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Using Alternate Printer Drivers with Linux

Started by Donald Darden, December 18, 2007, 05:01:24 AM

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Donald Darden

When you move to Linux, one of the first things you might need to resolve is how to get your printer to work in that environment.  Every printer requires a suitable device driver for whichever operating system you want to deal with.  As it happens, drivers have to be written for the specific operating systems that they are to be used with, and drivers for Windows will not work for Macs, drivers for Macs will not work with Linux, and so on,

The first place to check for drivers would obviously be the vender's web site.  But this does not always work, either because the drivers are not posted there, or because the vender has not made drivers for that OS.  To confirm whether there are any drivers, you may need to search forums or the internet looking for matches to phrases like +Linux +driver +[brand name] +[model number].  Often you will find where others are also looking for the same driver, so you may have to read posts and check out the answers, or just see what else you find.

Aside from trying to find the specific driver for a certain printer, you may either find generic drivers that work with that printer after a fashion, or attempt to use a different driver to see how well it works with that model.  In my case, I have a Canon Pixma IP6000D printer, for which there is no specific driver, but I was able to use a driver for a Pixma IP4000, which printed too small, and I got much better results with a driver for a Canon PJC7100.

Printers generally run in families, which may or may not mean that they require similar drivers.  However, it is also possible that printers from about the same era though different families may share similar technology, meaning they may need similar drivers.  However, it is pretty certain that each vender will require a proprietary set of drivers, so don't expect that HP drivers will work with Canon printers, or Apple drivers will work with Epson printers.

Generic drivers, or drivers for different printers that happen to work with the printer you are trying to support, may not give you access to a full set of features found in that printer.  For instance, if you have a smart card reader, it may be seen as a USB drive, but not recognized for what it is.

Drivers may come in packages, for which you can use a package manager to try and install.  If that fails, you may be able to use alien as your installer tool, or to convert the package from RPM to DEB or vice versa,

I've installed the PJC7100 driver under Knoppix and Ubuntu.  Funny thing, the results under Knoppix came out very light, and the colors under Ubuntu are saturated.  So even with the same printer driver, you can get various results with different distributions or print managers.

For those that cannot find a good solution, you can consider TurboPrint, which as a $35 program that recognizes many printers.  You can check it out and see if your printer is one of the supported one.

If you are using VM, technically you might be able to provide printer support under one OS, and make it possible to print to it from another OS.  I believe most people using VM are using windows as the host OS, but it is possible to use KVM or another VM product under Linux.