Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Understanding Background Printing.

Understanding Background Printing

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated March 9, 2019)
This tip applies to Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


Word includes a feature called background printing. When you use this feature, Word spools your document to disk, and then feeds it to the Windows printing system as fast as possible. When background printing is turned off, Word stops everything and sends your document to Windows right away.

If you are working with short documents, you will notice little difference in using background printing. If you are printing long documents, however, there can be quite a bit of difference. With background printing turned on, you can continue to work in Word even when the program is sending a long document to the printer. This can be a huge benefit. On the other hand, if you have background printing turned off, your long documents may print faster, but you will not be able to use Word while the printing is being done.

To control background printing, follow these steps:

  1. Choose Options from the Tools menu. Word displays the Options dialog box.
  2. Make sure the Print tab is selected. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Print tab of the Options dialog box.

  4. In the Printing Options area of the dialog box, note the setting of the Background Printing check box. If it is selected, background printing is enabled; if it is cleared, background printing is turned off.
  5. Click on OK when you are finished.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1017) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Understanding Background Printing.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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