to file document to the printer. You normally have to go the command line and copy the file to the interface where that printer is located. Very common way to do that would be to use the Copy command, specify the file name that you copied this into, and then specify the interface for the printer.

A very popular virtual printer format is the PDF format. This is a format from Adobe. It stands for Portable Document Format, and it’s a way to take information in a document and output it into a format that many people would be able to view. And this works across many different platforms. So it doesn’t matter whether you’re in Windows, or Mac OS, or a Linux, or a mobile device, everyone can view the output exactly the way that you intend it.

This is a proprietary format from Adobe, so it does require that you install some software on your computer to be able to create the PDF and to be able to view the PDF. Fortunately, this is so popular that many internet browsers also support the ability to view a PDF file without installing any additional software.

There’s also a number of non-Adobe third party tools available, to both save PDF files and to view PDF files. So if you wanted to try different types of output, or different types of readers, you can try them from many different third parties.

Here’s what this might look like if you’re printing to a PDF. Of course, you have the standard layout and quality settings that you have with a standard printer. But you also have these additional PDF settings where you can define what the security, the output folder, the size of the pages, and other PDF specific characteristics.

Another very similar format to the PDF format is the Microsoft XPS format. That stands for XML Paper Specification. It’s almost a very similar use case to the PDF format from Adobe, but this is one that is very specific to Windows. And there is XPS driver and reader that goes all the way back to Windows XP. To be able to use this, we would print our document into XPS format and then we’d be able to use a reader that’s available in practically any operating system to be able to view it.

A format that would be a little less proprietary than an Adobe PDF or Microsoft XPS format, would be the Print To Image format. This is where we are taking the output and putting it into a graphics file. Once we have it in this graphics format, we can edit the graphic, or we can send it to anybody who’s able to read that graphics file. This Print To Image functionality usually isn’t built into the print driver or into the operating system. It’s often part of the application itself, and the application output may allow us to print to an image type of format.

There are number of third party print drivers that will allow you to print to an image. So if you don’t have that capability inside of your application, you may be able to print to an image by printing to one of these third party print drivers.