Change Default Paper Size from Letter Small to Letter

Article contributed by Beth Rosengard (with special thanks to Rob Daly)


What you see in Word's Print dialog is an adaptation of the Mac operating system's print dialog.  All of the main printing controls, such as "copies," "from, "to," etc., use the generic print API (Application Programming Interface) of the operating system; the preview thumbnail is Word-generated.  All of the other panes in the dialog are provided either by the OS or by the active print driver, except for the Microsoft Word pane which is provided by Word.  

Paper size options are found by clicking on Page Setup in the print dialog (or by going to File> Page Setup) where it is not uncommon to find the paper size default set to Letter Small.  This default can occasionally be changed by opening the Normal template (or the desired Custom Template)*, changing the Page Setup to Letter, saving, and closing the template.  From that point on, all newly created documents will default to Letter (or Letter US); previously created documents will have to be changed manually.  So if you're trying to change the paper size default, first try making the change in your Normal template.

However ... chances are this won't work and more "drastic" measures will be necessary.  The reason is that Word is programmed to use the Letter designation that is listed last in the printer driver as its default.  So if the printer driver lists Letter Small after Letter, Word will default to Letter Small.  The only way to change this is to hack (edit) the printer driver!

*For more on where to find these templates, see here.

The Workaround

Hacking the printer driver requires five stages: 

The procedure also involves using Terminal and that means following the directions exactly.  Incorrect commands in Terminal can create havoc so be very careful as you proceed:  Reproduce every character (including spaces or lack thereof) just as you see them below. 


Locate the printer driver file –

  1. Go to /Library/Printers/PPDs/Contents/Resources/en.lproj (for English; otherwise look for the .lproj folder for your language).
  2. Find the printer driver you want to hack.
  3. Make a duplicate of the file for backup purposes, just in case.

"Unzip" (decompress) the file –

  1. Launch Terminal (Applications/Utilities/Terminal).  If you were me, you would see something like the following text, already entered in the Terminal window:

    Last login: Mon Jan 24 16:31:54 on console

    Welcome to Darwin!

    Beth-Rosengards-Computer:~ bethrosengard$

    [Note:  All the text colors in this article are for clarity and readability only.]

  2. Type the following in Terminal (without first entering any additional spaces):



    Hit the space bar once.

  3. Drag your printer's PPD file from the en.lproj folder into the Terminal window and you will see its path appear directly after the "gunzip" you typed in step two.
  4. Hit Enter (or Return).  When you click back into the Finder window where the printer PPDs are displayed, you will see that the printer driver file has now been decompressed and its icon has become a blank document icon.

Hack the Printer Driver –

  1. Open the printer driver file in Text Edit.  You will now see all the definitions/specifications of the driver.
  2. Find the section that is (usually) called Paper Sizes – in some drivers it is called Media Selection or Paper Handling, but it will look something like this:


    *% ===================================

    *%           Paper Sizes

    *% ===================================

    *OpenUI *PageSize: PickOne

    *OrderDependency: 30 AnySetup *PageSize

    *DefaultPageSize: Letter

    *PageSize Letter/Letter: "

        <</PageSize [612 792] /ImagingBBox null>> setpagedevice"


    *PageSize LetterSmall/Letter (Small): "

          <</PageSize [612 792] /ImagingBBox null>> setpagedevice"


    *PageSize Executive/Executive: "

        <</PageSize [522 756] /ImagingBBox null>> setpagedevice"


    *PageSize Legal/Legal: "

        <</PageSize [612 1008] /ImagingBBox null>> setpagedevice"

    *End [Etc., etc.]

  3. Select the section of text that begins with *PageSize Letter/Letter and ends with the first *End.  Cut the text and paste it in just below the *End that concludes the section of text that defines *PageSize LetterSmall/Letter (Small).  Note that if you have left a blank line either where you cut or pasted, it doesn't matter; but you can delete it, if you wish, to maintain the formatting of the text.
  4. Save your changes and close the file.  You have now hacked the printer driver so that the order of the definitions for Letter and Letter Small have been reversed.

"Rezip" the Printer Drive file –

  1. Go back to Terminal and type the following:



    Hit the spacebar once.

  2. Drag the file you have just edited into the Terminal window and you will see its path appear directly after "gzip."
  3. Hit Enter.  When you click back into the Finder window where the printer PPDs are displayed, you will see that the printer driver file has been rezipped.

Delete and Re-add your printer –

  1. Open Print Center and delete the printer (or the printer in question, if you have more than one in the queue).
  2. Restart your computer.  OR ...

    If you have become comfortable in Terminal and don't want to bother with the restart, type the following in the Terminal window:

    sudo killall cupsd

    Hit Enter.

    When prompted, type in your administrative password.  (Note that you won't see anything as you type, so type carefully.  If you think you've made an error, just close the Terminal window to abort the operation.  Then reopen Terminal and start this procedure again.)

    Hit Enter again and then type

    sudo cupsd

    Hit Enter and you're done.

  3. Re-add the printer in Print Center.  Your default page size will now be Letter rather than Letter Small.

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