The dictionary defines collate as a verb meaning to arrange items in a predetermined sequence. In printing, collate refers to putting pages of a document or other information materials in their proper order. Collating can be done manually. However, copiers and printers often have collating functions so the entire process can be automated.
The Collating Process
When a document is printed and prepared for distribution, the pages are usually numbered in ascending order. Suppose you want 20 copies of a 30-page report or booklet. A printing press, computer printer or copier can produce 30 stacks of copies, one for each page. Then you take one sheet from each stack to make a complete set ready for binding or stapling. Alternatively, many printers and copiers can be programmed to print pages in sequential order until a complete set has been printed. Then the machine starts over with page 1 to print the second set and continues until the job is done.