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Is Microsoft OneNote hijacking your print jobs?

While we don’t usually focus on tech support issues here on the Office Blog (that’s what the Microsoft Answers forums are for), let me shine a quick light on a recurring issue that has caused some of you to scratch your heads and write in about.

In a nutshell, the problem appears to be that OneNote 2010 (or OneNote 2007) intercepts all of your print jobs whenever you try to send any information from your other programs or your Web browser to your trusty printer. While you must admit that this is a great way to save paper and finally “go green,” it’s no laughing matter when your boss expects you to hand him or her a printed report and you can’t seem to do that.
 

What’s happening?

Until recently, you’ve always been able to print anything from your computer to your printer. Now, your print jobs seem to suddenly bypass your printer completely and go straight into Microsoft OneNote, where they appear like scanned images. You really want things to go back to the way things were and have your print jobs sent to your actual printer once again.
 

What’s causing it?

Microsoft OneNote comes with a nifty little utility called the Send to OneNote print driver. A print driver is a small piece of software that directs output from a computer to a printer. Typically, the operating system controls such software, so it can monitor how a computer talks to hardware devices like a printer. In the case of OneNote, a special print driver is installed that lets you send your print jobs as images into your OneNote notebooks.

The OneNote print driver wasn’t designed to override your printer settings and assume you want every print job sent to OneNote 2010. Instead, it’s intended to be waiting in the wings, available whenever you want to use it, and taking a backseat again whenever you’re done sending a particular print job to OneNote.

However, the OneNote print driver may have accidentally promoted itself to top dog in any of the following conditions:
 

  • You installed OneNote 2010 or Office 2010 with no physical printer installed or selected at the time, causing the Send to OneNote print driver to act as your default (preferred) printer.
     
  • You installed a new physical printer on your computer after installing OneNote 2010 or Office 2010, without promoting the printer to act as your default printer.
     
  • You share your computer with someone else who installed OneNote 2010 or Office 2010 and set the Send to OneNote print driver to act as the default printer.
     
  • Your printer software is incompatible with your operating system version and Windows has reverted to the Send to OneNote print driver as the default printer.
     

Even if you’re not really sure how it may have happened, there’s an easy solution.
 

Setting a default printer in Windows Control Panel

When the Send to OneNote 2010 print driver is marked as shown, print jobs will be sent to OneNote as images.
If you have a real printer installed, right-click its icon, and then click Set as Default Printer on the shortcut menu.
Your printer is recognized as the preferred printer for future print jobs when it has the check mark icon next to it.

 

How can I fix it?

On any edition of Windows 7, do the following:

  1. On the Windows taskbar, click the Start button.
  2. On the right side of the Start menu, click Control Panel.
  3. When Control Panel opens, click View Devices and Printers (if you’re in Category view) or click Devices and Printers (if you’re in Icon view).
  4. Right-click the printer icon that represents your physical printer, and then click Set as Default Printer on the shortcut menu.
     

If you’re using Windows Vista, the steps are nearly identical:

  1. On the Windows taskbar, click the Start button.
  2. On the right side of the Start menu, click Control Panel.
  3. When Control Panel opens, click Printer (if you’re in Category view) or click Printers (if you’re in Classic view).
  4. Right-click the printer icon that represents your physical printer, and then click Set as Default Printer on the shortcut menu.
     

If you do not see an icon for your actual printer, it’s likely that your printer is not correctly installed. Check the printer manufacturer’s website for any updated drivers that are specific to your version of Windows (for example, a 64-bit edition of Windows) and make sure that the printer is properly connected to your computer.
 

Don’t be hatin’!

Even if you had a bad first impression of the OneNote print driver hogging all of your print jobs, don’t be too quick to dismiss it even after you demote it from being your default “printer.” You might be surprised how useful it is to have the ability to print certain information right into OneNote.

Although digital printouts in OneNote are image files that you can’t edit, you can right-click such images in OneNote 2010 and extract the text from them with the Copy Text from Picture command. As long as the text in the image is large enough and legible, this works really well. You can then paste and use the copied text into your notes or elsewhere in your work.

When you’re properly introduced to it, the OneNote print driver is a pretty cool feature!  ;-)

Remember, whenever you have a technical support issue, head on over to Microsoft Answers — the official Support forums for OneNote and Office. It is monitored daily by knowledgeable and helpful members of the Microsoft MVP community, Microsoft Support, and the Office product teams.

– Michael C. Oldenburg