Tips for better and easier printing emails

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Printing email messages is something that we all do at various times, and in theory it should be as simple as clicking the Print icon in your email program – but what if the message won’t print out properly?

Sometimes the printed version of an email message (or web page) comes out with strange formatting. Occasionally text disappears off the edge of the page. What can you do?

Emails with relatively simple and standard formatting should not be a problem but when the senders formatting is fancy or complex it’s hard for your software to work out what to do. The original message is generally designed to be viewed on a screen and sometimes a screen with a particular width in mind, and so the conversion to a printed format probably wasn’t even considered by the sender.

It’s worth keeping in mind that printing problems are really caused by a complex interaction of the equipment you have; the email program, operating system, printer drivers, the printer and even the paper size that you use. These difficulties have been smoothed out over time, and with a recent version of Office and the latest printer drivers you should have less trouble than in the past.

Copy to Word

If an email doesn’t print out correctly, try selecting some or all of the text in the message, copy and paste it into a word-processor document (Word etc). This will give you more powerful printing and formatting options than in your email program.

Word-processors have better control over the printing process and ensuring that the document appears on the printed page.

A standard copy and paste should be sufficient but occasionally the new document is a horrible mess. If all you need is the text, use the ‘Paste Special’ option in Word to paste just the text (or use the ‘Keep Text only’ option after pasting in Word).

Paste options in Word image from Printing Emails at Office-Watch.com

The paste option to ‘Match Destination Formatting’ might also work better than ‘Keep Source Formatting’.

Similar advice applies to printing of web pages but browsers does have the option to print a part of a web page.  Use your mouse to select the part of the web page you’re interested in (most likely the article in the middle of the page) then choose File | Print then click the ‘Selection’ option. 

Print selected pages

A reminder that you don’t have to print an entire email. Like any document, Outlook lets you print selected pages. Use page navigation buttons at the bottom of the preview pane to figure out which pages you need. Then choose Print Options and enter the Page Range.

Most commonly this trick is used to print the most recent parts of an email thread, leaving many pages of older messages unprinted.

Saving Paper

To save paper, it should be possible to print two pages to one side of a paper sheet. It’s not available in Outlook itself but often possible in the printer settings. Go to Print Options then choose Properties next to the selected printer. Check the printer setting for a ‘Pages per sheet’ or similar option.

Failing that, Print to PDF then open and print the PDF version. Any decent PDF viewer will have a ‘Pages per sheet’ printing option.

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