The Printer is Being Electrocuted!

When you receive Office 2007 Beta 2, you might look up at the Quick Access Toolbar and wonder why there's a lightning bolt overlaying the Print icon.

First thing to know: there have always been two versions of the Print command in Office. "Print" is the command which is typically on the File menu. Clicking this command brings up the Print dialog box in which you can specify print settings or cancel out if it's not what you intended.

On the Standard toolbar of Office 2003 applications is a command which shares an icon with normal Print but is actually different: "PrintDefault." This command immediately sends the document to your default printer without asking. You click the button and immediately paper starts coming out somewhere. This has functionality has posed some frustrating challenges over the last few years; I'll write about that in a coming article.

Anyway, to be consistent about exposing all of the print functionality in one place, we show both the Print and PrintDefault items in the Print category of the Office Button. Print is called "Print" and PrintDefault is called "Quick Print." In order to make them have distinct icons, a lightening bolt was added to Quick Print to make it seem... well, I guess lightening quick.

Quick Print. But not actual size.

Then it was noticed that the large and small versions of the Quick Print icon were inconsistent, so the lightening bolt was added to the small version of the icon shown in the Quick Access Toolbar.

The result? People think their printer has a connection problem. Although "lightening bolt" sort of means "Auto" in the Office icon lexicon, when applied to something with a connection like a printer, it looks like that connection is busted. Whoops!

We've fixed the icon up internally for future builds, but the lightning bolt is in Beta 2. So when you get your copy, you'll know why the printer is being electrocuted.

Comments (32)
  1. Gabe says:

    So how can I tell that the icon is for Quick Print rather than regular Print?

  2. Andy Wilkinson says:

    Yay! At last. Having the same "Print" icon in the toolbar and in the File menu for two commands that do slightly different things has always annoyed me. How come I feel it isn’t "normal" to get annoyed by such things? Or is it just me? I guess it just shows how even the smallest details in a design are reflected in the users relationship with applications.

  3. Brad Corbin says:

    So how did you "fix" it?

    Did you remove the lightning bolt, or did you replace it with another visual indicator that didn’t have the same confusion?

  4. Chris C. says:

    The bug in versions before Office 2k3 which produced the following page numbers for a three page doc always aggrevated me.

    Page 1 of 1

    Page 2 of 2

    Page 3 of 3

    A quick check indicates it is fixed in Office 2k3 but I’ve only had it since last Thr.

    IIRC, you had to change the Tools|Options|print to update fields or something like that.

    Rumor has it the Public Beta’s here in two weeks… can you confirm this?  🙂

  5. s_tec says:

    The funny thing is, I thought the exact same thing on seeing your blog post: "Oh, a fresh Office install must need the user to configure the printer." Oh, the pitfalls of iconography.

  6. Neil says:


    This discrepancy almost cost me my job.  I was in my home office checking my corporate email via a VPN connection.  Later, I went to print my resume for a job interview.  I hit the print icon and you know what happened.  Without any confirmation of traceability, the resume was printed on my default printer which was at the office.  I had to go to the office at 6:00am to retrive the doc from the printer shared with my boss and co-workers.  Prehaps it would have been a blessing in disquise if they discovered it. 🙂

  7. Step says:

    What’s the fixed icon look like?  Though you’d probably have told us if you were ready to share….

    I’m glad to see differentiation between the two operations, as trying to explain this to my co-workers or wife was – not fun.  🙂

  8. Jeff says:

    Hopefully the new quick-print icon is similar to the run icon on the start menu.  (in other words, an italicized printer with wind streaks behind it)

  9. Hellman109 says:

    "Rumor has it the Public Beta’s here in two weeks… can you confirm this?  🙂 "

    That is my err… Understanding.

    What I would LOVE to see is a set of say, 10, different printer icons representing ‘standard’ printers, EG ink jet, small laser, large laser, etc. so that when people hit quick print 10 times but dont see the document, then see they have it on a different printer, and just print it again to where they want it…

    I was supposed to have a point there… well I sort of do, Who works in an office where there isnt huge waste because of left print jobs?

  10. SeeSunshine says:

    hope to get the beta soon

  11. MonitorSpace says:


    And I would also lose space for 9-10 other toolbar icons.

    I don’t think printing is so important that it gets 10x the space of other actions.

  12. josh says:

    At least the printer’s not on fire…

  13. Centaur says:

    I say, down with Quick Print. I want to know exactly what and where I will be printing. Gone are the times when one had to first select File | Page Setup, then File | Print; now, the standard is, you select File | Print, it shows you a Print dialog, you review settings, click OK, it prints.

    While we are at it, let’s also do away with Quick New. In Word 2002, when I click File | New, it show me the New Document task pane, where I can select a suitable template. However, if I click the New toolbar button or press Ctrl+N, it just creates a new blank document. Worse, I cannot change this by reassigning Ctrl+N to another command — there are FileNew and FileNewContext, but when run by a Ctrl+N shortcut, they both create a new blank document.

