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Printing has changed in Windows 8 – there's now a standard way of printing in every Modern app. However, like many things about Microsoft's new Modern interface, printing is not immediately intuitive for many users, especially those used to the old way of printing. Printing is still the same on the desktop, so you don't have to learn anything new for your desktop applications.
Windows 8 also has a new printer driver system that attempts to support more printers with less drivers, reducing the disk space used for printer drivers and eliminating many bloatware services that come with printer drivers for older versions of Windows.
How to Print From Modern Apps
Modern apps don't have a File menu where you'll find a Print option, and they don't have a Print button on their action bars either. To print in a Modern app, you'll need to use the charms bar.
First, open an app and view the content you want to print, such as a web page in the Modern version of Internet Explorer or a PDF document in the Reader app.
Next, open the charms bar. Either swipe inwards from the right side of your screen, press the Windows Key + C, or move your mouse cursor to the top or bottom right corners of the screen and move the cursor towards the center of the edge of the screen.
Tap or click the Devices icon once the charms bar appears. (You can also quickly access the Devices charm from anywhere by pressing Windows Key + K.)
You'll see a list of connected printers and other devices you can print to. If the app you're using doesn't support printing, you won't see any printers in the list. You may also see other devices in the Devices list, such as additional monitors connected to your computer.
Tap the printer you want to print to and you'll see some basic printing settings. Printer drivers can customize the options that appear here, so you'll see different options depending on your printer. Tap or click Print to print the document.
You can also tap or click More Settings to view and customized more advanced printer settings, such as the orientation of the document and type of paper you're using.
How To Print From Desktop Apps
You can print from desktop applications like you always have. Just click the File menu and select Print. In applications without a File menu, such as Google's Chrome browser, you can often click another menu button or right-click the page and select Print.
While you can access the Devices charm from the desktop, it won't allow you to print from any desktop applications.
Connecting To Network Printers
You can add network printers from the Control Panel on the desktop, just as you could in Windows 7 and earlier versions of Windows. All printers you add will appear both on the desktop and in the Modern environment.
Click the View Devices and Printers option in the Control Panel window and use the Add a Printer button to add a network printer.
Printing To PDF Files
Windows still doesn't ship with support for printing to PDF files, although you can still print a document to an XPS file, a proprietary format Microsoft created in an unsuccessful attempt to replace PDF files. You'll need to download a third-party program if you want to print to PDF files. We've had good luck with the free CutePDF Writer in the past.
Once installed, a PDF option will appear in your list of installed printers – both in Modern apps and in desktop apps.
A New Printer Driver Architecture
As a new version of Windows, Windows 8 comes with more printer drivers integrated. Many printers will work out-of-the-box without you having to install anything.
Windows 8 also uses a new printer driver model that supports a wider variety of printers with fewer drivers. The architecture is simplified, and Microsoft wants printer manufacturers to stop including system services with their drivers, reducing bloatware.
Many printers will work out-of-the-box. This is important, as Windows RT (the ARM version of Windows used for the Microsoft Surface RT and other Windows-on-ARM devices) doesn't allow users to install drivers or other desktop software, so the only printers that work with Windows RT are the ones that Windows supports out-of-the-box.
Printers can optionally specify a Modern app that will be automatically installed from the Windows Store when you connect them to your computer. Microsoft wants these Modern apps to replace the desktop-based printer utilities, providing a cleaner, more unified experience with standard system notifications for printer events, such as "low on ink" messages. However, few printers support this at the moment. You may have to download and install a software package from your manufacturer's website to get such features.
Have you noticed anything else new about printing in Windows 8? Leave a comment and share it!
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