In reference to books produced without a computer, pagination can mean the consecutive page numbering to indicate the proper order of the pages, which was rarely found in documents pre-dating 1500, and only became common practice c. 1550, when it replaced foliation, which numbered only the front sides of folios.
Word processing, desktop publishing, and digital typesetting are technologies built on the idea of print as the intended final output medium, although nowadays it is understood that plenty of the content produced through these pathways will be viewed onscreen as electronic pages by most users rather than being printed on paper.
All of these software tools are capable of flowing the content through algorithms to decide the pagination. For example, they all include automated word wrapping (to obviate hard-coded newline delimiters), machine-readable paragraphing (to make paragraph-ending decisions), and automated pagination (to make page-breaking decisions). All of those automated capabilities can be manually overridden by the human user, via soft hyphens (that is, inserting a hyphen which will only be used if the word is split over two lines, and thus not shown if not), manual line breaks (which force a new line within the same paragraph), hard returns (which force both a new line and a new paragraph), and manual page breaks.
Today printed pages are usually produced by outputting an electronic file to a printing device, such as a desktop printer or a modern printing press. These electronic files may for example be Microsoft Word, PDF or QXD files. They will usually already incorporate the instructions for pagination, among other formatting instructions. Pagination encompasses rules and algorithms for deciding where page breaks will fall, which depend partly on cultural considerations about which content belongs on the same page: for example one may try to avoid widows and orphans. Some systems are more sophisticated than others in this respect. Before the rise of information technology (IT), pagination was a manual process: all pagination was decided by a human. Today, most pagination is performed by machines, although humans often override particular decisions (e.g. by inserting a hard page break).
"Electronic page" is a term to encompass paginated content in presentations or documents that originate or remain as visual electronic documents. This is a software file and recording format term in contrast to electronic paper, a hardware display technology. Electronic pages may be a standard sized based on the document settings of a word processor file, desktop publishing application file, or presentation software file. Electronic pages may also be dynamic in size or content such as in the case of HTML pages. When end-user interactivity is part of the user experience design of an electronic page, it is better known as a graphical user interface (GUI). The number and size of electronic pages in a document are limited by the amount of computer data storage, not by the display devices or amount of paper.