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Click to collate

Nearly every computer user these days owns a printer. And while printers vary in size and capability, most of them share a number of common features. One that is often understood is the collating option.

But what does the collate option do? What is it there for anyway?

In brief, the collate feature controls the order in which pages print out and is best utilized when printing multiple copies of the same document.

Suppose someone printed three copies of a long, four page email message they’d received.

The printer would spit out a complete set of the pages and then repeat that process until all three sets were printed. In other words, the pages would appear on the printer in the following order: 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4.

In contrast, suppose someone printed three copies of the same four-page email, but with the collate option enabled. What would happen?

The printer would print three copies of page one, three copies of page two, three copies of page three and then three pages of page four.

They’d appear on the printer in the following order: 1-1-1, 2-2-2, 3-3-3, 4-4-4.

So understanding what the collate feature does is fairly straight forward. But why would anyone want to do that in the first place?

The answer is primarily for binding, which may include hole punching or stapling. If a teacher wanted to print 30 copies of a 10 page exam for his or her classroom, collating the pages would make stapling go a lot faster.

So how do you make your printer collate printed documents?

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. The truth is that the collate option is very program specific. Many programs provide a collate check box on the main print dialog window (select "file" and then "print").

Other programs tuck the collate option under an advanced tab, or screen which can usually be accessed from that same primary print screen.

And yet other programs place the collate option in a "page setup" menu option (select "file" then "page setup").

As each computer setup will vary, it isn’t possible to provide universal instructions.But reading your software’s documentation (which may perhaps be located on the setup CD) can help.

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