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2009-06-14 printerpullpages logo.png



A new printing UI should give us better performance, more ease of use and overall more customer satisfaction. New features like the instant preview in a print dialog as well as unified N-Up printing for all applications will bring OOo's print experience more up to current standards. Additionally system integration can benefit by making use of native print dialogs (for which the MacOSX implementation will be the prime example). The development is done in the CWS printerpullpages.

Comments, questions or feedback is welcomed on the mailing list.

The team working on the feature:

Role Name E-Mail Address
I-Team Lead Philipp Lohmann (PL) Philipp.Lohmann@Sun.COM

Philipp Lohmann (PL)
Andre Fischer (AF)
Thomas Lange (TL)
Niklas Nebel (NN)


Quality Assurance Hasan Ilter (HI) Hasan.Ilter@Sun.COM
Documentation tbd tbd
User Experience

Christoph Noack
Frank Löhmann


First let us see why we need a new print subsystem in OOo. Up to now printing for OOo's applications worked like this:

  • the user clicks on File->Print
  • a dialog pops up in which the user can enter the page range to be printed, the printer to be printed on, etc.
  • the application evaluates the data from the dialog, starts a print job and prints each page consecutively. After the last page is printed, the application finishes the print job.

This works but has some major drawbacks on the Mac platform:

  • On Mac the printed range has to be known before the native print dialog (usage of which is a requirement on this platform) gets started. Even when printing without a dialog the number of pages has to be known before the print job starts. However the system dependent print implementation cannot know this page range, because it is only known to the application.
  • The Mac print system then requests individual pages to be printed. These need not be in order or each page be printed only once due to the fact that when using the native print dialog a preview gets shown. To achieve this the Mac print system requests the current page to be previewed be printed. This is completely different to OOo's current print model.
  • The current workaround on the Mac is to “print” all pages of a document, but not output to the actual printer but keep a memory copy of the printed pages. These can then in the real print job be requested by the system in random order and as often as needed. This solution has obvious performance and memory footprint drawbacks

So for at least the Mac platform we need a more flexible print solution. This solution should have the following features:

  • pull instead of push pages: the print subsystem pulls pages a needed from the application, not the application pushes a number of pages to the print subsystem. On systems where printing is push based (Windows, Unix) the push behavior can be easily satisfied by an adaptor that pulls all pages and pushes each to the system consecutively.
  • Provide a print preview in the new dialog: the user should be provided with a preview of what his document will look like when printed out. This preview should take into account all available application specific print options which can up to now be accessed by the “Options...” button in the print dialog.
  • Be able to use native print dialogs and embed our print options into them, this benefits system integration.
  • Reuse existing technology when possible to keep the implementation effort low

Based on these requirements the following new model should be implemented:

  • printing migrates to a “pull” model where the print system pulls pages as required from the application.
  • A new generic (that is universal on all systems) print dialog gets implemented that features the entry possibilities of the old dialog as well as new features namely:
    • a print preview
    • all application specific print options (which are hidden on the “Options...” dialog in the old print dialog)
    • N-Up printing


Scope of the Work

In Scope Out of Scope
  • Satisfy the user demands for a the use of native printing dialogs (e.g. on the Mac OS X platform)
  • Provide a high quality printing interface that is system independent
  • Add system independent N-up printing to overcome the drawbacks of certain printer drivers
  • Improve the overall interaction quality (e.g. workflow improvements, terminology, essential print options)
  • Create a fresh and usable interface for printing in
  • For all of the above: keep changes to limit that can be implemented for OOo 3.2. Further changes can wait for later version.
  • Additional functionality will not be added (besides the planned N-up printing)

Analysis of the Current State of Printing (OpenOffice 3.1)

Please refer to the page Current State of Printing ( 3.1). It provides findings about the current state of printing in 3.1 by analyzing usage feedback data, workflows and printing dialog screenshots.

