Desktop, Sidebar and Toolbar Printers

Do you remember back to the days of Mac OS 9 – and probably 8.5 – when we could have a printer icon sitting on our desktop?

Now, that was a pretty cool trick. If you had a document to print, you could just drag its icon over the desktop printer. The document would print without opening the application and choosing the Print command in the File Menu.

The feature is back in Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger and it is even more useful! It is a great way to deal with documents that you print on a regular basis. For example, directions to your home or office, a favorite recipe, or perhaps some sort of form like a cover sheet for your fax.

Unfortunately, if you are trying to adopt that clean desktop look for your Mac, it is one more thing to clutter it up. There are several alternate things you can do to give you the functionality of desktop printing while keeping the clutter down and we will discuss those after we have made a desktop printer to try out.
Do you remember back to the days of Mac OS 9 – and probably 8.5 – when we could have a printer icon sitting on our desktop?

Now, that was a pretty cool trick. If you had a document to print, you could just drag its icon over the desktop printer. The document would print without opening the application and choosing the Print command in the File Menu.

The feature is back in Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger and it is even more useful! It is a great way to deal with documents that you print on a regular basis. For example, directions to your home or office, a favorite recipe, or perhaps some sort of form like a cover sheet for your fax.

Unfortunately, if you are trying to adopt that clean desktop look for your Mac, it is one more thing to clutter it up. There are several alternate things you can do to give you the functionality of desktop printing while keeping the clutter down and we will discuss those after we have made a desktop printer to try out.

When you use the Print and Fax icon located in the System Preference window it takes information about your printer that is stored in the main library of your computer and makes a small application that it stores in your user library. There are several great tips out on the web about how to make a desktop printer. They tell you to go to the Applications folder, then to the Utilities Folder, where you start up the Printer Setup Utility.



Double click the Printer Setup Utility icon to launch it. You will then see the Printer List window. Select the printer that you want to appear on the desktop.



Go to the menu bar and choose Create Desktop Printer.



If you are a beginning user, stop here and give the Desktop Printer a try. If you are an intermediate or advanced user, let's continue.

Intermediate and Advanced Users Only


In the background your printer has created an alias on your desktop. That alias points to the application that was created when you set up your printer. While it is now possible to make additional aliases of the alias, a neater and more efficient procedure would be togo directly to that little application and use it to make aliases for your dock, your Finder window sidebar or your Finder window toolbar.

To locate this printer application we will be delving into your personal Library. If you are not familiar with your Library, let's take a moment and establish some ground rules. In general all Libraries on your computer are OFF LIMITS for mucking around. If you move or throw the wrong thing away, you may loose your address book, calendar, or email. You could make applications stop working or in the case of the main and System libraries, you can make your computer inoperable.

When you call the experts at Bob LeVitus Consulting, you may see us go into your Libraries to fix problems. However we know what the files stored there do and we know exactly which ones to work on. If you do not know what you are doing and you have a problem, please call an expert. Do not go mucking around, moving things or throwing things away.

Now that we have established the ground rules, let's move forward. To find the printer applications created when you set up a printer, go to your hard drive > Users > your user > Library > Printers > your printer.


You may find several extra printers that you were not aware of. DO NOT start throwing away things you do not recognize. Remember, the files (applications) stored here were made by your computer. It needed them when they were created. It thinks they are still needed. Let your computer decide what it needs to store in its Libraries if you want it to continue working!

If you do not know which of the printer applications to use, take a look at the Desktop Printer that we made earlier. Choose the one that was used to make that alias.

If you want to keep a printer in your dock so that you can drag documents directly to it, then drag the icon to the dock. It will make an alias to store there.



Another good places to store an icon is the sidebar of the Finder window. To place it there, drag the icon into the sidebar.



If you are not familiar adding items to the sidebar, here are a few tips. You can drag almost any item into the sidebar including applications, documents and folders. Many of the items that are placed there by default are folders, so it is important to watch the sidebar to make sure you are adding an item (notice the line that indicates the item will be placed in the list.



If you see the name of an item in a box, that indicates you are about to drag your printer application into a folder. Move slightly and you should see the line shown above. Do not release the mouse when it is indicating placement in a folder. If you slip, use command - Z to move the item back to its proper place and try again.




The other really good place to store a printer icon so that you can drag files on top of it to print is in the toolbar of the finder window. This location for various icons is little-know in Tiger.


While the icons that you see on the left side of the toolbar are added by using the Finder > View menu > Customize . . . command,



the icons on the right side were added by dragging an icon into the toolbar. As you drag icons to the location you will see a green + sign appear. When you see it, release your mouse and the icon will appear in the toolbar.

You can see that I also have the icons for Preview and TextEdit in my toolbar since I frequently drag documents over these applications to view them. You may also notice that I do not have the names of the commands in my toolbar to save a little space. Since I use the icons in my toolbar frequently, I have their names and functions memorized.

Adding extra icons to the desktop, dock, Finder window sidebar and toolbar can make your computer easier to use. If you would like to learn more about these kinds of customizations, consider booking a tutorial session with us at Bob LeVitus Consulting. The cost is $60 per one hour session and it makes a perfect gift for your favorite Mac user.

© Pat Fauquet

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