Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

DesktopBSD day 26 – Printing

The advent of computer technology was once accompanied by the vision of the paperless office. When everything would be available digitally, there wouldn’t be any need for paper. ICT boomed, but so did paper consumption. Instead of producing less paper, it became easier to make extra copies or make highly insignificant semantic adjustments in documents “because another printout” wasn’t a problem. Hence the need for any open source desktop to be able to connect to printers, both locally and in networks.

In all honesty, I haven’t had a printer connected to my box for almost two years now. On average I have to print something once a month at home. The rest is taken care of in digital form. At work it is a completely different matter, but I don’t have an open source desktop there. I write this to explain that I didn’t test printing under DesktopBSD, just checked how it was organized.


You can access the print management tool -KDEPrint- via Settings (II) -> Peripherals -> Printers. The new window shows you which printers are already installed.


As you can see a couple of pseudoprinters are already installed like the ability to print a document to a PDF-file, send it as a fax or as a PDF attachment to an e-mail. “Add” gives access to the wizard to add a new printer (guess you didn’t see that coming 😉 ). It’s one of the first functions a new user might want to use.


The list of connection types is impressive, a bit overwhelming even. Apart from your local printer (connected via parallel, serial or USB connections) there are various options for networked printers.


The KDEPrint manual is a good document to understand more about printing using open source tools, an important one being CUPS.


I remember playing with CUPS when I had a ClarkConnect box in my network and a USB-connected Apollo 2100 printer. I had to alter the CUPS settings via a webbased interface. KDEPrint makes it somewhat easier. You access the CUPS settings via Print Server -> Configure Server.


Once you are here it requires quite some background knowledge to do anything useful with it. Maybe it’s best for novice users to leave it as it is.

Will my printer work?

From experience (though a few years ago) I can tell that you can come a long way, but there are still printers out there that simply aren’t supported yet. One good starting point is the OpenPrinting database (which tells me that my wife’s Lexmark X7170 is a paperweight). Chapter 9 of the FreeBSD Handbook should also be compulsory reading as it explains the FreeBSD print spooler. If anything, it prevents any complaints like “*BSD s***s because it doesn’t support my printer”.

Once you migrate to an open source desktop (in this case DesktopBSD) and decide to stick with it, it is a sane practice to first check hardware compatibility lists before buying new hardware. Or make the final step and stop printing altogether.


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