Even if the world seems to embrace digital content more and more with each passing day, in most cases you don’t have to look further than your own office to see how far that ideal still is. Corporations still like to keep records of basically everything in hardcopy. The bigger the company, the bigger the paper trail. I was building a PDF archive, hoping I can convince the management that’s enough. As that became increasingly unlikely, I found myself facing a problem: how to print all those PDF files with the least effort on my part?
The operating system was not particularly helpful in automating the task: if I select more than a couple of files, it refuses to display the ‘Print’ command in the context menu. Neither was Adobe Reader, who lacks an option to print all opened files, making you painstakingly click ‘Print’ for each of them. By searching the Internet I only found mentions of third-party software to achieve this; but I didn’t want to install additional software – not am I allowed to for that matter. Fortunately I saw that under Mac OS X you can drag documents to the printer icon to start a print job, so I wondered whether Windows can do this as well? It turns out it does – or at least something close enough. So finally my solution:
- Navigate to the ‘Printers’ folder on the computer – usually through Start ► Control Panel ► Printers. Or if you’re fortunate enough to have migrated away from Windows XP, search for ‘printers’ in the field attached to the start menu;
- Double-click the printer you want to use to open the printing queue;
- Select all the files you need to print and drag them into the printer window;
- Confirm in the next dialog that you really want to print the files;
- And finally go wait by the printer to prevent colleagues from messing up your stack of paper.
The nice thing about this solution is that it works even if you want to print different file types at once, for example PDF, text and Word files, as long as the applications needed to open those file types are installed on the computer. No need to sort them or open them separately. Unfortunately, the printing order is more or less random, even if the files were carefully named, so you will need to do some physical sorting in addition to the digital one. And you lose some control over the layout, so make sure you check the printing preferences beforehand – at least to choose between ‘Portrait’ and ‘Landscape’ and the paper size. Adobe Reader can auto-rotate the pages according to their orientation, but other software cannot or do not come with the option enabled by default. In any case, it’s better than repeating the same steps – open, print, close – for hundreds of files one by one.