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A virtual printer
is a piece of computer software
Computer software, or just software, is a collection of computer programs and related data that provide the instructions for telling a computer what to do and how to do it....
whose user interface
The user interface, in the industrial design field of human–machine interaction, is the space where interaction between humans and machines occurs. The goal of interaction between a human and a machine at the user interface is effective operation and control of the machine, and feedback from the...
An application programming interface is a source code based specification intended to be used as an interface by software components to communicate with each other...
resemble that of a printer driver
In computers, a printer driver or a print processor is a piece of software that converts the data to be printed to the form specific to a printer...
, but which is not connected with a physical computer printer
In computing, a printer is a peripheral which produces a text or graphics of documents stored in electronic form, usually on physical print media such as paper or transparencies. Many printers are primarily used as local peripherals, and are attached by a printer cable or, in most new printers, a...
When a user requests that a document be "printed" by a virtual printer, then, instead of having the document printed on paper or other material, the underlying software would process its contents in some other way, often resulting in a file
A computer file is a block of arbitrary information, or resource for storing information, which is available to a computer program and is usually based on some kind of durable storage. A file is durable in the sense that it remains available for programs to use after the current program has finished...
being produced or the information being transmitted.
Typical uses of virtual printers include:
- Saving a document to another format such as PDF
Portable Document Format is an open standard for document exchange. This file format, created by Adobe Systems in 1993, is used for representing documents in a manner independent of application software, hardware, and operating systems....
- Saving a document in a format which can be included in another document. For example, a word processor may not be able to include an engineering CAD document, but it could include a TIFF image of that document printed from the engineering software package.
- Saving multiple documents into a single document
- Saving a web page into a single document as it appears in the web browser. This will save the web page without relying on it being available or functional in the future.
- Saving a reference copy of a document for longer term access. This would allow the document to be viewable by non-proprietary software in the future. This would not be an archival version of the document.
- Saving a document in a non-editable format. A draft of a book may, for example, be saved in a PDF as TIFF images, to make it more difficult to copy the text of the book.
- Sending documents to a fax server
A fax server is a system installed in a local area network server that allows computer users whose computers are attached to the LAN to send and receive fax messages...
- Converting documents for sharing in universal, platform/version/hardware-independent format (e.g. JPEG, multipage TIFF, or PDF) in order to eliminate issues such as missing fonts;
- For example in order to play it on universal stand-alone equipment such as: DVD/mp3/mp4/JPEG player or built-in digital camera player or other JPEG
In computing, JPEG . The degree of compression can be adjusted, allowing a selectable tradeoff between storage size and image quality. JPEG typically achieves 10:1 compression with little perceptible loss in image quality....
display equipment with TV-out for more convenient read for example on Big TV screen as form of e-Book
- Word processing and presentation documents often appear differently when viewed on another computer. Different versions of the software, different fonts available, and various other settings can all affect the way these documents display. Formats such as PDF which include fonts or such as TIFF which rasterize fonts eliminate these issues.
- Allowing user to control certain aspects of printing not supported natively, such as printing multiple pages per sheet without border, print letterhead, watermarks etc. This output can either be saved in a file for future printing or passed to another printer.
- Saving paper and ink while testing how something will print, cropping etc.
- Allowing remote printing of documents over the Internet. At least one example of this technology creates a virtual printer on one computer which actually converts the document and sends it to a server on the WWW, from which the file can be printed to a printer attached to a PC in a remote location. Similar technology is also being used to allow printing from devices such as smart phones.