Use Cases

Use cases are an important tool for the design of both usable and efficient interaction concepts. Knowing the most common ones, the user interface can be optimized to satisfy the need of a large user base in many situations. Besides the user feedback data, we don't have any knowledge about how our users work with So we asked experts, users and trainers to get some feedback on "the three most common use cases". We know that this data isn't statistically relevant, but we may get some insight which we currently don't have.

Questions to the mailing lists:

The file Printerpullpages_UseCases_CollectionOfFeedback contains the first collected feedback. If anybody wants to help to further collect/sort/analyse the feedback - that would be really great!

Competitive Analysis

Please note that although we do competitive analysis, we won't publish too many information here, e.g. screenshots due to legal restrictions. If you are interested in a special program, then try to search for images in your favorite internet search. In 99% of all cases, you will get some pictures and a first idea how it looks like ... and most presumably how it will behave.

Another good approach is to have a look at the official documentation of our supported platforms:

  • Apple User Interface Guidelines, The Print Dialog
  • Microsoft Windows User Experience Interaction Guidelines, Common Dialogs (scroll down a bit, since the print dialog is not listed in the TOC)
  • Linux Common Printing Dialog, Linux Printing UI Specification, specification created by the Linux Foundation OpenPrinting workgroup available in the wiki
  • OpenSolaris, Project: "Presto: Automatic Printing Configuration", UI Prototypes, contains some information about the Print Dialog

Please refer to the page Competitive Analysis. It collects information on special applications or general printing dialogs.

Requirements List

The following list contains the most important requirements to get started. Okay, these aren't real requirements, it is more like a what-feature-is-generally-desired list.

  • The new print functionality shall provide an native print dialog. As an alternative, a system independent print dialog is used.
  • The new print dialog shall provide all application specific print options which are necessary for most printing tasks.
  • The new print dialog shall provide a print preview. The visualization is updated immediately if print options are changed (immediately: time until final visualization <= 500 ms).

Technical Constraints

The following list contains the most important technical constraints which will have impact on the final interaction and dialog design.

  • Options: Especially the application specific options have to be "compatible" to be used in the native print dialogs. This refers to the overall number (space restrictions in the native print dialogs), the organization (it should be possible to define property groups), controls (limited use of graphical UI controls), layout (layouting is limited to what the operating system provides), ...
  • Size: Since printing is an ordinary task, the dialog should be usable on computers with low screen resolution (e.g. Netbooks with 576px height) and large screens (e.g. PCs)
  • GUI elements:
    • Non-standard controls: Since printing will provide some visual output, it is strongly desirable to use graphical controls (e.g. for the print order). Especially for embedding of application specific print options into native print dialogs this might cause problems, since a) it might be impossible, or b) it might create additional effort for porting.
    • Element "Group Box": Since 2.2 group boxes have been replaced by simple horizontal or vertical lines to divide dialogs. As a result, these group boxes aren't themed at the moment (themed: adapted to the visual style of the graphical user interface of certain operating systems).
  • Layout: Currently, there is no GUI layout manager available which resizes all dialog elements according the size of the screen and the size of each of the dialog's objects. Consequence: Static dialog layout which considers the space requirements for other languages.
  • Mac OS X Compatibility: is made to run on a variety of Mac OS X versions. Some of those provide a different feature set with regard to printing, so that there is a need for a compromise to satisfy most of the users.
    • 10.4 (Tiger): Application specific options can be integrated in the native print dialog, but there is no print preview available.
    • 10.5 (Leopard): Application specific can be integrated in the native print dialog, and a print preview can be made available.

Definition of Terms

Definitions for the use on this wiki page and the specification. They might be different to the final user interface terminology.

