Chapter 11. Printer Operation


11.1. Workflow of the Printing System
11.2. Methods and Protocols for Connecting Printers
11.3. Installing the Software
11.4. Configuring the Printer
11.5. Configuration for Applications
11.6. Special Features in SUSE Linux
11.7. Troubleshooting

CUPS is the standard print system in SUSE Linux. CUPS is highly user-oriented. In many cases, it is compatible with LPRng or can be adapted with relatively little effort. LPRng is included in SUSE Linux only for reasons of compatibility.

Printers can be distinguished by interface, such as USB or network, and printer language. When buying a printer, make sure that the printer has an interface that is supported by the hardware and a suitable printer language. Printers can be categorized on the basis of the following three classes of printer languages:

PostScript Printers

PostScript is the printer language in which most print jobs in Linux and Unix are generated and processed by the internal print system. This language is already quite old and very efficient. If PostScript documents can be processed directly by the printer and do not need to be converted in additional stages in the print system, the number of potential error sources is reduced. Because PostScript printers are subject to substantial license costs, these printers usually cost more than printers without a PostScript interpreter.

Standard Printer (languages like PCL and ESC/P)

Although these printer languages are quite old, they are still undergoing expansion to address new features in printers. In the case of known printer languages, the print system can convert PostScript jobs to the respective printer language with the help of Ghostscript. This processing stage is referred to as interpreting. The best-known languages are PCL, which is mostly used by HP printers and their clones, and ESC/P, which is used by Epson printers. These printer languages are usually supported by Linux and produce a decent print result. Linux may not be able to address some functions of extremely new and fancy printers, because the open source developers may still be working on these features. Except for the hpijs drivers developed by HP, there are currently no printer manufacturers who develop Linux drivers and make them available to Linux distributors under an open source license. Most of these printers are in the medium price range.

Proprietary Printers (usually GDI printers)

Usually only one or several Windows drivers are available for proprietary printers. These printers do not support any of the common printer languages and the printer languages they use are subject to change when a new edition of a model is released. See Section 11.7.1, “Printers without Standard Printer Language Support” for more information.

Before you buy a new printer, refer to the following sources to check how well the printer you intend to buy is supported:

The online databases always show the latest Linux support status. However, a Linux distribution can only integrate the drivers available at production time. Accordingly, a printer currently rated as “perfectly supported” may not have had this status when the latest SUSE Linux version was released. Thus, the databases may not necessarily indicate the correct status, but only provide an approximation.

11.1. Workflow of the Printing System

The user creates a print job. The print job consists of the data to print plus information for the spooler, such as the name of the printer or the name of the printer queue, and, optionally, the information for the filter, such as printer-specific options.

A dedicated printer queue exists for every printer. The spooler holds the print job in the queue until the desired printer is ready to receive data. When the printer is ready, the spooler sends the data through the filter and back-end to the printer.

The filter converts the data the user wants to print (ASCII, PostScript, PDF, JPEG, etc.) into printer-specific data (PostScript, PCL, ESC/P, etc.). The features of the printer are described in the PPD files. A PPD file contains printer-specific options with the parameters needed to enable them on the printer. The filter system makes sure that options selected by the user are enabled.

If you use a PostScript printer, the filter system converts the data into printer-specific PostScript. This does not require a printer driver. If you use a non-PostScript printer, the filter system converts the data into printer-specific data using Ghostscript. This requires a Ghostscript printer driver suitable for your printer. The back-end receives the printer-specific data from the filter passes it to the printer.