As you explore your printing options in Microsoft Office, you might be wondering: what does collate mean?

The thing to consider when printing collated vs. uncollated, is how you want to distribute your document to people.

Do you want to distribute it as a series of sequential slides like for a packet of information, as pictured below (collated printing)?


Or do you want to distribute your document as individual slides or exhibits, in a non-sequential order (uncollated printing)?


Both options will print the entirety of your document; it’s just a matter of how the pages are stacked together.

That’s why it’s important to understand this BEFORE you print your document.

Below is an in depth explanation of both the collated and uncollated printing options. You’ll also see how to switch between these two printing options in Microsoft Office.

Note: A rookie printing mistake is to print your files collated, and then manually separate them into uncollated stacks.

This can be an extremely time-intensive task if you are printing a large document. Furthermore, it’s completely avoidable if you simple understand the difference between collated and uncollated printing.

Collated printing explained

Collated printing means that your documents print sequentially like a book or packet of information. 

For example, what happens if you print 3 collated copies of a 3-slide PowerPoint presentation? Your presentation will print 3 copies of slides 1 through 3, as pictured below. As a result, you’ll get the first stack with slides 1 through 3, the second stack with slides 1 through 3, and the third stack with slides 1 through 3. This assumes that you want to distribute your document with the slides in sequential order like in an info packet, rather than printing each slide multiple times in a row.

Collated printing is the default printing option for all of your Microsoft Office documents (Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc.). Therefore, it is the printing option you’ll probably use 99% of the time.

That means the only time you need to worry about it, is when you want to print your files uncollated.

To see how to print PowerPoint with notes like this, read our notes guide here.

Uncollated printing explained

Uncollated printing means that your document pints page-by-page, in a non-sequential order.

This printing option is best when you want to distribute the pages of your document as individual handouts. These could be exhibits, application forms, or any other file you want to distribute in a non back-to-back order.

For example, if you print 3 uncollated copies of a 3-slide presentation, you will get 3 copies of each page printed on its own as pictured below. As a result, in stack one you’ll get 3 copies of slide 1, in stack two you’ll get 3 copies of slide 2, and in stack three you’ll get 3 copies of slide 3. This allows you to quickly separate your files into stacks of pages to hand out individually. Perhaps one person only needs page 1, and someone else needs pages 2 and 3. Or perhaps you want to lay each stack out on a table and have people pick the pages they need or want.

This assumes that you want to distribute the sections of your document individually, not as a complete book or packet of information.

Uncollated printing is note the default printing option in Microsoft Office. Therefore, you will need to select this printing option in the Print dialog box as you print your document.

Printing riddle: What does collate printing mean?

Here’s a challenge to test your printing skills.

Printing riddle:

What’s the difference between printing one collated copy of your document and printing one uncollated copy of your document?



If you are printing just one copy of your file, there is no difference between the collated and uncollated printing options.

To see the uncollated copies of your document stack up (1,1,1, 2,2,2, 3,3,3,) you need to print more than once copy of your file.

Switching between collated and uncollated printing

Remember, the only time you need to switch this printing option in Microsoft Office, is when you need the uncollated printing option.

To print a Microsoft Office document using the Uncollated printing option, simply:

  1. Navigate to the File tab
  2. Select the Print dialog box
  3. Open the Collated printing drop down
  4. Select Uncollated
  5. Choose how many Copies you want
  6. Select Print
As a result, your document will print as individual pages, instead of in the standard sequential order.

Just make sure that you select more than one copy. Remember, printing one uncollated copy of your document is the same as printing one collated copy of your document.

You can also use the printing shortcut to fast track to the Print dialog box. To do that, simply hit Ctrl + P on a PC or Cmd + P on a Mac.

To learn 80 of our favorite PowerPoint shortcuts that will save you time, read our shortcut guide here.
Note: You can also use the Microsoft Print to PDF printer to save your files to your computer in the PDF file format. To do that, simply open up and select Microsoft Print to PDF in the Printer drop down. After clicking print, simply choose a place on your computer where you want to save your PDF. This allows you to distribute your files as PDFs before actually printing them. To see an example of this and to learn more about converting PowerPoint to PDF (and some of the issues you will face), read our article here.


So that’s what collate means when printing your Microsoft Office documents.

Just remember that the only time you need to worry about changing your printing options, is when you want to use the uncollated printing option. Collated printing is always the default printing option, even if you later use the uncollated option.

If you enjoyed this article, you can learn more about our PowerPoint training courses and other presentation resources by visiting us here

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