The digital age may be in full swing with the so-called paperless office, but many people — IT pros included — still print out a lot of documents. Printers are far from becoming obsolete, so anything that makes networking and using them easier is welcomed. With the soon-to be-released Windows 7, Microsoft has improved the ease of finding a printer based on one’s location.

With the prevalence of laptops and users connecting from both the office, home, and everywhere from the office parking lot to the airport to the Starbucks on the corner, increased mobility has changed the way we do network computing. One of the challenges for mobile users is managing to connect to a printer at multiple sites. In response to this problem, Windows 7 introduces location-aware printing, which allows users to configure multiple default printers, based on their location. (Note: Location-aware printing works with Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions only.)

The operating system will select the default based on the network you are connected to. Setup is a cinch:

Open Printers and Faxes — I mean Devices and Printers –from the Start Menu.

Figure A

Open Windows 7’s Devices and Printers.

Now, select the printer you need under Printers and Faxes.

Select Manage Default Printers from the menu bar at the top of the window, as shown in Figure A.

Figure B

Manage default printers at the click of a toolbar button.

Select the Change My Default Printer When I Change Networks Option in the Manage Default Printers dialog box.

You will then specify the printer to use as the default for each network you connect to. This will allow Windows to change the printer when your connection changes.

In Figure B, you can see at the bottom of the dialog box the options to choose a network and a printer for that network. The network list should contain all the networks connected to a particular system unless you have turned off the functionality to store wireless networks.
Note: I do not use physical print devices very often, and in testing for this post, I found that virtual printers, like send to One Note, work just as well when configuring location-based printing.