Term Description
System Independent Print Dialog A print dialog that is independent from the underlying operating system, since it is provided by This dialog is used if either the native print dialog is not available or the user explicitly wants to use it instead of the native one. Besides the application specific options, it is required for the print dialog to handle also: printer selection, printer status text, print to file, copy count, collate, N-up printing
Native Print Dialog The native print dialog is the one provided by the operating system, e.g. Mac OS X. The advantage is the visual and behavioral consistency among all applications on the platform, but there are also technical constraints which limit the flexibility of the design.
Application Specific Print Options consists of several modules optimized for certain document types, e.g. word processing (Writer) or spreadsheet editing (Calc). For each of the document types the user may require special options which do only make sense with regard to a certain document type (e.g. printing of Notes). Most of these options are today ( <= 3.1) available in the print options dialog and the tools options settings pages.
N-up printing N-up printing refers to multiple page printing, so that more than one document page (created in the application) is printed on the real paper page. Usually the user selects the number of pages to be printed, e.g. 2 on 1.
Print Preview A preview of what the document will look like when printed out. Therefore this preview should take as much as available print options into account. The print preview is given in the print dialog and therefore complements the page preview available in the file menu in some applications.

Design Proposals

Please refer to the page Design Proposals. Based on requirements, it collects design proposals and rates them - maybe some of the proposals get integrated into

Status and Roadmap

It is planned to provide a new basic dialog in 3.2. So the interaction design should be finished until end of June 2009. Hopefully ;-)

Now delayed to end of july. However the current implementation is basically "final" that is what will be done before CWS printerpullpages gets integrated.

Specification document: tbd

Current State

Future Tasks

If there are interesting ideas how to further improve printing in, then the development might continue for future version of

Philipp said that Caolan, a guy working for RedHat, offered some help to bind the native print dialog in Gnome (GTK). Some years ago, he already blogged about the gnomeprintui.

Other Ideas

Date Raised Source Summary Status Details
 ??? I-Team Specification Replace Print Preview Printing Accepted Currently, Writer provides very flexible N-up capabilities. This should be made available to all applications – via the new print dialog.
 ??? I-Team Improve Workflows New Besides the printing dialog, the concepts and the handling of printing options is difficult in (currently we just provide a list of options which have to be combined in a useful manner – here the user has to know exactly what to do).

Another example is the work-flow breaking dialog handling when printing. More information can be found in the blog post Transparent Decision Making.

So this is no real “idea”, it is more a reminder to keep an eye on that.

2009-06-11 I-Team Contextual Information Bar New As discussed in “Improve Workflows”, there are currently a number of modal dialogs which might interrupt the workflow. So how about a contextual information bar which informs only (e.g. for wrong page sizes, transparency, gradients, ...)? How about adding a contextual information bar in the dialog itself...
Rough mockup of a contextual information bar

On the other hand, it would be better to get rid of all these additional informations, warnings and decisions. Open Questions:

  • If people print via shortcut, then the print dialog is omitted. What to do?
  • If native dialogs are used, then we miss the flexibility to add this kind of warning.
 ??? I-Team Harmonize printing and PDF export New Currently, the capabilities of printing and PDF export differ a lot (Example: There is no way to export handouts in Impress.) Why not harmonize that?
2009-06-14 I-Team Printer Presets New Currently, we provide a lot of printer settings which have to be combined by the user. Generally, users use only a small number of combinations, since they are editing similar documents. So they might just use settings for "draft" or "final output". Print settings which could be customized could help here (costomized: edited, saved, loaded, deleted). Some competitors already offer this kind of functionality.
2009-06-14 Regina multiple copies of a one page document on one paper sheet New Use case: You need a lot of DIN A5 sheets to distribute flyers or for to give the sheets to your pupils in your classroom. You write a DIN A5 document. But DIN A5 paper is more expensive than DIN A4 paper. So you want to print the same document twice on a DIN A4 paper. That is not possible up to now. Besides the Issue 67687 , have a look in the internet forums, you see that people are searching for that feature but get only workarounds or have to buy special software. For example or or the workaround for Word
2009-06-16 Regina Assistance for envelope printing New Printing envelopes still belongs to the tasks which most failures. OOo should use informations about the printer (for example from the PPD-file) to help the users. For example, OOo can show how to insert the envelop, or show, what position the envelope must have compared with the standard paper sheet.
2009-07-04 Christoph Merge change tracking and notes New Issue: In Writer, currently there is no common handling for the printing of Notes or handling of Change Tracking. If tracked changes are enabled in the document, they are also printed. There is no way to enable/disable these „reviewer markups“.

