Chapter 12. Printer Operation

Table of Contents

12.1. Preparation and Other Considerations
12.2. Workflow of the Printing System
12.3. Methods and Protocols for Connecting Printers
12.4. Installing the Software
12.5. Configuring the Printer
12.6. Configuration for Applications
12.7. Special Features in SUSE LINUX
12.8. Troubleshooting


This chapter provides general information about operating printers and helps find suitable solutions for operating printers in networks. Special emphasis is placed on CUPS operation. A detailed troubleshooting section outlines the most common pitfalls in printer operation and describes ways to avoid them.

12.1. Preparation and Other Considerations

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 12.8.1, “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.

SUSE LINUX Administration Guide 9.3