An introduction to printing

My CUPS Runneth Over

Article from Issue 148/2013

Using the Common Unix Printing System, you can configure and manage your printer from the command line.

Printing in Linux has changed out of all recognition from the early days. Today, you no longer need a PostScript printer or to set the options for print laboriously by hand. Thanks to OpenPrinting’s database, you can immediately find whether a given printer will work on Linux, and, thanks to CUPS (originally, the Common Unix Printing System), you can easily configure a printer with a GUI. As with most of the inner workings of a Linux system, however, working at the command line remains the easiest way to see what is actually going on when you print. 

Before you dive into the subject of printing, a very brief reminder of the basics might be useful. Today, all major distributions install CUPS as a matter of course, as well as a number of printer drivers in the form of PostScript Printer Descriptions (PPDs), which are generally stored in /usr/share/ppd and consist of a series of formatting and operational options. Should you need more PPDs, look in your distribution’s repositories for the HPLIP, Gutenprint, and Foomatic Database drivers, the basic sources for printer support.

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