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Printing documents with fully justified text to HP network printers results in random squished characters

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Last Modified: 2014-08-30
For months now, printing our Estate Planning Department documents to any network printer (all HP, all different models ranging from old HP 4050N to brand new HP M602) results in random single characters on the pages being "squished".  For example the "a" and the "n" in the word "and" might be printed closer together than the other characters on the page.  This happens multiple times throughout each document, and won't happen in the same places twice if you reprint (it'll be a random distribution every time).  

All of our departments print to the same selection of network printers, but only our EP documents have this issue.  These documents are formatted (Word 2010) as Times New Roman 11 point font and use full justification.  Since only this department uses that particular combination of font and justification, I believe it is a problem with the printer handling said font in combination with full justification.  

I was able to get a couple of non-network printers (directly connected via USB to secretaries desktop PCs) to print these documents without the character issues by going into the print drivers on those systems and choosing "Download as Soft Font" instead of "Substitute with Device Font" in the Advance Printer Properties.  The problem is, this does not seem to work for network printers.  Even when I change this setting on the print driver at the print server level it does not alleviate the problem on any of the network printers.

I am hoping someone else has seen this issue over the past few years and can point me towards a solution.  It is not feasible for me to go back to the department and ask them to change the font and justification on thousands of documents they use all the time, so I need to find a way to make these documents print correctly.
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hdhondt - I believe I'm setting the defaults correctly.  On the Windows 2008 R2 server with the printer services installed I open Print Management, then click under Print Servers, <ServerName>, Printers.  I right click the printer in question and choose "Set Printing Defaults".  This is the proper way to set printer driver defaults for network printers, correct?

DansDadUK - We are using the HP Universal PCL 5 Print Driver for all our network machines.   It appears I was wrong about the randomness of the issue however, as my test documents seem to be showing the same character glitches appearing in the same locations within an individual document. Different documents will then show character glitches in different locations.

The common denominator here seems to be the Times New Roman 11 point font mixed with full justification as handled by the HP Universal PCL 5 print driver.  When I print the same document to two completely different printer models (a 4050N and a M602, years apart in terms of technology), the glitches appear in the same spots.  That definitely points to the driver.  Another interesting tidbit is that when we ran Windows XP a couple of years ago and had specific drivers installed for each printer (i.e. an HP4050 driver direct from HP for the 4050N as opposed to the Universal driver) this was never an issue.  Only in the past couple of years as we first replaced local printer print drivers and then later on upgraded to Windows 7 64-bit desktops and replaced all our network print drivers have we seen this become an issue, and only on the documents with 11 point type fully justified.

I'd report the entire thing to HP if I knew how.  Their website stinks for linking you to anything like a communication link to support for something like this.  If the printer was broken I could call regular support, but they don't seem to have a way to handle issues like this outside of posting in their forums (which does not seem to illicit HP technician responses).
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Try setting the defaults from Printer Properties. Click the Advanced tab and then the Printing Defaults button.

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Follow-up to close this question:

I ended up posting this to HP's forums this week because they were having a "expert's take your questions" event where they had all their tech specialists pouring through the forums trying to answer questions from everyone.  

The answer I received on the HP Forums was basically to abandon the PCL 5 Universal Driver and move to the PCL 6 Universal Driver for my network managed printers.  I was told that the issue with the squished characters may likely be the result of not reconstructing the print queues when moving to new drivers.  The expert claimed that sometimes when you simply update the driver for a managed print queue, Windows Server can often bring old settings forward resulting in missing or incomplete entries in the registry for the queues.  This in turn can lead to output issues on the network printers.  

I was advised to download the PCL 6 version of the HP UPD, and use the AutoUpgradeUPD.exe utility which is part of the Print Administrator's Resource Kit (PARK), available from www.hp.com/go/upd , to delete and recreate the queues in Print Manager for the network printers.  Apparently this will create "clean" queues with the new drivers.  

Unfortunately I will not be able to do this for a while yet as I first want to test moving form the PCL 5 to the PCL 6 drivers as in the past we've had issues with PCL 6 messing up the margins and other formatting in many of our documents.  So it looks like there will be significant testing and vetting to be done before I can move forward with a possible solution to this question.  In the meantime, I am going to assign points to everyone who assisted with suggestions and close the question so as not to be pestered by Experts Exchange about an open and idle question.

Thank you to all who offered advice and suggestions.  Your assistance was much appreciated.  I will try to come back to this topic and update if possible after we've tested the PCL 6 UPD with new network print queues and let you know if the problem was resolved in case anyone in the future should run into this issue.
>> ... I will try to come back to this topic and update if possible after we've tested the PCL 6 UPD with new network print queues and let you know if the problem was resolved ...

Please do.
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