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Plotters are devices, similar to printers, that are often used to display maps, schematics and blueprints. Plotters work differently from printers in that they use pens to mechanically draw images. The have the advantage of producing clear lines and working with larger sheets of paper; however, they are expensive and slow. These days, most plotters have been replaced with high-quality ink-jet printers.


Using A Plotter. If you have a plotter, you can use it to plot cave surveys. Before you can use a plotter, you must install a Windows device driver specifically designed for the particular brand of plotter you are using. If you have an HP plotter, the driver comes with Windows. If you have another type of plotter, you must get a driver from the manufacturer. Device drivers are installed using the "Printers" option in the Windows Control Panel.


Windows has less support for plotters than for printers. For this reason, the general operation of a plotter in Windows is different from a printer in Windows. Here is a list of things you need to be aware of:


1. Fonts. When you print a cave survey on a plotter, you must use the correct font. Plotters require Vector Fonts. Windows normally has three vector fonts: "Modern," "Roman," and "Script." If you select a font that is not a vector font, the program will try to use the fonts that are built into the plotter. This may or may not work depending on the plotter and plotter driver software.


2. Settings. Most printer drivers for dot matrix, laser and ink jet printers allow you to set the paper size, color and portrait/landscape mode right from your program. Plotter drivers often force you to go to Printer section in the Control Panel to set these parameters. If you can't seem to find the plotter settings you want in the Viewer, go to the Control Panel’s Printer section.


3. Paper Loading. When the Viewer plots a cave to a plotter, it sends the image to Windows Print Manager. After the Viewer has transmitted all the information, Print Manager is supposed to take over, and begin the printing process. Sometimes, Print Manager won't begin plotting until you tell it that you have inserted a new piece of paper in the plotter. Unfortunately, it won't prompt you to put the paper in until you click-on Print Manager. If you notice that the Viewer has finished plotting, but nothing is happening, go to Print Manager and click-on its icon.


4. Speed. Plotters are much slower than printers are when it comes to making certain kinds of images. For example, if you use the Solid Modeling features of the Viewer, the plots can take hours. This is especially true for the "Shaded Cylinder" mode.