Proposal: Maybe something to change/merge for further releases? Open Question: Maybe also Calc is affected, since it also supports change tracking.

Mockups and Screenshots

This section contains mockups and screenshots:

  • Mockups are working models used for demonstration purposes. There is no real functionality at all, because the following pictures have been composed with graphic programs just to get a first impression how it will look like.
  • Screenshots show the behavior of the real development in Those pictures are updated more or less regularly.
Printerpullpages nup current.png

Current state of the N-Up tab page in the system independent print dialog.

Printerpullpages 2009-06-07 PrintingDialog EarlyMockup.png
An initial draft mockup, just to let you know that we are working on something ;-) Many of the implemented proposals are still in discussion...
2009-07-13v4 PrintingDialog.png
A draft mockup, still many things are in discussion...
2009-07-14 PrintingDialog.png
An early mockup. Some comments:
  • Many options have been changed / renamed / merged. Although we thought about these changes, they might not be final.
  • Draw and Math are completely missing in the mockup.
  • How to fit the dialog on small screens is in discussion. Due to the missing layout manager, currently we propose to separate the content in separate tabs like "General 1", "General 2". That should at least provide a solution for the Netbook users.
  • Some options will be placed (information architecture) differently for native dialogs, e.g. brochure printing.
  • A reasonable textual description is missing...
2009-07-19 PrintingDialog.png
Changes in comparison to last mockup:
  • Implemented some of the proposals and ideas from Andreas (Anjoschu) commented on the "Wiki Talk Page", e.g.:
    • Rework of ranges and copies in the Calc dialog
    • Decision for "Print to file..." button
    • Some cleanups and corrections
    • ... some things are still open for discussion
  • Added print options for Calc (and removed a - to me - unnecessary option)
  • Added print dialog and print options for Draw
  • Provided separate examples for: Default Dialog Size, Full Dialog Size, Compact Dialog Size (for e.g. Netbooks)
  • Added note for the Impress/Draw size options if brochure printing is enabled

Open Points (biiig questions):

  • Impress: How to integrate Handout printing and the problem that document definitions get overridden
  • Writer: RTL/LTR options, location of "add blank ..."
  • All: location of some options (e.g. Reversed)
  • Why should we provide "Colors" (original colors, grayscale, black&white) to Draw/Impress only? Does it make sense to make it available to all document types?
  • ...
2009-07-21 PrintingDialog.png

Changes in comparison to last mockup:

  • Cleanup of text labels, some of it inspired by feedback by Anjoschu:
    • Use of capitalization
    • Use of module names for module specific options (similar to the application window titles and application options)
    • Many other small changes
  • Simplified (hopefully) inclusion of left/odd/front pages vs. right/odd/front pages.
  • Moved some options (back) to underline the dependence to specific modules. Still, there seems not to be the optimal solution for the given constraints :-(


  • Brochure printing is currently added to the multi page printing (N-up). For native dialogs which implement its own N-up it is currently proposed to create a separate group containing: Brochure, Order, Include

Open Points:

  • Impress: The print dialog (tab "General") misses the ability to use the handout layout defined in the document. Adding this will be a challenge concerning /(consistent) space and layout. And, as Anjoschu mentioned ... it relates somehow to N-up printing
  • All: How to "devide" the settings for limited display resolutions
  • All: A lot (!!!) of textual description how certain elements behave (e.g. description of whether to keep the page order entry "Left to right, then down" for 2-on-1 printing)
  • All: The name of the weird menu (last tab): Options, Output Options, Driver Options or Extras (at the moment, I prefer output options since all the elements are options and driver is too technical).
  • All: Warning messages, pre-defined output settings, better printer details integration
  • All: Why should we provide "Colors" (original colors, grayscale, black&white) to Draw/Impress only? Does it make sense to make it available to all document types?
  • All: May we really re-use the existing Order drop-down for both brochure printing and N-up? Maybe people are confused, but it uses space efficiently...
  • All: Does it make sense to add an option to make settings persistent (to e.g. store defaults like in Tools -- Options)?

