How to print double-sided pages

Most people do not print double-sided documents with a printer which can only print on one side of the paper. This has given the excuse for application programmers to not implement this feature in an intuitive and an efficient way.

The procedure of printing double-sided with a conventional printer involves printing only one side of the document on a stack of paper, flipping and re-inserting these printouts into the printer tray, and printing the other side of the document.

There are many caveats to the process, and many possibilities for errors and screw-ups.

We have to assume first that your application even supports double-sided printing. I have used this feature on OpenOffice, Microsoft Office, and Adobe PDF Reader.

We then need to figure out how your printer processes paper while printing, so that when you re-insert the stack of paper with one side printed on, the print on the other side will go to the correct side and in a correct orientation. To do this, make a simple test print, or mark the paper corner lightly in pencil (such as the top-left corner). Either print out your sample print, or feed the paper thru the printer (there is usually a button for this). Now, re-insert the paper into the tray for a second pass. I have found that with consumer laser printers, the paper is to be inserted into the tray thus:

With the already-printed-on side of the paper up, and with the page upside down (top left corner of the printed page to be oriented towards front of the printer).

Try this orientation first, and do a second test print or a paper feed-thru. Check that the print was now on the second page, and in a right orientation (not upside down as you flip the page).

When you figure out the correct procedure, write it down on your test print sheet of paper, and save it for future reference. I have found the need to figure this out again and again at times in the future when I have forgotten it after using many different printers.


You will now need to prepare your multi-page document. With the addition of double-sided printing feature, keep the following feature that are available to you in mind:

The need or ability to start new chapters or sections on the right-hand (odd numbered, usually) pages, so that the new chapter or section does not begin on a "back" of a page. If you need to, insert blank pages to force your new section onto an odd-numbered page.

The need or ability to have different headers and / or footers for the left and right pages, particularly with the placement of the page number (on the left or the right when viewed on your computer screen).

The ability to print such things as brochures, multi-folds, booklet printing, two pages / columns on one page, and so on.


Now, zoom out in your editor until you have several pages side by side on your computer screen, or activate the side-by-side view option in your editor. Check that the right content goes on the right pages. For example, you will probably need to have the start of a new section or chapter on the odd-numbered pages, and that on odd-numbered pages, your footer page number must be on the right. You can mentally picture the odd-numbered pages as the right-hand pages of the book, with the even-numbered pages being the left-hand (or back-side) pages. Flip thru your document on-screen to check it for proper layout.


Here is where the idiosyncrasies start. Different programs have different ways of proper double-sided printing. You will need to do four-page test runs with each application you use, and save your results and setup notes for future reference. I have found the following:

OpenOffice: Print back-sided pages first (File>Print>Page Layout>Page Sides: Include: Back sides / left pages. Print, re-insert paper into printer, and then use "Front sides / right pages". This should produce pages with the right page order (at the end, page number in the printout stack will increase towards bottom of the page stack).

Microsoft Office 2010: I have found that its feature File>Print>Settings>(drop-down under Print One Sided)Manually Print on Both Sides results in a print with reversed page order (last page will be on top of the resulting printout stack of paper). This will require you to manually flip the pages over, a manual and an error-prone process. I have not found a feature to reverse print order in Microsoft Office. If you wish, you can force a manual double-sided print by using File>Print>Settings>(drop-down under Print All Pages)Document Properties:Only Print Odd / Even Pages. You may wish to first export / save a Microsoft Office document as a PDF document, and then print it with Adobe Reader, which is much more flexible when it comes to printing.

Adobe Reader: This program is much more flexible when it comes to printing, it offers more features and options, and produces a better preview of the print-out. I have also had to use Adobe Reader when Open Office and Microsoft Office would inexplicably crash when attempting a double-sided print.

Adobe Reader can also be used if the original program (... Office) cannot be coerced into a special print, such as a brochure, two pages on one printout, etc. It may be easier to just produce the document in * Office, but leave printing to Adobe Reader.

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Page last modified 19-Feb-17 19:32:53 EST
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