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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Befriending the Mighty Printer Control Panel

Every printer has a control panel somewhere on its body. The fancy models have LCD screens that display lots of text: "Printer jammed," "I'm out of paper," or "You're plagiarizing," for example. Less fancy printers may have only a couple of buttons. Either way, two important buttons to find or features to access on the control panel are as follows:

  • On-Line or Select
  • Form Feed

The On-Line or Select button tells your printer whether to ignore the computer. When the printer is offline or deselected, the computer can't print. The printer is still on, which is good because you may need to access features or do things that you otherwise cannot do while the thing is printing.

The Form Feed button is used to eject a page of paper from the printer. For example, if you stop printing and only half a page is printed, you can use the Form Feed button to eject the rest of that page. Or, you can press the Form Feed button whenever you want the printer to spit a blank page at you.

Here are some more tips for using your printer and its control panel:

  • The computer can print only when the printer is online or selected.
  • You take the printer offline if, for example, you have to unjam it or want to eject a page of paper. Sometimes, you have to turn the printer off when it jams.
  • If your printer seems to lack a control panel, it's probably controlled via a software control panel in Windows. This is the printer's feature and not a part of Windows, so refer to the printer's manual for instructions.
  • Printers with larger LCD control panels often use menu buttons to help you choose the online or form-feed options.
  • All-in-one printers have additional buttons on the control panel for making copies and scanning, for example. A companion program in Windows probably allows even greater control over the printer's abilities. Note that such programs are specific to your printer, and are not a part of Windows itself.
  • Keep your printer's manual handy. You may never read the manual, but if your printer suddenly pops up and displays "Error 34," you can look up what Error 34 is and read how to fix it.

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