Microsoft is making printing less of a shambles in Windows 11

Microsoft has lifted the lid on a number of updates designed to improve the printing experience across Windows 11 and its office software applications.

As explained in a series of new entries to its product roadmap, Microsoft is taking steps to address various issues surrounding incompatibility, waste and security.

For example, employees running Windows 11 via virtual desktop will soon gain access to Universal Print, which should reduce complexity associated with sending jobs to office printers.

Separately, the company is working on a new system whereby printers will only release documents once a QR code has been scanned inside the Microsoft Office mobile app. Although this will involve a level of added friction, Microsoft says the approach will minimize waste and eliminate the opportunity for snooping on other people’s prints.

Anyone who has stepped foot near an office printer will know that the experience is far less straightforward than it should be; the interface is a mess, your documents are missing from the queue, the printer isn’t compatible with your hardware etc.

Sometimes, the same can be said of simple home printers too, which have been known to be equally capricious and uncooperative.

In recent history, print-related Windows updates have also caused all manner of unexpected issues. Most famously, an attempt to fix a critical vulnerability in the Windows Print Spooler rendered a wide selection of printers totally useless, until a separate patch was developed.

Although some of the blame for printing headaches has to be apportioned to the device manufacturers, there are clearly improvements Microsoft could make from the software side of the equation too.

With this objective in mind, the company has stepped up efforts to fine-tune its cloud-based print service, Universal Print, with features such as secure release and support for Azure Virtual Desktop.

“Secure release prevents waste from unnecessary printing and maintains user privacy by holding their jobs until they show up at the printer,” explained Microsoft.

“Users can retrieve their print jobs by scanning a QR code and using the Microsoft Office mobile app. QR code-based release will work with both Universal Print ready printers and printers using the Universal Print connector.”

The update for virtual desktop users, meanwhile, will supposedly allow for print jobs to be sent to any office printer without the need for print servers. Once a printer has been configured, these settings will persist from session to session.

However, users will have to wait some time for the new updates to take effect. Support for Azure Virtual Desktops will not enter general availability until September, while secure release isn’t due to go live until next summer.

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