Leopard Printer Driver Gripes


So printer support has been an annoyance to me recently. I upgraded my systems to Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. It seems that printer drivers are a problem for me. First, I have an old Lemark Optra S 1625 laser printer (bought used). The Tiger drivers worked fine, but in Leopard, almost all the drivers for the Lexmark Optra series no longer exist. Fortunately, the printer understands PostScript 2 and HPL-6 so there are generic drivers I can use. This was one of the reasons I paid extra to get a PostScript printer. 

Actually, I knew about the Lexmark missing drivers before Leopard shipped because I was in the Seed program. I filed a bug report with Apple (5441973) and their response was to contact Lexmark to tell them they need to write drivers. But here’s the catch. Under the NDA, I can’t talk about Leopard specifics, so I couldn’t legally contact Lexmark until after Leopard shipped. 

Since Leopard’s release, I have contacted Lexmark (Service Request: 1-673765441). Whether Lexmark will actually write the drivers remains to be seen. Although the generic drivers work, it fails to utilize the printer. The generic Postscript driver doesn’t offer control over printer features such as duplex mode, which DPI resolution to use, and how much available RAM there is in the printer.

In addition to the Lexmark, I also have to deal with an old HP Deskjet 895Cxi. This actually has a driver in Leopard. However, it seems to be busted. All I get is garbage when I print. (I just filed a bug report (5577274).) 

Reading through the forums at Apple, it appears a lot of other people are having driver problems too.

I suffered huge pains with printer drivers in my Windows days. I refused to run the 9x series and settled on NT. All too often I would encounter one of those crappy ‘Win Printers’ that only had drivers for Windows 95 and it was impossible to print on anything else, not even Windows NT or in really bad cases, 98. It was so bad, I had to setup a dual boot between 95 and NT (and buy a 95 license on top of that). I realized it would be worth sinking the money into a better printer in the future. 

Sadly, this Leopard problem reminds me of those days. It’s been over a decade  since Windows 95 was released. I guess one of my gripes is that printer support has not gotten any easier. I think my other gripe is that there still lacks a universal printer driver model that every printer follows. PostScript is kind of that, but printer manufactures don’t put PostScript support in all their printers because it costs too much, so it doesn’t really count. Some sort of basic/guest printer driver model would at least let you print without worrying if your printer will work or not. If vendors want to get fancy, they can extend/build-on-top of the basic printer driver. And maybe in OS X, we would no longer have to install over 1GB of printer drivers. And maybe in Windows, we might be able to ‘just print’ without going on a scavenger hunt through the web. And in the rest of the Unix world, we could stop shelling out so much money for PostScript printers.

Copyright © PlayControl Software, LLC / Eric Wing