How To Troubleshoot A PDF Printing Problem? -- by Ted Brooks
TechnoLawyer member Edwin Bideau asks:

I am having a devil of a time printing out PDF files. We have started scanning files for legal cases which is working fine but printing out is a real trouble.

We are running HP printers that are 21 PPM fast printers and really kick out regular word processing files promptly. However, when we try to print out a PDF file, particularly one that has been Bates numbered, it slows to a crawl taking 30 seconds or more to send each page over to the printer.

It is even worse with a networked Konica copy machine/scanner that is supposed to print at 30 PPM. This machine has all available print memory you can buy but it seems like it is receiving the PDF file one page at a time, thinking about it, printing it, shutting down, waking up, getting the next page and printing. It is printing maybe 8 PPM max.

When the computer is sending the file to the printer, particularly if it is a long file, it is very slow, particularly anything over 4-5 pages and is tying up the computer and the copy machine/printer both. Has anyone got any suggestions? We are running 256 memory on each of the computers. There has to be a better way to print out than this. Would appreciate any help available.

There are a number of potential factors leading to your slow printing, beginning with scanning and running through the printing process itself. I will address a few of the most common problems:

a. First, you may be scanning at a higher resolution that necessary. Normally, you should set your scanner to run at 200-300 dpi. Anything higher just adds to the file size. Large files print much slower, due to the fact that more data has to pass from the computer to the printer during printing. The smaller the file, the faster the print.

b. You may be including OCR text in your file. If you don't need it, you might consider disabling it. This too, leads to larger files, and thus, slower printing.

c. You might try scanning to Group IV Tiff images. These can be single page or multi-page, and normally generate files which are much smaller in size than PDFs. Group IV is generally considered the industry standard in Tiff image compression.

d. The fact that you mention Bates-numbered docs are printing slower suggests you are placing a markup on the document in Acrobat. This will certainly slow the process, as there is not an actual "burned-in" image until you print. There are tiff utilities that will do the same operation with tiffs, or you may wish to consider converting to TIFFs prior to printing. Acrobat will do this, but it tends to make large files. There are other utilities out there (Z-Print, Scan-It, SuperDox, Informatik, etc.).

e. Printer memory may be an issue, but you note that that should not be the case, at least with your high-speed Konica machine. What you don't mention is how the PC is connected to the printer(s). If you are using networked printers, you should check the speed of your LAN hubs. If you are running a 10 MBPS system, you might consider upgrading to 100 MBPS or even the newer 1000 MBPS (Gigabit) speed. If you are running this process using local printer ports, you will get greatly improved performance using a USB cable instead of the Parallel (LPT1) cable.

f. In summary, you should take a look first at the size of the files you are attempting to print. If they are near or greater than 1MB each, there is a need to reduce file sizes. If this isn't the issue, perhaps the connection speeds might be improved by upgrading. Most likely, you will have some room for improvement at both ends.