Collated Printing Is the Best Way to Keep Multiple Copies of a Document Together


May 11 2023, Published 12:21 p.m. ET

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In a digital world first, it makes sense to deprioritize printing as much as possible. Ink is expensive, and we might as well save some trees if we can, right? Sometimes, though, it's necessary to print something, and you might wonder about what some of the settings in your computer's print interface actually mean.

One great example is the word collate, which has a general definition meaning to collect or gather related information together. In the world of printing, though, collate means something slightly different.

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What does collate mean in printing?

Collate has a specific definition in the world of printing, and it describes a certain way that copies are made if you're printing more than one. If you decide to collate the printing, each copy will print together with the pages in order, instead of printing copies of each page one at a time. So, if you want six copies of a four-page report, collating the pages will ensure that you get each copy in the correct order.

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Because most people like to have distinct copies that are ready to go as handouts or for some other purpose, the collate function is usually kept on by default, as it's the way that most people would prefer to have their documents printed. You can turn the feature off, though, and if you choose to do that, you'll get all the first pages printed together, followed by all the second pages, etc.

When does it make sense to collate pages?

If you're wondering when to collate a document, the best answer is that you should collate it whenever you're printing multiple copies of a document, and you want to keep the pages of those documents together. In general, then, it probably makes sense for most use cases to leave collating on as the default. Modern printers are pretty smart, and know that manually collating pages is nobody's idea of a good time.

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Leaving the pages uncollated only makes sense in pretty particular use cases, like if the pages in the document being printed aren't laid out in the correct order, or if certain pages of the document need to be checked before they are packaged together.

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Here's how to make sure you're collating on your printer.

In general, the option to collate should be available in your print dialog box whenever you go to print something. It should also be checked by default, but if for some reason it isn't, you can check the box to make sure the document prints correctly.

If you're still having issues with correct collation, it may be something to do with your printer settings.

Collation is one of the great inventions of modern printers. It's what keeps you from having to manually reorder all of the pages after the fact in order to make clean copies. Instead, the copies come out of the printer exactly the way they're supposed to, ready to be handed out to whoever they're intended for.

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