Speed up printing with Windows Printing System

by Alan Zisman (c) 1993. First published in Our Computer Player, November 19, 1993

Just as Microsoft Windows seems to have pretty much taken over the
world of DOS computers (sorry, OS/2 fans... just stating a fact of
life), so Hewlett Packard Laserjets dominate the laser printer
market. It was probably inevitable that something would come along
to optimize the connections between the world of Windows and the
world of the Laserjet II or III.

That something is the Microsoft Windows Printing System, one of the
giant software firm's rare hardware products.

WPS consists of an HP-compatible cartridge, just like the font
cartridges that were more common in the days before scalable fonts
like TrueType. Installation is simple-- plug it into the cartridge slot, start up your
printer (whether it's a local or network printer), and run the accomapying
software's setup program. Answer a few questions, print a test
sheet or two, and suddenly, your printer gets a whole new

For starters, it will print faster... with both text and graphics.
As well, you may never have to squint at your printer's tiny LCD
panel again... suddenly, your printer will tell you its status,
right on your computer.

And I mean 'tell'... you can choose to have sounds enabled, and in
that case, a smooth-sounding voice will let you know that you are
low on toner, or out of paper. (Of course, you need a Windows-
compatible sound card for this). Whether you want your computer
telling you its troubles out loud or not, you also get a graphic
display-- a picture of your printer, clearly showing its status.

Even your minimized icons reflect a new awareness of your
printer-- you'll have a different icon depending which Laserjet
model is installed. Choose a bargain-level IIP and your icon will
look like that model; if you have an expensive IIID, one glance at
your printer icon will tell it to the world.

You also gain new printing capabilities... you can set up for
manual duplex printing, for those times you'd like to print on
both sides of page, for example. And you can even set your print
job differently if you're going to bind your output on the side or
on the top.

You can set half-toning, including diffuse patterns, something
that couldn't be done before, using these Laserjet models. And you
get a new and fancier Print Manager, complete with toolbar.

Finally, you get the option of installing your choice of up to 79
TrueType fonts. These include the same fonts previously released
as Microsoft's first TrueType set, along with TrueType versions of
the fonts included with the Laserjet III and 4... fonts like Univers, CG
Times, Albertus, and Antique Olive. This allows you to print these
fonts, even on older Laserjets, and to display the same fonts on

What's the catch? Well, this hardware cartridge is optimized to
work with Hewlett Packard's hardware. If you have another brand
laser printer, you're probably out of luck, even if it claims to
be HP compatible. It may use HP's PCL laser control language, and
even have HP-compatible cartridge slots, but you're likely to find
that the Windows Printing System doesn't work for you. When I
tried it in my new NEC 97, I got a single page printing with an
error message, than about a dozen pages with a line or two of
garbage on each.

As well, it's called the WINDOWS Printing System, right? So it has
no effect on your DOS applications. If you run them from DOS, it's
like it wasn't there, and if you print from a DOS application from
within Windows, the WPS is smart enough to get out of the way, and
let your old HP driver do its stuff.

Still, if you have any real HP Laserjet II or III model, and if
you spend a significant amount of time working with Windows
applications, the Windows Printing System can make your printing
jobs faster and easier. And you may even grow to like having your
printer talk back to you!

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan