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Suppose I author a book as a PDF with half-letter pages. I want to print 4 of these page on each letter sheet (2 tiled on the front, 2 on the back), stack them on top of each other, and bind through the middle.

It seems to me that for instance if my book had 16 pages, sheet 1 would have to contain pages 1 and 16 on the front side, page 2 behind 1 and 15 behind 16. Then sheet 2 would need to be printed with pages 3 and 14 on one side, 4 behind 3 and 13 behind 14. Yet it seems that most printers and PDF converters produce output so that sheet 1 will contain pages 1 and 2, with 3 and 4 behind them, then sheet 2 will contain pages 5, 6 on one side and 7, 8 on the other.

What is the style of printing that I want called? Is it common for consumer printers to support it? How do book printers deal with this problem? Do they just generate a PDF that already has the pages laid out in the right order (tiled and arranged on full-size paper), and then simply print that? How?

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The print mode you're referring to is called Booklet. You do not need any commercial software in order to do this; you can use Adobe Acrobat Reader to do it for free, granted your document is already a PDF.

Here are the steps to print in booklet mode:

  1. Open the document in Adobe Reader and then click on the Print file icon (or press CTRL+P).
  2. Select the printer you would like to print the document with.
  3. Select the pages you would like to print.
  4. Click on the Booklet button under the Page Sizing & Handling group.
  5. Choose Both sides under the Booklet subset combo box.
  6. Select the side the booklet will be bound (or stapled) from the Binding combo box.
  7. Select your preferred orientation option.
  8. Print the document.

Screenshot:
Screenshot of Booklet Print

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When I was a Windows user, I used a commercial product called Clickbook (about $50 with a free trial). It handles not only the page sequencing, but page orientation, page size and margins, etc., for an endless collection of formats. Unfortunately, they don't have a Linux version.

You output the file normally to Clickbook (you select it like a printer). Then it opens a UI where you select (and modify, if desired, or create), the output format you want. It works with virtually any printer.

BTW, Clickbook doesn't require creating the pages in half-letter size (although you can). You can start with letter sized pages and output a wallet-sized booklet if you want. It will shrink the pages as needed to fit the format (and the output is very high quality).

  • Did you try it under Wine? – MariusMatutiae Dec 1 '15 at 8:41
  • @MariusMatutiae: That's been on my list of things to do. Haven't tried it yet because I haven't recently had a need. – fixer1234 Dec 1 '15 at 8:45
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    If you do, let me know, I am curious. – MariusMatutiae Dec 1 '15 at 8:47
  • @MariusMatutiae: Finally had occasion to use Clickbook again. Couldn't get it to work in Wine (probably because it acts like a driver). – fixer1234 Mar 24 '16 at 1:02
  • Too bad.. it sounded like a reasonable solution. – MariusMatutiae Mar 24 '16 at 9:05
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No need to pay for anything! I have Brother printer and this is what I just did to print my 16-page book.

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  1. Select the amount of pages you need if not all
  2. Click Preferences

enter image description here

  1. Choose paper size and Portrait
  2. Choose multiple page, page order and booklet
  3. Click Duplex Settings

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  1. Set settings like mine

OK, OK, print.

Done!

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    Is this a feature of your printer driver (specific to Brother), or your application software? – fixer1234 Dec 1 '15 at 9:33
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    Don't think it's Brother's feature, I just clicked Ctrl+Shift+P and these settings appeared. I think same settings I had before though using another brand printer. – Liam Moore Dec 1 '15 at 9:37
  • Does this come up with a specific application or any application? The "Brother Solutions Center" seems to indicate that this is an enhanced driver. If you had the feature with another brand printer, that could also have been an enhanced driver. It's a great feature that I haven't seen in CUPS (the Linux printer driver system), for any of my printers. Sometimes the Windows version is more full-featured, but this wasn't available on any of mine when I used Windows. It would be really useful if you are able to nail down what other users would need to duplicate your solution. – fixer1234 Dec 1 '15 at 10:08
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And for Linux (and MacOS X), this has been around since old Unix days wth the command psbook (for PostScript files), now in PDF version as pdfbook with the excellent package pdfjam.

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