  14. Mario Goebbels says:

    And here I thought people would only panic if there’s red all over the place.

  15. Dan McCarty says:

    A printer with an exclamation point next to it would do nicely, IMO, for "quick print."  Hopefully your design guys didn’t try one of those "running" themes, like the icon for Start Menu, Run.

    BTW, does anyone usually use this way to print?  I’m almost always making some kind adjustment before I print, and when I do want to print right away, Ctrl+P, Enter works nicely for me.

  16. In contrast to Centaur, I want to cast a vote *for* quick print and quick new. Particularly when dealing with pulldown menus it seems most appropriate to me for toolbar controls to access functionality within dialog boxes, rather than just mimic menu items. If you have to use the dialog box anyway, the relative overhead of going through the menu doesn’t seem so bad. Besides, there’s always Ctrl+P. I do agree that Quick Print should have different icon than Print even if it weren’t for the Ribbon.

    Jeff: “an italicized printer with wind streaks behind it”

    Oh, no! The printer is running away! 🙂

  17. Peter Cooper says:

    One of the first things I do on Word when setting it up is replace the Quick Print button in the toolbar with the normal Print button.

  18. aidan_walsh says:

    Dan McCarthy says: A printer with an exclamation point next to it would do nicely, IMO, for "quick print."

    Would it not be easy for users in this case to think that something has gone wrong and requires attention?

    Quite like Jeff’s idea though…

  19. David Walker says:

    Yes, all programmers and everyone else who thinks in a certain way is going to see this comment "We’ve fixed the icon" and immediately think "Fixed it how?  Changed it to what?".  It’s a blessing/curse of being a programmer.

    It SEEMS like such an obvious omission to those of us who think this way!

    I doubt that a single icon would be secret at this stage in the game, but who knows…

    Show us, Jensen!

    David Walker

  20. Gabe says:

    How about an icon of a printer with a man running?

    Right now I never use the printer icon on the toolbar because I don’t know what it does. Will it put up a dialog asking for confirmation, or will it send my document to an arbitrary printer with arbitrary settings?

    Quick Print is a good idea, but it is really important to be able to distinguish the icons.

  21. Sjoerd Verweij says:

    QuickPrint is fine, IF YOU ONLY HAVE ONE PRINTER. Why oh why not have QuickPrint be QuickPrint if you have one printer, and drop down a list of printers if you have multiples?

    Heck, double-clicking could be "print to default"…

  22. I would definitely vote for Sjoerd’s suggestion of a dropdown list of printers for QuickPrint. Wow! What an improvement this would be.

    As for Centaur’s problem, you can restore the functionality of previous Word versions in Word 2002/2003 by adding the FileNewDialog command to a menu or toolbar (see

  23. Roland says:

    Wow, that’s great!

    I’ve always tried to remember the Alan Cooper rule "When a print button is on a toolbar, it should print immediately, when it’s on a menu, it should show the Print dialog box".

    However, I’ve seen so many programs violate this unofficual rule that I’ve been waiting for a official solution from Microsoft for a long time. And now it’s here! Thank you!!

  24. Francis says:

    What would be even nicer would be a "nuke last print job" button. Trying to stop a job is often an exercise in futility–running to the printer, pressing reset, running back to computer to clear the queue, running back to the printer, then back to the computer…

    …culminating in a hung print manager and jammed printer!

  25. Not leaving my name THIS time :-) says:

    "How about an icon of a printer with a man running?"

    So women can’t print?  What do females press if they need to print something feminine.  There are lots of talented (and very empowered) women who are printers – in fact design schools turn out more talented female graphic designers than… [etc.]  j/k


    BUT seriously…

      keep the ‘quick new’ functionality, I never use a template.

    (Yes okay, technically ‘quick new’ uses, which I’ve customized; i.e. I never use that dialog)

  26. akashra says:

    About time this was done!  Thanks, sensible people 🙂

  27. Stevbe says:

    I never provide the Print Now in the apps I create (Access) because of the confusion. Hiow about the print now icon shows the paper in the printer and the Print icon does not have the piece of paper in it. I think anything you chose that adds something like lightening bolt, exclamation etc. will be confusing perhaps the piece of paper will be subtle enough that while it may not be immediately obvious what the difference is it will not lead to a "omg the printer is busted" which will only lead to more wasted paper as people click multiple times which seems to be the standard method to MAKE something work. While there will be a learning curve for paper / non paper it does not matter what you do, it is still going to take some time for people to learn a new icon.


  28. levi freeman says:

    I love this new feature, i would also make a mistake and press the quick print button when i really needed the print dialogue box.

    looks like you guys are doing a really gd job!

  29. Tomo says:

    I see so much wasted paper created by the "Quick Print/Default Print" button.

    I always, always use Print Preview – it lets me choose where I want to rpint it, and gives me that few seconds to look at the document and think "Ooops – I forgot to add x"

    So I’d go with replacing it with Print Preview – if anyone actually wants a default print, it’s elsewhere.

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