Duplex Printing with Word

Here is the scenario. You have a document that is mostly portrait orientation. This is the normal state of affairs.
You want to insert a table, but it’s quite wide and you cannot easily squish it within the boundaries of the page. You insert a next page section break, via the Insert->Break menu. You set the page to landscape orientation via the File->Page Setup menu.
The table is quite long and spans several pages. At the end of the table you insert another next page break, set the new page to portrait orientation and go about your business.
All is well, until you press print.

You see, the problem is that Microsoft Word controls an evil empire of document-writer frustration. Word has lots of features, but if you actually try to use them, it gets annoyed with you. It doesn’t tell you it’s getting annoyed — it just does it on the sly.
You only find out that something is amiss when you attempt to print your document, and the pages arrange themselves in creative, novel ways, making the flow of the document confusing.
Is it art? Possibly.
Is it what the user wants? Certainly not.

To give Microsoft’s Office team some credit where it is due, Word 2003 does manage to print double-sided without any issues — as long as you don’t try to do anything too dynamic, such as mixing pages which have both landscape and portrait orientated pages. If all the pages are landscape — no issues. Likewise with portfolio orientated documents. However, cases (like the one above) occur where people would like to include both.
This eventuality seems to be have been something beyond the imagination of the Word designers.

I have suffered through a great deal of pain in order to give you this useful work-around to the annoying landscape/portrait orientation printing mix-up. I’ll avoid relating all of the pain, because if you googled in here, then you already know the pain and probably don’t want to relive it.

You made your mistake when you inserted a next page section break. The secret is to insert an odd page section break. In fact, it’s critical. And you need to insert on before and after the landscape orientated section.
If a landscape page prints on the reverse of a portrait page, everything will be screwed up. Inserting odd page section breaks is the only solution I’ve managed to come up with. It doesn’t solve the problem with page numbering (which will now be orientated with the landscape page — but you can’t have everything).

That should solve most of the issues, but when I implemented this I found that Word would often let me insert an odd page section break and then, once I’d moved on, automatically (and most unhelpfully) turn it into a next page section break. This didn’t improve my spirits. Especially since it would only come to my attention once I’d printed my 144 page document.
It took me ages to figure out why, and actually I still don’t know why it was doing that. I do know how to make it stop doing that, which ultimately gives us the same result — a document which prints as intended.
Here is how:
Make certain that for every section in your document, the section is set to start on an odd numbered page. Do this by clicking on a page of the section in the document, then clicking File->Page Setup.
On the window click the Layout tab, and select the Section start drop-down. Choose Odd page.

I hope that will ease your pain a little.

4 thoughts on “Duplex Printing with Word”

  1. “Word 2003 does manage to print double-sided without any issues”

    This actually shouldn’t have anything to do with Word’s abilities or lack thereof – the printer driver ought to control it, assuming you’re dead-treeing to a printer capable of duplexing.

    Obviously if Word mangles the document before it goes to the printer, well, yeah, that’s Microsoft products for you. Upgrade now to Office 2007!

  2. Yes Sam.

    Unfortunately I’m not working in a university environment and my colleagues are likely to beat me about the head with the printer-cartridge recycling bin if I was to try to get them to write reports using any form of mark-up.
    Also, they are not friends of the command line, nor do they have any intentions of making friends with such an aloof, unapproachable character.

    As for the printer driver thing, the printer driver is capable of duplex printing. That was something I took for granted.
    The way word prints landscape and portrait isn’t conducive to have both orientations on the same page — this is definitely word’s fault. I did the duplex printing manually.

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