Print Files Directly from Mac Desktop & OS X Finder to Save Time

Aug 11, 2014 - 17 Comments

Printing files from the Mac desktop Did you know you can start printing any file directly from the desktop of a Mac? While most users open a file and then print it from the application of which the file was built in, that’s not actually necessary, instead printing can be initiated from anywhere in the Finder of OS X. This often overlooked feature is incredibly convenient and it really speeds up the process of printing a document or picture, as it prevents having to open any apps. Instead, you just locate the document in the file system and start printing directly from there.


You’ll obviously need a printer set up with the Mac to do this, though it can either be a local network printer, USB connected, or any wireless AirPrint printer, and yes this does work with printing to PDF as well.

Fast: Printing Files Right from the Mac Desktop & File System

This trick works with a file either residing on the literal desktop or anywhere in the file system of OS X:

  1. From the Mac OS X Desktop or any Finder window, locate the file(s) or image you want to print and click on it so that it’s selected
  2. Pull down the “File” menu from the Finder and choose “Print”
  3. Set your printing options and preferences as usual and choose ‘print’ to start printing the file

Using this Print menu item with a file selected will bring up the standard printer interface for OS X:

Print a file from the Mac OS X desktop

Then you just need to set the printer (if multiple are available), and the details of the print job, click on “Print” and away you go. If you already have all that configured, you can expedite the process by just hitting the Return key the moment the printer preview pops up:

Printing a file from the desktop on a Mac

Your file(s) or picture(s) will immediately print, without ever having to open the application they are associated with. Is that quick or what?

Faster: Starting Print From Desktop with an OS X Keyboard Shortcut

Perhaps even faster for many users who like keyboard shortcuts, you can also initiate the quick desktop printing with a super simple keystroke – in fact it’s the same keystroke that works to start a print job inside an application:

  1. Select the file(s) you want to print from the Finder
  2. Hit Command+P to bring up the printer preview and utilities, then hit the Return key to start printing the file(s)
  3. Printing a file from the desktop on a Mac

Printing from the desktop and file system of OS X has been around for quite some time, but like many of the longstanding features, many Mac users don’t know about these great little tricks that can really boost productivity by eliminating unnecessary steps.

And for the geekier users and sysadmins out there, yes these these desktop initiated print jobs are stored within normal print history, and is also visible from the web-based CUPS browser.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

17 Comments

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  1. Or you can pop the print queue for a given machine into your dock and drag-and-drop! This saves a ton of time, especially if you’re just printing a text file or a screen grab.

    http://cl.ly/image/3J110E2v0H2Q

    The only caveat is that it will use the default settings, which for an image usually means filling the page. That can be overkill if you’re printing some kind of drop-down menu or other small item — you don’t need a poster of something that’s only 100px to begin with!

    • paul says:

      That’s an excellent tip, thanks Prescott!

    • Just like the Desktop Printer from OS9, which we used constantly; I run a large design office, and we would frequently need to send multi-sheet sets to a Design Jet printer. With the Desktop Printer, we could drag the PS file and not have to load up 20 or 30 D-size sheets.

      OSX’ version is better, though, as you don’t have to make a print file first. On the other hand, you could double-click the print file and printing happened in the background.

  2. Lee says:

    Does not work for me. It opened the Photoshop app. Using 10.9.4.

    • beth says:

      Same for me: for image files, it opens photoshop (without the image)
      for pdf, opens Acrobat, then the Acrobat Printer dialog

      Oh, well.

  3. Charles says:

    You can also create a keyboard shortcut so that when you hit Cmd+P twice, it brings up the Print to PDF dialog. David Sparks writes how to do it here: http://macsparky.com/blog/2008/3/19/keyboard-shortcut-for-save-as-pdf-in-os-x.html

  4. Johannes Rexx says:

    This does not work in Mavericks. For every jpg and pdf file I get the error message:

    The document “nameofthefile” could not be opened for printing.

    • paul says:

      This article was written printing from desktop in OS X Mavericks 10.9.4, what version are you using? Do you have a printer configured? Try with different file types, do each of them report the error? We’ll try to troubleshoot this.

  5. Gorm says:

    I don’t get any print dialog up, it just starts to print ?!?!

  6. torgsyv says:

    It does not work on my iMAC/OSX10.9.2: “The file could not be opened.
    USELESS

  7. Peter says:

    Sorry, but I think this is bollocks. I tried this from the desktop with both .odt and .pdf files (sys 10.6.8 – command-P) and it did absolutely nothing. Not that I expected it to. Why would we have been opening files for 30 years to print them — are we all supposed to be totally dumb?

  8. Alcide says:

    I see the Print option, but its not highlighted so I cannot click.

  9. DL says:

    Tried this with a pdf and it opened acrobat before printing.

    OSX 10.9.4

  10. Raven says:

    When I do this it opens the app associated with the file, and then starts printing. I’ve never seen a dialog as in the article. But it does work.

  11. GianMarco Tavazzani says:

    It’s not precisely so; it first opens the app (TexEdit for an .rtf file, exempli gratia) and THEN, BY IT opens the printing dialogue.

  12. PWS442 says:

    When I have a .jpg file selected in Finder and do either command/P or File/Print, it simply opens up the file in Preview and prints it (and on regular 8.5×11 paper). I do not get an option to change to 4×6 photo paper. I have Mavericks OS X 10.9.4, and a Canon MG7120 wifi printer.

  13. David says:

    Great tip, only problem is when I’ve done it repeatedly with multiple types of files and it skips the “Set your printing options and preferences as usual and choose ‘print’ to start printing the file” step and prints directly to my default printer. That will work great when I’m at home but elsewhere doesn’t allow me to do that essential step.

    There’s probably a very simple fix that I’m not considering.

    Let me know.

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