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TurboPrint for Linux Saves the Day-- Again

Printing in Linux. Sigh.

  • December 16, 2009
  • By Carla Schroder
Printing in Linux, even in this glorious year 2009--almost 2010--of the new millennium, the 21st century, is still fraught with vexations. I have always liked CUPS, the Common Unix Printing System. Once you figure out your way around it, it is powerful and network-friendly, even to allowing remote printing over the Internet. Which I think is better than faxing, at least when you're dealing with trusted senders and recipients. Linux PCs will find networked CUPS printers automatically, and now CUPS support automatic driver downloads for Windows clients. Though networking CUPS printers with Windows still requires a bit of fiddling, thanks to Windows' inability to handle ordinary simple networking sanely.

The CUPS Web interface, which you can find by going to localhost:631 in a Web browser, is still my preferred printing manager. I wish more distributions did what openSUSE does, which is provide a link to this in the system administration menu. It shouldn't be a big secret, and the attempts of Gnome and KDE to reinvent this particular wheel do not improve on it.

Interface issues aside, the other chronic issue with printing in Linux is printer drivers. This is something that has improved considerably, though Linux users still have to shop carefully to make sure they get well-supported printers. The Gutenprint project does a nice job of supporting color and monochrome printers, the HPLIP project is pretty good for HP printers, Foomatic and OpenPrinting support a lot of printers, and they're all kind of blending together anyway, so managing all of these disparate driver projects is getting easier for users.

But there are still some gaps, especially in color printers and multi-function printers that scan, fax, copy, and print. This is where doing your homework before purchase will save big headaches, and the Linux Foundation's OpenPrinting site is the place to start.

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