Why "to" instead of "with" or "in"?

I don’t bake a pizza “to the” oven. I don’t save money “to the bank”. So, why the “print to” and “save to” in computerspeak? Wouldn’t “print with” and “save in” work as well?

You’re sending a file from your screen to a printer or to a drive. It implies movement from one place to another.

However I also hear “save in” a certain directory or folder quite often when a location is specified.

People do say “Save it in this folder,” don’t they?

No, but you would call in an order “to” the pizza place for delivery or transfer funds “to” your bank account.

I say we get rid of all of those terms and replace them with “amongst.”

Folders and printers are designated places (e.g., a spot on a drive or place on a desk).

You can save an item to a folder (send it to that folder, or that place on a drive), but people do say, “Which folder is it in?”.

This issue isn’t exclusive to computer talk. I am always told to get on the plane, or say “I am on the plane”, but I don’t think I’ve ever been told to get in it.

Obligatory George Carlin reference.

This is what I would have said, except that the place where you’re sending the file from is the memory, not the screen. The screen/monitor isn’t where the file exists, it’s where the CPU displays the file.

Yep. Sending the file to a printer or drive sounds fine. It’s saving a file to a drive or folder or printing to a particular printer that just sounds strange.

What happens when you print a file? One way to think of it is that the computer sends the file to a printer, and then the printer prints it.

We do say that we move a file from one folder to another, or copy from one folder to another. To save to or print to may be analogous to that. (In the days of MS-DOS, IIRC, one of the ways to get a printout of a file was to COPY the file to the printer.)

Well, how has “to” been used in computer speak and programming language. “Go to”, “send to”, “jump to”… “save to”… etc? Makes more sense with that context.


I predict this thread will end with a preposition.

Anything can sound strange if you think about it hard enough. Idiomatic usages are, almost by definition, not necessarily going to make logical sense.

FWIW, you can easily replace to with other prepositions in those constructs: “Save that file to the ‘Team’ folder so everyone can see it” can easily become “Save that file in the ‘Team’ folder …” and “Gertie, please print that document to the printer in my office, since Della’s not here today” can be “Gertie, please print that document on the printer…”

Also, consider that a lot of early computer work was not done on PCs but on dumb terminals remotely attached to (oops) minicomputers and mainframes which may have been in another room, on another floor, or in another building. When the actual storage and/or printing device you’re using is far away from you, the use of “to” to suggest travel isn’t quite so strange.

I don’t think so, sir.
I hadn’t thought of all the programming tos. Sounds like an explanation to me.