March 1995


Laser printers are very fast compared to the daisywheel printers that were previously needed for typewriter-quality output. Yet now and then a printed page seems to take forever to print.

We recently printed a single page using WordPerfect for Windows and waited seven minutes and fifty-three seconds before the printer began to print. The only font on the page was 12-point Courier New, a TrueType font supplied with Microsoft Windows. The file sent to the printer was 431K, although the document on the disk occupied less than 7K.

Courier is the simplest of fonts. It is fixed-pitch, with 10 characters per inch in the 12-point size. Courier was the standard font in the typewriter-era. If any font were to print quickly, you would expect Courier to be the one. This newsletter uses a 12-point Courier font.

However, our laser printer (an Okidata LaserLine 6) does not have a resident (built-in) Courier New font. Apparently, Windows had to send detailed information about the font to the printer. Also, the printer is connected to a serial port, which is slower than a parallel port. Sending 431K bytes of data out the serial port (at 9600 baud) would take about 7:40 (compared to the observed print time of 7:56).

Most PCs connect to a printer with a parallel port.

The list of fonts in WordPerfect shows Courier New with a TrueType symbol (TT) next to it. Also on the list, however, is Courier with a printer symbol next to it. Changing the one-page document from Courier New to the built-in Courier font reduced printing time to about 18 seconds (compared to nearly eight minutes).


The two printed pages looked quite different. The built-in Courier font is much darker than Courier New. Courier New text also takes up more space on the page.

Although the character widths are the same (since the font is defined to give 10 characters per inch), the Courier New font is taller. Instead of the standard six lines per inch, Courier New occupies a bit more space vertically. Our one-page test document had two columns, and the first column had three fewer lines using Courier New.

The difference in line heights between traditional Courier and Courier New also shows up on HP LaserJet 4 printers versus older HP LaserJets. The LaserJet 4 has a resident Courier New font. The difference is sufficient to change the page breaks when you switch from a LaserJet 4 to an older LaserJet printer.

Of course, the primary advantage of a built-in Courier New font is speed. The printer knows how to print the characters, so it requires fewer instructions from the computer. Some printers have resident TrueType fonts for faster Windows printing.


There is, however, more to this story than the fact that a document prints faster if it uses built-in fonts. That is true, but the printer driver has a big effect.

A printer driver is a piece of software that converts your application's printing instructions into the language of a specific printer. Windows comes with many printer drivers. As new printers appear, the manufacturer often supplies the printer driver needed for Windows printing.

WordPerfect can use the Windows printer drivers, or you can install special WordPerfect drivers. The WordPerfect documentation says this:

WordPerfect printer drivers are not installed with the Standard installation type but can be installed using the Custom or Network installation types.

It never mentions why you might want to use WordPerfect's drivers. Here's why: speed. The same page that took almost eight minutes to print with the Windows driver took under 30 seconds with the WordPerfect driver. Instead of 431K, the file sent to the printer was only 17K.

Although each character was identical in these two trials, the page layout was not. With WordPerfect's driver each column had 50 lines instead of 51.

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