Booklets: Print, Cut & Bind

Double-sided 2-up Printing on a Single-sided Printer

Article contributed by Elliott Roper

If you want to print a booklet from Word X or Word 2004, it can be done without an expensive printer. This article explains how to do it, step-by-step. But there are three caveats.

Caveats

1. These instructions are for an A5 booklet on an A4 printer that delivers face down after printing on the top face of the sheets fed from the input tray. That is, if you are printing portrait A4, the first page is at the bottom of the heap with its top edge first out of the machine. This, fortunately, is the most common set-up on mid-price printers.

2. This has been tested with OS X 10.3.x. You need its vastly improved Preview program and new print options.

3. These instructions work for 'perfect' binding, where each sheet is separate. Folded or stitched binding is another whole kettle of fish, for which you will need a proper imposition program. I have never seen a free one.

Note: If your printer does not feed as described, it is not impossible to adapt this recipe with a little experimentation. Use tricks like marking the paper in the input tray with penciled arrows and sheet numbers on each pass.

Preparation (optional, but recommended)

Create a custom template with even and odd headers, mirrored margins and a small gutter (extra space on the inside to accommodate the binding wires, glue or whatever). Then base your document on the template.

Make sure your document will print as a single file. Test with print to PDF. Some section breaks will split the output into separate files. You are dead in the water if that happens.

Numbered pages are very useful, especially if you drop the paper stack half way through.

Production Steps

1. Print from Word with these settings from the print dialog panel.

2. Print again from Word with these settings.

3. Forget Word now. Open "booklet evens.ps" in Preview.

4. Print from Preview with these settings from the print dialog panel.

5. Take the paper off the output tray, and without any turning, flipping or shuffling, put it all back in the input tray.

6. Open "booklet odds.ps" in Preview.

7. Print from Preview with these settings.

8. Guillotine the A4 to make two heaps of A5.

9. Merge the two heaps page by page, turning one over from each pair.

10. Bind and trim.

Notes

This sequence — printing the evens in reverse before printing the odds forward — seems to free you from worry about the number of pages being divisible by four and saves shuffling the paper between the two printing passes.

Printing as postscript in print from Word stops it trying to outsmart you, and as a bonus, works around the "mis-feature" that prints your EPS logo art from the preview bitmap when you want it to print from the high resolution graphic file.

It helps to have a meaty guillotine (a.k.a paper cutter). I have done 400 page books with this recipe, and chopping through 100 sheets in a single pass is most satisfying. Knowing that you have saved 300 sheets of A4 and produced something that is a pleasure to hold is pure bonus.

It is worthwhile getting your styles ready for the reduction in size. Your readers expect smaller type on a smaller page, but don't strain their eyes. I use 14pt Adobe Garamond on 16pt leading (the space between lines of text) for my body style. The resulting 7pt font on 8pt leading looks okay on A5 for technical manuals. You might choose to go a little larger for a novel, or if there are footnotes you actually expect to be read.

Don't forget your major section boundaries should start on odd pages, and that odd pages are always on the right of each spread. Word handles blank pages at the end of chapters well. Managing your odd and even running heads with the section specification is probably the subject of another note.

Alternatives

There are a few freeware and shareware applications available that can be helpful for booklet printing as well.

Cheap Impostor: Shareware ($35 US); speedy; a new version – as of May 2007 – allows for "creep" (pages near the outside have their outer margins too far from the edge of the paper); comes in both US and A4 versions. The newest version even
compensates for the printer margins being slightly out of spec. A neat feature of Cheap Impostor is that it will prepare "signatures" for longer publications. Signatures are individually folded subsections that are later stacked and bound. The manual includes some binding hints.

CocoaBooklet: Freeware; on the slow side; does not allow for "creep" (pages near the outside have their outer margins too far from the edge of the paper); best for small jobs, not more than 32 imposed pages (8 sheets of paper) and less is better; favors USA page dimensions.

BookLightning: Shareware ($49 US); speedy; does not allow for "creep" (pages near the outside have their outer margins too far from the edge of the paper); best for small jobs, about 12-16 imposed pages (3-4 sheets of paper); favors USA page dimensions and doesn't seem to perform well with international paper sizes.

Return to Top