Easy switching between color and B&W printing

Office for Mere Mortals helps people around the world get more from Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. Delivered once a week. free.


How can you toggle between costly color printing and cheaper Black & White or Grayscale quickly without delving into the print properties each time you want to switch?

Over at Citibank they are on an economy drive, part of which is cutting back on color printing. That’s no surprise because even light coverage color printing can cost more than double a ‘Black and White’ page.

Most installed printers, by default, print to the best quality (which means color where possible).  That’s because the printer makers want to show off their product and prevent returns to the store because the printer doesn’t print as well as promised.  To change that setting you have to go to Printer Settings in the Print dialog. 

The problem is remembering the make the change to greyscale printing (or back to color).  Most of us remember to do that only after the page is printed!  What’s needed is a way to quickly select between printer settings for the same printer … and that’s what we have.  

Quick Change

How can you toggle between costly color printing and cheaper Black & White or Grayscale quickly without delving into the print properties each time you want to switch?

You can do it quite easily and it’s been possible for many years in Windows but it’s not obvious. Once setup it works for any Windows program, not just Microsoft Office.

In short, you create multiple ‘printers’ in Windows with different settings in each one, even though they all send output to the same physical printer. Windows seems to operate on the basis on one printer listing in the Control Panel setup for physical printer. In fact you can add more ‘printers’ with separate settings in each one. Here’s a standard looking Printers applet in Windows XP with a single printer installed:

Printers applet - one printer image from Easy switching between color and B&W printing at Office-Watch.com

 

Doesn’t say much and there’s no indication of what printer settings apply. So the first step is to find out and label the printer accordingly.

Right-click on the printer icon and choose ‘Printing Preferences’. What you see next depends on the brand and type of printer plus print drivers you’ve installed.

In this simple example there’s a ‘Paper/Quality’ tab which controls the color setting for the printer.

Printer, Printing Preferences - color or not image from Easy switching between color and B&W printing at Office-Watch.com

 

Cancel out and get back to the Printer list. Right-click on the Printer, choose Rename and give it a clearer label. I go for capitals so each option stands out:

Printer labelled as color image from Easy switching between color and B&W printing at Office-Watch.com

 

Now to make a ‘new’ printer. Before you start you may wish to check the connect settings for the printer (go to the printer properties | Ports). Click on Add Printer and go through the wizard again choosing the same settings and drivers as for the original printer. At one stage you’ll be asked if you want to use the existing drivers – choose ‘Keep existing driver’.

Add Printer wizard - use existing driver image from Easy switching between color and B&W printing at Office-Watch.com

 


$$PAGE$$

Finally you get the chance to label the ‘new’ printer, choose an appropriate name for your new settings.

Add Printer wizard - name your printer image from Easy switching between color and B&W printing at Office-Watch.com

 

In this case we’ve chosen to make this the default printer because it is the cheaper printing option. We’d prefer to print cheaply by default and only choose more costly options as needed.

The ‘new’ printer has been created and labeled but you still need to change the settings to match the label. Right-click on the ‘new’ printer and choose ‘Printing Preferences’ to change the configuration – in this case from Color to Black & White:

Printer, Printing Preferences - black and white image from Easy switching between color and B&W printing at Office-Watch.com

 

Back at the Printers list you now have two different collections of printer settings for the same physical printer.

Printers applet - two printers image from Easy switching between color and B&W printing at Office-Watch.com

 

The ‘tick’ on one icon indicates the default printer that will be used unless you choose a different printer for a particular job.

Now in the standard printer dialog box you can choose color printing or not without digging into preferences (and remember to change them back again).

Print dialog with two printers image from Easy switching between color and B&W printing at Office-Watch.com

 

Why not just copy the original printer setup and change it? Why not indeed .. sadly there’s no option to copy an existing printer settings then change the clone (something you can do with standard files or documents).

What brand of printer?

This tip should work for any brand of printer – the only thing that will change is the look of the Printer Preferences options. Our example uses a Hewlett-Packard printer only because that was the one connected to the test network. Even then, the preferences can look different if you use the Microsoft supplied drivers or the more powerful drivers often available from the printer manufacturer.

Hewlett-Packard printers with HP supplied drivers have a very different printer preferences to those shown above for the same printer.  Current HP printers have a ‘Quick Sets’ feature to let you save multiple printer configurations, however this isn’t as convenient as separate printer setups right there on the Print dialog box.

HP Printer driver - Quick Sets image from Easy switching between color and B&W printing at Office-Watch.com

All that said, the combination of Windows, different printers and possibly different versions of printer drivers means no-one can guarantee printer tips work in every situation.  Some printers/drivers might be a bit too smart and stop you installing the same printer a second time.  It’s very much a case of  ‘your mileage may vary’.

What versions of Windows

This trick works in Windows XP and Windows Vista – most likely earlier versions of Windows as well.  The screen-shots in this article are from Windows XP.

Other printer settings

The same tip works for any printer settings you commonly use. For example you could make separate ‘printers’ in Windows for economy drive choices like:

  • Duplex / Double-sided printing

  • Two pages on a single sheet

  • Paper sizes

  • Paper type (plain paper, ‘photo’ paper etc)

Printer list with many printer choices image from Easy switching between color and B&W printing at Office-Watch.com

 


$$PAGE$$

Follow-up

We mentioned in the original article that ‘your mileage will vary’ – the combination of Windows versions, printers and printer drivers means no-one can guarantee that our ‘easy switching’ tip will work in all circumstances. Perfect answers aren’t possible given all the variables involved – all we can do is give you ideas and tips for you to try.

For example one reader wrote to complain that it would not work with her network linked printer, assuming that the networking element was the problem. In fact the examples in our article came from IP networked printers and several readers wrote delighted that they’d been able to setup multiple ‘printers’ to linked to their printer on the local network.

If you’re trying to install a second printer instance we strongly suggest that you do NOT use the install CD or downloaded driver source for the 2nd or more printer. As in the article, select ‘keep existing driver’ when prompted. That might help create a second ‘printer’ with separate configuration.

Printers directly connected by USB cables seem to be too clever by half. In most (or all) cases it seems it won’t let you install the printer a second time or beyond. But there may be ways around that for the determined :

  • See if the printer has other connection options, especially a network connection. If there’s a parallel port available you could try that.

  • Install the printer on one computer and share that printer with the rest of a local network. Other computers on the LAN can print via the shared printer and because it’s a network link you should be able to add it multiple times. Of course, the hosting computer needs to be on to complete the link between your computer and the printer.

  • Some network devices like network attached storage, modems or wireless hubs have USB printer connections (aka Print Server) – this lets you plug in the USB printer to the device then share it with computers in a small network. Because your computer links to the device via an IP address you might be able to setup multiple times. Check out any network devices you have to see if there’s a USB printer sharing socket available. If you’re in the market for a new network device, consider the advantages of getting one with the ‘print server’ feature included – it could be handy.

  • There are specialist print servers available too. These plug into the USB socket of the printer and link to the network (wired or wireless). Wired connectors can be had for under US$70 in the USA. Wireless print servers at around the $100 mark.

Don’t dismiss the network option if you have a single computer. You may have a small network to connect your broadband/cable modem to your computer. If so, there’s room to expand that to network printers or other devices.

 


Want More?

Office Watch has the latest news and tips about Microsoft Office. Independent since 1996. Delivered once a week.