Printing and Faxing Documents

At one time or another you are going to want to print your handiwork. OS X offers useful tools for previewing your printouts and printing to PDFs. Besides, many applications feature handy print presets, from greeting-card layouts in iPhotos to a pocket-sized contacts list in Address Book. And the OS X built-in fax feature helps you send faxes easily.

Print and Fax on Mac

How to Set Up a Printer

Most printers will work fine with OS X. In most cases, there is no need to install the software that came with the printer as the Mac has hundreds of printer drivers pre-loaded. Just plug it in, click File – Print in nearly any application, next the new printer should appear in the Printer dropdown.

If this method fails, the Printer dropdown should at least contain an option to Add Printer. Users can also add new printers by opening System Preferences – Print & Fax. Then click the + icon at the bottom of the left-hand panel. A list of available printers will appear. Now select the one you want and click Add. The printer will be added.

How to Share Printers on a Network

If you have two or more computers, you can easily share one printer between them all. The best set-up is to connect your printer to the network’s router. This is often impossible as most routers lack a USB port and most printers lack an Ethernet port. You can plug a USB printer to an AirPort Extreme Base Station, Time Capsule or AirPort Express. If this does not work straight off, launch the AirPort Utility from Applications – Utilities.

The more common set-up is to attach the printer and then tell the computer to share it over the network. On a Mac, click the Printer Sharing box on the left of the sharing pane of System Preferences. Obviously, the computer the printer is connected to will need to be switched on in order for the other computers to print through it. From the Print & Fax pane of System Preferences you can set a default printer and view your printer’s print queue, a list of not-yet-completed print jobs.

Printing and Presets

In most applications you can print by choosing Print from the File menu (you can also use the shortcut the Command key+P. This action will usually elicit a box where you can try lots of customizable layout options and effects. If you create a configuration that you think you will want to use again, you can choose Save As… from the Presets dropdown. You will be able then to quickly access that recipe of settings in the future, from almost any app. You can use the Preview button to get an accurate idea of how a printed page will look, and then hit Print.

How to Print to PDF

Portable Document Format (or PDF for short) is a file format developed by Adobe. This format is widely used for everything from press releases to product manuals and for sending publications to printers. PDF files can combine text, fonts and images in a convenient bundle that can be viewed on practically any computer. Hence the “portable” tag.

PDF are ideal for sending by email, as the file size will be comparatively tiny compared to the original document converted to PDF. With OS X you can annotate PDFs with text labels and circles. It is also possible to password protect a PDF (press File – Print, then choose Encrypt PDF from the PDF button’s dropdown in the print dialog box).

To create PDFs from any application, click File – Print and use the PDF button at the bottom of the box. PDF are a great way to send documents to other people, since you know they will be able to open them, and the document will look on their computer exactly as it did on your Mac. When you click Print, you can choose to create a PDF and attach it to an email in one fell swoop. PDF can also be useful for your own records. For example, when you register on a website, or book a holiday over the Internet, instead of copying out all the on-screen information and reference numbers, simply print a PDF of the Webpage straight from Safari. OS X opens PDFs with Preview, though there is also a version of Adobe Reader for Mac.

Fax Machine

You can fax directly form a computer without using a fax machine. It is much easier and convenient, as instead of printing a document and feeding the hard copy into another device, you send the fax directly from your word processor or any other application. All faxes you receive will appear in your email box. You will need to use your Mac’s built-in dial-up modem to send faxes, as the broadband connection will not handle faxing.

To send a fax, click File – Print in any application, then choose Fax PDF from the PDF dropdown. Now enter the number of the recipient (or choose a contact from Address Book, using the silhouette button), add a cover page, if you want one, and then click Fax. The fax will be sent straight away, unless you are using your dial-up modem to connect to the Internet, in which case OS X will hold the fax until you disconnect.

To receive a fax on your Mac, open the Print & Fax panel of System Preferences. In the Faxing pane, check the Receive faxes box, enter your phone number and choose how you would like your Mac to handle whatever arrives by fax. You can have faxes automatically printed or forwarded to an email account so you can view new documents sent by fax even if you are away from home.

Tips On Printing

From the Print & Fax pane of System Preferences you can set a default printer and view your printer’s print queue – a list of not-yet-completed print jobs.

From the Printers menu of the Printer Setup utility, choose Create Desktop Printer (alternatively you can use the Command key+Shift+D) to place an icon and drag files onto to print them straight from Finder.

If your printer stops responding, visit the Printing pane of Print & Fax in System Preferences. Try removing and re-adding the offending printer – this often does the trick.

It is possible to set a document to print or fax at some point later in the day. To do this, click File – Print, choose Scheduler from the Copies & Pages dropdown menu. Now set a time.

You can also let other computers on your network send faxes through your Mac’s modem by ticking the Let others send faxes through this computer box from the Sharing pane of Print & Fax Preferences.


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  • Remember the books “such and such for dummies”? Well, now there is an article on how to send a fax from your computer on a Website called dummies:

How To: Fax from your Desktop through the Print Driver, published by QuikBox Office Appliances on April 11, 2014. Learn how to configure your Mac print driver to send a fax from your desktop.


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