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Why are there inconsistencies when I apply, use and save settings in PDF-XChange Standard?

Question:

Why are there inconsistencies when I apply, use and save settings in PDF-XChange Standard?

Answer:

The settings in PDF-XChange Standard do not all operate in the same manner after they have been customized. When the software is subsequently closed most settings will retain their customized values, but some will revert to their default values - and this is the cause of the inconsistencies.

The settings that revert to their default values are as follows:

  • Selected Paper
  • Size of Custom Paper
  • Orientation
  • DPI
  • Margin
  • Scaling
  • Active Profile

All other settings are are stored in the Current User Profile (HKCU) and will retain their values when the software is subsequently used.

Additionally, please note that the changes users make to settings are saved separately from settings that third-party applications send to the printer. (Settings for third-party applications are stored in the registration key). This is also true of the settings for the Office2PDF and Office Addin applications that install alongside PDF-XChange Standard.

Follow the steps below to view/edit settings:

1. Move to the Control Panel.

2. Click Devices and Printers.

3. Right-click PDF-XChange Standard, then click Printing preferences in the submenu.

4. The PDF-XChange Standard Printing Preferences dialog box will open. It can be used to view/edit all settings in PDF-XChange Standard. Please see the online manual for comprehensive instructions on how to use these settings. It is available here.

When multiple settings have been customized they can be saved as a profile for subsequent use. Step-by-step instructions on the creation of profiles is available here.

Please note that in some cases (such as Microsoft Word) the third-party applications that send print jobs will override the settings stored in PDF-XChange Standard. The Print Subsystem in Windows causes this to happen, which means it is not possible to prevent it from happening in PDF-XChange Standard or any other print driver. Other programs (such as Notepad) do not experience this issue and will honor the settings determined in the print driver. If problems arise with regard to printer settings it is advisable to ensure that the Print Subsystem in Windows is not the cause before taking further action.

Further Information:

Windows PCs require the installation of a set of device drivers to enable hardware functionality. These drivers determine how Windows and its printers, modems, keyboards and several other items of hardware communicate. Users will often install several printers that share the same device driver information but feature different names. This setup allows each printer to have different settings, which is useful as it means they can each be customized for specific jobs and then called as required. Additionally, this setup means that new functionality/bug fixes added to the driver will automatically be added to all associated printers, which reduces the workload and streamlines the workflow. 

PDF-XChange Standard is a virtual printer, which means it operates in the same manner as a conventional printer but creates PDF files as opposed to paper versions of documents. It is common practice for users of PDF-XChange Standard to install multiple copies of the software in order to save multiple print setups that can then be called as required. Additionally, we have added profile functionality, which allows customized settings to be saved for subsequent use in a single version of the software. (Profiles are detailed here in the online manual). This setup means printing profiles for documents in programs such as MS Word, Excel and AutoCAD can be saved and then called to create PDF versions directly from third-party applications. A sample Windows setup that uses multiple installations of PDF-XChange Standard and profiles is detailed below:

History and Development of Virtual Printers

The usefulness of personal printers became apparent when home computing became commonplace in the 1990s. The initial purpose of printers was of course to create a hard copy of screen content. Subsequently, it became apparent that an electronic version of documents also had great purpose - and so PDF and other file formats developed. This process facilitated the sharing of documents between applications that supported the same formats, as well as the viewing, editing, printing and archiving of documents. It also improved workplace efficiency in many ways - for example modems could be used to send electronic files via facsimilie, which avoided the need to physically print documents and load them into a fax machine. A 'virtual' printer was used for this purpose - I.e. software on the local computer, as opposed to the hardware that conventional printing required. Virtual printers captured output and then converted it into a more suitable format - often a CCIT Group 3 or 4 'TIFF' formatted file. 

The PDF-XChange Standard print driver uses a similar mechanism to create PDF files from input documents. It supports many different formats, such as MS Word and Excel, and of course these each require different architecture for conversion into PDF. However, the restrictions of Windows result in some limitiations, as it was originally designed to print only paper versions of documents. Certain elements of electronic formats, such as hyperlinks and hidden/embedded content, serve no purpose in paper versions and therefore virtual printers do not automatically include them. Additional utliities (such as the MS Office Add-ins) can be used to add such content to files after they have been printed virtually.

The Development and Usage of Printer Settings

The method that Windows uses to save printer settings has developed over time. The initial method was to use the DEVMODE structure and a text file such as the *.ini format, which was commonplace in Windows 3 and Windows 95. This developed into the use of the Windows Registry for printer settings that is now standard practice. Additional settings can also be stored in the Current User Profile (HCKU). These settings include more detailed and application-specific information, such as watermark and font information in the case of PDF-XChange Standard.

Changes can be made to the registry settings of printers at any time, and can be implemented from any application that has access to the registry. Changes are applied as soon as they are saved, and output from all applications that use the Windows Registry will be modified as a result. This process is intended to lessen the workload and generally it is successful. However, it can also create issues, as changes in the registry settings may not be desirable across all formats. For example, if changes are made when both Micosoft Word and Excel documents are open then they will apply to the output from both formats, which may look incorrect or be otherwise problematic. Therefore, as detailed above, it is best to create a profile for each format in these cases.

Understanding DEVMODE and Printer Settings

DEVMODE is an area of the Windows Registry that, amongst other functions, stores printer settings such as paper size, margins and orientation. It is possible to store simple information on printer output settings in the DEVMODE structure, but there are several factors to consider first: 

  • The DEVMODE structure has a limited size. This makes it necessary to store complex printer information elsewhere in the registry or in an external location such as a text file. (N.b. the latter is not ideal for speed of access).
  • Windows-coded programming calls must be used to access the DEVMODE structure. The end-user registry editing options alone are not sufficient.
  • Changes made to printer settings in the DEVMODE structure from in-use applications are volatile in nature. They are applied for only the current work session, and the default settings will replace them when the application is closed.
  • The printer settings in the Control Panel must be used to access and make permanent changes to settings in the DEVMODE structure. When such settings are applied they become the default settings for all applications to which they apply. If applications are open when these changes are made then they must be closed and reopened for the changes to take effect.
  • Printing applications and software that contains printing functionality, especially Desktop Publishing applications, may override the settings in the DEVMODE structure. Microsoft Word, for example, gives some of its application-specific settings priority over the DEVMODE settings. This has caused confusion for many users - firstly because it overrides the DEVMODE structure itself, and secondly because it overrides only some settings. (Page size, orientation and margins, for example, are not affected - but this is not the case for many other important settings). Therefore, if issues are experienced when PDFs are created in third-party applications, it is advisable to check the settings in the application itself - specifically the 'Page Setup', and similar settings, to ensure that they are not the cause of the problem.
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