2009-08-02 PrintingDialog.png

Changes in comparison to last mockup:

  • Updated "somehow realistic version" dialog to match the current Calc print dialog proposal
  • Added examples for the position of the print page preview (portrait, landscape, additonal info). The initial size might be adjusted to better fit landscape layouts, but after the dialog has been shown to the user, the size should stay the same (e.g. for keeping thebutton positions).
  • Small terminology updates (e.g. Calc "Thereof" to "Thereof print")
  • Better alignment of controls in tab page "Page Layout"


  • There has been an intensive discussion with Philipp how to integrate N-up and brochure printing. The current approach features three radio buttons:
    • Default = One page per sheet, no brochure printing. Usually this is handled by "Pages per sheet = 1", but here we have to avoid a cluttered layout in the dialog when the controls of N-up would appear above brochure printing. Unfortunately, this requires an additional click when prnting several pages per sheet (click on "Pages per sheet" and then selecting the number of pages).
    • Brochure = Brochure printing. Added a drop-down to select the script writing direction; this has been the checkbox "Right to left" because an automatic detection is nearly impossible.
    • Pages per sheet = N-up printing. Removed "1", because this is handled by default. I hope this will be understood, because it is really different to other software...
  • Include: The new include combines the setting for default, brochure printing and N-up printing. Thus, we now refer to e.g. both "Front sides" and "left pages" in the drop-down.

Open Points:

  • All: Define defaults for all the elements (e.g. set the margins to 0 for "Pages per sheet = Custom"
  • All: Rename "Default" to "Default (1 page per sheet)" to make its meaning more clear? (tab "Page Layout")
  • All: Or, re-arrange the whole tab by removing the "Border line" printing.
  • All: A lot (!!!) of textual description how certain elements behave (e.g. description of whether to keep the page order entry "Left to right, then down" for 2-on-1 printing)
  • All: The name of the weird menu (last tab): Options, Output Options, Driver Options or Extras (at the moment, I prefer output options since all the elements are options and driver is too technical).
  • All: Warning messages, pre-defined output settings, better printer details integration
  • All: Why should we provide "Colors" (original colors, grayscale, black&white) to Draw/Impress only? Does it make sense to make it available to all document types?
  • All: Does it make sense to add an option to make settings persistent (to e.g. store defaults like in Tools -- Options)?
2009-08-06 PrintingDialog.png

Changes in comparison to last mockup:

  • All: Tab page Page Layout has been refined again.
    • We decided to now go for radio buttons for choosing "Pages per sheet" and "Brochure" printing. We accept that the radio buttons are separated by several other control - but we gain a lot of clarity for the rest of the dialog.
    • Moved "Border line around each page" to new position to improve the layout of the controls. But, the existance and the position of the control are still preliminary - maybe it will getÜbearbeitetes Print Layout removed again...
  • All: Added a proposal how a Print Page Preview may look like, when there is no Print Range defined (e.g. if there is an empty input field for page range).
  • Impress: The group Print in the tab General has been improved. Now, it should be able to activate the handout printing format which has been defined in the document. Due to the amount of space available it is simply called "Default" (although we would have liked to make it more self-explanatory).

Comments: none

Open Points:

  • Math: Completely missing
  • All: Define defaults for all the elements (e.g. set the margins to 0 for "Pages per sheet = Custom"
  • All: A lot (!!!) of textual description how certain elements behave (e.g. description of whether to keep the page order entry "Left to right, then down" for 2-on-1 printing)
  • All: The name of the weird menu (last tab): Options, Output Options, Driver Options or Extras (at the moment, I prefer output options since all the elements are options and driver is too technical).
  • All: Warning messages, pre-defined output settings, better printer details integration
  • All: Why should we provide "Colors" (original colors, grayscale, black&white) to Draw/Impress only? Does it make sense to make it available to all document types?
  • All: Does it make sense to add an option to make settings persistent (to e.g. store defaults like in Tools -- Options)?

Online Discussion, Press Coverage and Comments

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