Gimp-Print to the Rescue
Letting Macs with Jaguar Print on Windows Networks
by Alan Zisman
(c) 2003 First
published in LowEnd Mac
, January 15, 2003 Mac2Windows column
Whether at work or at home, a lot of people use Macs
alongside Windows PCs. Up until recently, however, while it was easy to
network Macs to share files and printers, and it was relatively easy to
network Windows PCs, neither breed of computer did a very good job of
talking to the other.
Sure, if you were in a large workplace with a Novell
Windows NT or 2000 server, maybe your network administrator enabled Mac
services, letting your Mac interact (though as a bit of a second-class
citizen) on the corporate network. But rest of us had to install
relatively expensive third-party software like Thursby's Dave on
Macs or Miramar System's PC
MacLAN on the PCs to let the two systems communicate in a more
or less natural way.
Apple realized that it's a Windows world out there and
the longtime Mac ability to read PC files and disks wasn't enough. As a
result, Mac OS X 10.1 added support for SMB, an open-source
implementation of Windows-style networking. Jaguar (OS X 10.2) took it
couple of steps further, letting users browse Windows networks the same
way they could browse Macintosh networks. As well, Jaguar lets users
to turn on Windows File Sharing, using the Sharing system preference so
that their Mac appears in the Windows Network Neighborhood.
Printing on a Windows Network
With Jaguar, Macs do a pretty good job of sharing
Windows networks without needing additional software. But even with
Jaguar, sharing Windows printers remains a challenge.
Jaguar promises support for CUPS (Common Unix Printing
System) for printing on Windows networks, but it's not as easy to
this as OS 10.2's Windows file sharing support.
In the first place, the option is hidden. Open Print
and click on the Add icon -- and you won't see Windows printing as an
option. You have to hold down the Option key, click Add, then select
Advanced. Finally, you get the option to print to a Windows Printer via
While Windows lets you browse for a networked printer,
you find this option in Print Center, you have to know some geeky
As with SAMBA file-sharing in OS X 10.1, you need to know the
network name of the computer you're connecting to and the printer's
share name. (You can find these out by checking the properties of a
networked printer on a Windows computer).
To access the HP PSC950 connected to my Pentium 4, I
need to enter smb://P4-19/HPPSC950. If it's connected to a Windows NT,
2000, or XP system, you'll also need to add in a valid username and
possibly a password, making the whole less-than-intuitive thing
something like smb://alan:mypassword@P4-19/HPPSC950.
We're still not out of the woods, however. Besides
to enter a valid device address, you need to select a printer driver.
But when you look at the list of supported printers, it's pretty slim.
If you were using a Windows computer to connect to a
networked printer, the other computer would (most times) happily supply
any driver needed. But it's not about to supply a driver to a Mac. And
the Mac has a shortage of drivers for networking printers -- whether
attached to Windows systems or even to other Macs.
Some of that's historic. In Windows, networking a
has been an operating system function; if a computer has printer
turned on, any attached printer can be shared. On the other hand,
Windows makes working with printers connected directly to an ethernet
cable or even connected by USB a bit of a challenge.
For years and years, the Mac has made it easy to use
printers connected directly to the network, or to share printers
connected to a networked computer -- but only for selected printer
models. Unlike Windows, printer sharing has been a function of
individual network drivers. Some drivers, like the widely used
LaserWriter 8 driver, were easy to network. Other drivers, however,
simply didn't offer network support for their printers.
OS X offered a chance to change that, but (at least so
that hasn't been something that Apple has been interested in. So even
with new, native OS X printer drivers, some printers can work
across a network and others can't.
For example, I have a home network with a mix of Macs
Windows systems. My main printer is an HP PSC 950 all-in-one. HP has
produced a native OS X driver, and it works fine when plugged into
a Mac. Plugged into a Windows PC, however, the driver that's installed
on my Mac isn't available as an option. HP says that it didn't design
that model for network printing (even though it prints just fine to my
networked Windows computers).
Despite the name, this open source project isn't just for the Gimp
graphics program popular with Linux users. Instead, it's a set of
drivers for a large number of Epson, Canon, Lexmark, HP, and
miscellaneous PCL-printer language printers, with support for OS X
It's a 5 MB download (plus a required second 5 MB
of Ghostscript, which, along with Postscript emulation, provides needed
support for printing from Carbon applications). After installing and
restarting, the number of printer drivers listed by Print Center
increases dramatically -- as if by magic -- with the new models
identifiable by the "CUPS+GIMP-print" after the printer name.
I wasn't quite out of the woods yet. My HP PSC950
wasn't listed. Checking the list of supported printer's at Gimp-Print's
website, I noticed that my model was listed as one of many models "not
officially supported but reported to work with the listed driver."
Next to my printer's name was the model to pick to
Success. My Macs could now print from the printer connected to the
Windows XP box. Quickly, too.
Just one more hurdle. Initially, graphics
pitiful -- photos were printing with poorly dithered colours. It turns
out that the print settings (controlled in the Print dialogue box) were
set low by default: 150 dpi, and print graphics as line-art. A few
changes dramatically improved output.
Thanks to Gimp-Print, my Macs now print like
my Windows network.
In addition to improving printing to Windows networks, installation of
Gimp-Print also adds to the number of printer models that are usable
when connected via USB or via IP printing.