Printing to file rather than directly to a printer enables a user to capture the printer stream for a document. There are several reasons a user may want to do this:
- There may not be a printer to use at the moment. This is often the case with portable computers.
- There is a printer, but it is currently unavailable. Printing to file enables the user to perform another task without waiting for a printer to become available.
- Archival purposes. The document can be reprinted over and over.
- Conversion to a different file type. Postscript files can easily be converted to PDF and many image formats using free or commercial products.
- Save paper and printer supplies. Many documents we print are never referenced again, but are required to be on file.
The resulting file is generally in a proprietary format created by the driver. It is possible the file will only work on the model of printer in which the driver was designed because of special features of the printer. Most new printers are backward compatible with printers the manufacturer has made in the past. For this reason, it is usually best when printing to file, to use the driver for an older model of printer based on the same printer language, that supports the paper sizes and some of the features you will also use on the newer printer. Examples of older printer drivers are:
- Apple Laserwriter for black and white Postscript language printers
- Apple Color Laserwriter 12/600 for color Postscript language printers
- HP LaserJet 4 for black and white PCL printers
- HP Color LaserJet for color PCL printers
- Epson FX-80 for dot matrix printers
- Generic / Text Only for text or dot matrix printers
To enable printing to file, there are 4 ways to accomplish this:
- Check the "Print to File" checkbox in the print dialog at the time of printing. You will be prompted for a filename. This option is not always available, since the programmer of the application can disable this feature.
- Attach the printer to the "File:" port prior to printing. You will be prompted for a filename.
- Create a local port that names a single file on the hard drive. The file will be overwritten each time this port is used.
- Use a third party software product, such as Virtual Port Monitor.