Printing a selection in Office

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A trick for quickly printing part of a document, worksheet or slides plus when it does NOT work.

Sometimes you just want to print part of a document, maybe a few paragraphs or many pages. One option available is to print the current selection.

The basics are simple. In Word, select any block of text in a document, just as if you were going to format, copy or paste that text. While selected go to the normal Print dialog box (Ctrl + P shortcut) and look for the ‘selection’ button.

844 Office Print dialog selection - Printing a selection in Office

There are options to print specific pages and, in Word, sections of a document. Printing a selection gives you the ability to print any part of a document, from a few words through to almost all of a document.


Word

Any continuous selection can be printed. A non-continuous or multiple selection can’t be printed.

Headers / Footers etc won’t be printed – only the text and other objects you’ve selected.


Excel

Any selection of cells can be printed including a non-continuous or multiple selection of cells.

However with a non-continuous selection of cells, each part of the selection is printed on a separate page. Best to use the Preview option first to see what Excel will do.


PowerPoint

Any selection of slides can be printed, however selections of elements in a single slide can’t be printed.


Outlook

Outlook doesn’t support selection printing at all. There’s no obvious reason for this omission except that the development team doesn’t consider it a priority.


OneNote

Onenote 2007 has a print selection option but it is broken.

If you select part of a note page and choose ‘selection’ in the print dialog the entire page is printed not just the selection. So it seems that in practice, OneNote can only print down to the page level.

Microsoft might argue that ‘selection’ means the page but that doesn’t make sense. There’s an option to print a single OneNote page. OneNote’s definition of selection for printing doesn’t behave consistently with the rest of Office.

On the Microsoft site there’s a curious paragraph which argues that the concept of ‘Page’ and ‘Selection’ are somehow so different in OneNote 2003 that some print options aren’t possible. Clearly whoever wrote that didn’t know that OneNote uses the Word common code.


Web Browsers

Print Selection is also available in some web browsers. Internet Explorer and FireFox but not Chrome (something for Google’s ToDo list).

This trick is very useful because you can select the text you want to print from a web page without the formatting and clutter of printing the entire page.


Workaround

If you strike a program that doesn’t support selection printing (OneNote or parts of slides in Powerpoint) or the printing isn’t formatted the way you’d like (discontinuous cell selections in Excel) there is a way around.

Simply paste the selection into a blank Word document, move the elements around if necessary then print the document or selection from Word.


Why Print?

Finally, think about whether you need to print the selection at all. Sure sometimes it’s necessary but if you’re printing snippets for future reference consider using Microsoft OneNote instead.

We like OneNote and use it all the time for keeping notes, rough drafts and copies/snippets of information from documents, web pages etc. It’s heaps better than a pile of paper.

It’s a slick and fast program; the print selection problem is the first major anomaly we’ve found in the program (if you’ve found other OneNote hassles please let us know) and should not put you off from giving it a try. OneNote is included in some MS Office bundles, most notably the Office 2007 Home and Student Edition so you might already have it.

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