What is a Virtual Printer? PDF Printers explained

A virtual printer is a non-physical printer. It is a software based program which acts as a printer driver and appears like a physical printer within the Devices and Printers section on your computer. Virtual printers print to files rather than to physical paper. using a virtual printer is a quick way to save documents or images to a particular format or convert them to another file type. For example the ‘Convert to PDF’ will convert images or documents to a PDF file format (portable document format).

What is a virtual printer

How do I use a virtual printer?

Accessing a virtual printer is the same as accessing a physical printer. You can either select print from the program you are in, or if the file you wish to print is in a folder you can right click and select print from the drop down menu. You then select the virtual printer from the printers list.

How to use a virtual printer in Microsoft Word (or similar program).

  1. Open the document
  2. Click File 
  3. Click Print
  4. A print options menu will appear and you should navigate to the option to change printer and select the down arrow to change the printer from the drop-down menu. The below example from Microsoft Word has the option circled in orange.

Print options

  1. Choose Microsoft Print to PDF or the name of your virtual printer.
  2. Click Print
  3. Instead of printing the document a ‘save as’ box will appear.
  4. Choose the name of your file and location for saving.
  5. Click Save

Why would you use a virtual Printer?

Virtual printers allow you to quickly change the format of file. For instance you could convert a text document to a PDF.

Why would you want to print to PDF?

PDF files have a number of benefits such as the ability to shrink a large file to send via email. Below is a list of further advantages

  • Compressed to a smaller file size.
  • Preserved or lockable formatted document.
  • The document looks how it will print to paper.
  • A fast way to convert files.
  • Windows 10 has an inbuilt PDF converter which helpfully enables users to print to PDF without the need to install separate software. To use the Microsoft Print to PDF feature or any virtual printer see below.

Are there other types of virtual printers?

There are numerous virtual printers which can print to different file types such as JPEG or TIFF, GIF, PNG and BMP. However, modern programs and apps now come with the option to ‘save as’ or print in many different file formats, so you might not need one.

Where can I get a virtual printer from?

There is a wide range of free and paid for virtual printers. The free Microsoft PDF printer in windows 10 is good and comes pre-installed. We also like Nitro Pdf creator which comes with Nitro PRO Link to the paid for Nitro Pro software here.

We have decided not to include links to free virtual printers as these often come with bloatware, unwanted programs or potential threats. Please be extra careful if you choose to install free software that you are only getting the software you want. Create a restore point and run a virus scan after installing.

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