A printer is an output device that prints paper documents. This includes text documents, images, or a combination of both. The two most common types of printers are inkjet and laser printers. Inkjet printers are commonly used by consumers, while laser printers are a typical choice for businesses. Dot matrix printers, which have become increasingly rare, are still used for basic text printing.
The printed output produced by a printer is often called a hard copy, which is the physical version of an electronic document. While some printers can only print black and white hard copies, most printers today can produce color prints. In fact, many home printers can now produce high-quality photo prints that rival professionally developed photos. This is because modern printers have a high DPI (dots per inch) setting, which allows documents to printed with a very fine resolution.
In order to print a document, the electronic data must be sent from the computer to the printer. Many software programs, such as word processors and image editing programs, include a "Print..." option in the File menu. When you select "Print," you will typically presented with a Print dialog box. This box allows you to select the print output settings before sending the document to the printer. After choosing the appropriate settings, you can hit the Print button, which will send the document to the printer.
Of course for the document to print, the printer must be turned on and connected to the computer. Most modern printers are connected using a standard USB cable. However, some printers can be wirelessly connected to one or more computers over a Wi-Fi network. You can also use more than one printer on a single computer, as long as the correct drivers are installed.
While printers are notorious for breaking down at inopportune times, modern printers are fortunately more reliable than the printers of the past. Of course, keeping extra ink or toner cartridges on hand is still your responsibility.
Updated: January 12, 2009