Paper sizes on another computer

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How to format a Word or Excel document to print on someone else’s computer.

On our new Twitter account we saw this question:

When I send an Excel file to someone, should I have to set it up so they can print it? I don’t know the printer/size paper they use.

It should not be necessary to prepare for printing a Word, Excel or PowerPoint file before sending to someone. Even if you tried there are too many printing unknowns at the receivers end.

But there are some things you can do to make the process easier, especially when the person getting the document doesn’t know a lot about their computer. Sadly people with such problems tend to blame the person who sent the document and expect them to fix their own difficulty.

Things can be made easier if you know what paper the receiver’s printer uses. That means Letter or Legal size in the USA and other imperial sized locations. Letter sized paper seems more common than Legal. In metric countries it’s usually safe to assume they have A4 paper in the main printer tray.

If you know the paper size you can change the paper size of the document you send. In Word 2007 or Excel 2007 go to the Page Layout tab and click the Size list. In Word 2003, Excel 2003 and earlier versions of Office go to File | Page Setup.

If you don’t know the paper size the receiver uses go for Letter in the USA and A4 in metric countries (which is pretty much everywhere else).

Even if you guess wrong, there are several ways for the receiver to cope with a document that’s formatted differently from the paper they have available. There are options in Office and, most likely, in their printer as well.


Send a PDF

If the receiver doesn’t have to edit the document or just make basic comments then send a PDF file instead. The PDF format is widely accepted (they should have the free PDF viewer installed).

PDF’s should ensure document viewing fidelity, in other words they’ll see the same pages you see.

Recent PDF viewers (like Adobe Reader 9) have a ‘Page Scaling’ option in the Print dialog so you can easily print an A4 document to Letter/Legal pages or vice versa.

Office 2007 has a ‘Save to PDF’ option available via a free download see Office 2007 XPS and PDF export downloads

For earlier versions of Office you need a separate PDF converter see How to save a PDF from Office

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