Using a Shared Windows
Printer from Your Mac with OS X 10.4
Zisman (c) 2006 First
published in Low
February 1 2006, Mac2Windows column
version of OS X has done a better job than its predecessors of
"playing nice" with Windows networks. OS X 10.0 didn't have
Windows networking at all; as with the classic Mac OS, 10.0 users
needed a third-party program like Thursby's Dave to connect to
shared Windows folders.
Mac OS X 10.1 added support for the open source SMB
Samba) clone of Windows' network client, but users had to enter
connection information manually in the Finder's Go to Server
Starting with OS X 10.2, Apple started to make it
attempting to recognize nearby Windows networks.
Today, with OS X 10.4, it's generally reasonably easy
with home and small business networks: Windows network shares
(usually) show up in the Finder, and can be accessed without
needing to be able to enter something like:
Shared Printer Shortcomings
Making use of a shared printer connected to a Windows
is still not as straightforward a process, however.
Some of the reasons go way back to the Mac Dark Ages.
back to the early 1990s, when up-to-date Mac users might be running
something like System 7.1. At that time, some printers had printer
drivers that allowed them to be shared between Macs on an AppleTalk
network. The LaserWriter 8 driver allowed many Postscript printers
to be shared easily, for instance.
But most other printer drivers couldn't be used to
printers. Apple even distributed replacement sharable printer
drivers for some of their models.
On the other side - starting with Windows for
and continuing through Windows 95 and later versions - Microsoft
made printer sharing an operating system feature, not a printer
driver feature. In those network-enabled versions of Windows, any
printer could be shared. (In fact, if a printer is shared, in many
cases, the sharing computer can distribute drivers to other
connected Windows computers as needed. A very slick feature - when
Even when OS X provided an opportunity for Apple to
Mac operating system from the ground up, the ability to access a
printer across a network remained, at least in part, a function
that might or might not be included in each individual printer
Take my HP PSC950 all-in-one. Apple includes printer
it in recent versions of OS X, and HP has drivers online. This
printer works fine with either driver when connected directly to my
Mac's USB port. And it works fine when it's connected to a Windows
PC on my home network.
But neither Apple's not HP's driver let me print to
from my Mac when it's shared from my PC, even though other Windows
systems (and even Linux systems) print to it across the network
Shared Printer Solution
The solution comes from the open source community; in
from an open source project that was originally known as
Gimp-Print, and is now known as Gutenprint. Gutenprint
offers a set of open source networkable printer drivers that
directly support a wide range of printers and can be used with an
even wider range of printers. (See the
list of officially and unofficially supported models.)
Their HP DeskJet series 900 driver lets me print to my
Apple, in fact, started to include the Gimp-Print
part of the base installations with OS X 10.3 and included
updated versions with OS X 10.4. It works, but it's not
perfect. In my case, text and simple graphics print fine, but
photos seem to be dithered. If there's a way to get the driver set
for better photo quality, I'd be happy to hear about it.
With OS X 10.4, Apple has done a better job of
connected to Windows networks. With earlier versions of OS X,
you had to know what the printer's "share name" was on the Windows
network and the connected computer's network name, and then you had
to enter that information manually in a dialogue box. Then (without
knowing whether you'd gotten those names right or not), you had to
manually pick the correct driver from a long list.
Now Apple eliminates some
(though not all) of the guesswork. To set my Mac to print to my
shared printer, here's what I have to do:
1. Open the Printer Setup Utility (in the
folder). Click the Add button.
2. Click the More Printers button. In the resulting
Browser window, make sure that the top option is set to Windows
Printing and the second option is set to Network Neighborhood. You
should the name of your Windows workgroup. Double-click it to get a
list nearby computers in your Windows workgroup, then double-click
the computer that has the printer attached. (You may be asked for
the name and password of a valid user for that computer; you can
add these to your keychain to avoid future log-ins). At that point,
you should see the shared printer.
3. At that point, you may be tempted to click the Add
button . . . but don't. Look at the bottom of the
dialogue box - while it's got the printer's shared name (and, in my
case, a comment that identifies the printer model), as far as your
Mac is concerned, it's a "Generic Printer". Unless you're only
planning to print plain text, that won't do. Trust me.
Instead, you need to take a look at the dropdown list
Models. If you see your printer listed, you're in luck. In my case,
though, there's no PSC950 listed among the HP models, since the
driver for that doesn't work across Windows networks. Instead, I
pick the HP DeskJet 900 series Gimp-Print driver, and (finally)
The new printer shows up in my printer list, and works
(as long as I don't expect photo-quality graphics).
Compared to the fully manual
process needed in OS X 10.2 and 10.3, 10.4 is semiautomatic.
"Tiger" finds the shared Windows printer for you, but you still
have to know which driver to use with it.
It's easier than it used to be, but for too many
still not automatic enough or intuitive enough, so the Gimp-Print
list of supported printers remains a vital resource.
The Gimp-Print project lists a couple of dozen developers,
document writers, and others who have helped with this open source
project, along with project manager Robert Krawitz. They all get my