The Print to file option is a holdover from earlier days of computing. It doesn't work easily on more common USB printers, and you can accomplish many of the same goals by creating a PDF or an XPS document. To learn more about XPS documents, see XPS documents: frequently asked questions
and Print to the Microsoft XPS Document Writer.
If you use the Print to file option, Windows saves the formatting and layout information of your file so a printer can reproduce the document without the program or computer that created it. There are several reasons to do this:
You don't have a printer handy but want to archive a document and print it later.
You want to send a document or photo to a commercial printer.
You want to send a document to someone who has the same printer, but doesn't have the program you used to create the document.
However, Print to file has several limitations. It's a relic from the days of DOS, and it's primarily designed for parallel printers. It doesn't work easily on newer USB printers. Also, the computer used to print the saved file must have the same printer driver installed as the computer used to create the file.
Not all programs support the Print to file option. In most programs, the Print to file option is a check box on the Print dialog box. In Windows,
the default file extension when you print to file is .prn.
If prompted, choose a file name and a location to save the file. (If you don't get this prompt, the file is typically saved in your Documents folder.)
You'll need to be comfortable working with a command prompt if you choose the Print to file option.
Open the Command Prompt window by clicking the Start button . In the search box, type Command Prompt, and then, in the list of results, click Command Prompt.
At the command prompt, type in the following command, where filename is the file you want to print, and LPT is the name of the appropriate LPT port (this is typically "LPT1:"):
Before you print the new file or send it to be printed, make sure that the fonts used in the file are installed on the computer connected to the printer you want to use. If the same fonts are not installed, the printer will replace your fonts with different (but usually similar) fonts.
When you print to file, you save spacing and other layout information so a printer can reproduce the on-screen version of a file without access to the program or computer used to create it. You can print to file, for example, when you want to send a document or photo to a commercial printer to be printed in larger quantities or at a higher resolution than you usually print at home.
In most programs, a "print to file" option is available from the Print dialog box for the program that you're using. To see steps for printing an item to a file, check the information that came with the program you are using.
Depending on the program you're using, you might be asked to choose where to save the file or to create a file name. Otherwise, the portable print file will typically be saved in your Documents folder.
Check if the printer you intend to use is compatible with the format of your file. In Windows,
the default format when you print to file is .prn. If the printer you want to use requires a different file format, you can install tools that will allow you to save your file in the appropriate format.