To print a file without opening it, you can right-click the file in Windows Explorer, then select the Print option. However, you can send a file only to the default printer this way. To send a file to a different printer, you need to open the file, select the Print option, select the desired printer, and click OK. I grew tired of having to perform all these steps every time I wanted to send a file to a different printer, so came up with an alternative. I added printer shortcuts to the Send To menu to minimize the time and effort it takes to send files to nondefault printers.

In case you're unfamiliar with the Send To menu for a file, you access it by right-clicking the file in Windows Explorer and selecting the Send To option. The Send To menu can include shortcuts to printers, disk drives, Windows-based programs, compressed (zipped) folders, mail recipients, the desktop, and the My Documents folder.

You can add a printer shortcut to the Send To menu in a matter of minutes. Simply follow these steps:

  1. Navigate to the SendTo folder. A quick way to get to this folder in Windows XP is to copy the path C:\Documents and Settings\%USERNAME%\SendTo and paste it into Windows Explorer's address bar. In Windows Vista, use the path C:\Users\%USERNAME%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\SendTo. If the folder isn't visible, open any folder and click Folder Options on the Tools menu. (In Vista, you might need to press Alt to get the Tools menu to appear.) On the View tab of the Folder Options dialog box, select the Show hidden files and folders option in the Advanced settings section.
  2. Navigate to the window showing the printers available for your machine. In XP, you can do this by selecting Printers and Faxes from the Start menu. (Depending on your XP version and settings, you might have to access the Printers and Faxes window through the Control Panel's Printers and Other Hardware applet.) In Vista, go to the Control Panel's Hardware and Sound applet and select the Printers option.
  3. In the Printers and Faxes window (XP) or Printers window (Vista), find the printer you want to add to the Send To menu. Drag and drop it into the SendTo folder.

Figure 1 shows my SendTo folder in which I added shortcuts for two nondefault printers.

Figure 1: SendTo folder in which shortcuts for two nondefault printers have been added

One shortcut is to a color printer (which I use when I need color copies) and the other shortcut is to a high-capacity black-and-white printer (which I use when I need to print 15 or more pages).

Now when I want to send a file to a nondefault printer, I right-click the file in Windows Explorer and select the Send To option, which brings up the Send To menu that Figure 2 shows.

Figure 2: Send To menu that includes shortcuts for two nondefault printers

I just click the nondefault printer I want to use. The file is then sent to that printer.

For me, the printer shortcuts have often come in handy, saving me time and effort. They can save you time, too, if you print to nondefault printers. And adding the shortcuts takes only a few minutes, so it doesn't require a large investment of time to set up.