Why "Save Document" Pops Up While Trying to Print
By Aaron Parson
Updated August 24, 2017
Three features in Windows can cause a save dialog box to appear when you try to print a document: the "Print to file" setting, the "Print to PDF" setting and the Microsoft XPS Document Writer. Each feature exists to help users send files to other computers prior to printing. If you just want to print normally, make sure both of these options are turned off.
Print to File
Printing to a file makes your computer store the data for your print job in a file instead of sending that data to your printer. Enabled by checking "Print to file" on the Print window, this feature creates a document that other users can open to print a document, even if they don't have the software necessary to load the document itself. As a leftover feature from older operating systems, however, "Print to file" does not work well with USB printers and requires other users to have the same printer drivers in order to use the file.
Print to PDF
Windows 10 offers a print to PDF option. It's enabled by selecting "Print to Microsoft PDF" on the Print window. It creates a PDF document, which can be opened and viewed in Adobe Reader and in many programs for Windows, Macintosh, iPhone, Android and other operating systems. It will enable you to pick a filename and save the file you're working with as a PDF. You can print to a PDF even without a printer installed.
Printing to the XPS Writer
The Microsoft XPS Document Writer automatically appears in the list of installed printers. The XPS writer acts as a virtual printer, storing your print job as an XPS file. Unlike "Print to file," any Windows computer can read XPS documents without special drivers. The feature does not rely on your actual printer at all -- you can even create XPS files without a printer attached.
Using XPS Files
Unlike "Print to file" files, which require use of the command prompt to print, you can double-click an XPS file to open it in the XPS Viewer. In the Viewer, you can print the document on a real printer or add a digital signature to certify its authenticity when sending it to another user. XPS files work similarly to Adobe's PDF files, transmitting the exact contents and visual layout of a document without allowing for alteration. If you want to automatically view XPS files after creation, click "Properties" on the Print window and check the "Automatically open" option on the XPS Documents tab.
Disabling Printing to a File
Accidentally activating either file printing feature can cause the save window to appear unexpectedly. In the Print window, make sure "Print to file" is not checked. If "Microsoft XPS Document Printer" or "Print to Microsoft PDF" appears as the selected printer, switch the setting to your actual printer. Your computer will automatically switch to the XPS or PDF printer if your regular printer drivers stop working or you uninstall them. If you can't find your normal printer on the list, reinstall its drivers and try again.
Information in this article applies to Windows 7, 8 and 10. It may vary slightly or significantly in other versions.
Aaron Parson has been writing about electronics, software and games since 2006, contributing to several technology websites and working with NewsHour Productions. Parson holds a Bachelor of Arts from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash.