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5. Supported Printers

The Linux kernel will let you speak with any printer that you can plug into a serial, parallel, or usb port, plus any printer on the network, but this alone is insufficient; you must also be able to generate data that the printer will understand. Primary among the incompatible printers are those referred to as "Windows" or "GDI" printers. They are called this because all or part of the printer control language and the design details of the printing mechanism are not documented. Typically the vendor will provide a Windows driver and happily sell only to Windows users; this is why they are called Winprinters. In some cases the vendor also provides drivers for NT, OS/2, or other operating systems.

Many of these printers do not work with Linux. A few of them do, and some of them only work a little bit (usually because someone has reverse engineered the details needed to write a driver). See the printer support list below for details on specific printers.

A few printers are in-between. Some of NEC's models, for example, implement a simple form of the standard printer language PCL that allows PCL-speaking software to print at up to 300dpi, but only NEC knows how to get the full 600dpi out of these printers.

Note that if you already have one of these Winprinters, there are roundabout ways to get Linux to print to one, but they're rather awkward. See Section 12 in this document for more discussion of Windows-only printers.

5.1. Postscript

As for what printers do work with Linux, the best choice is to buy a printer with native PostScript support in firmware. Nearly all Unix software that produces printable output produces it in PostScript, so obviously it'd be nice to get a printer that supports PostScript directly. Unfortunately, PostScript support is scarce outside the laser printer domain, and is sometimes a costly add-on.

Unix software, and the publishing industry in general, have standardized upon Postscript as the printer control language of choice. This happened for several reasons:

Timing

Postscript arrived as part of the Apple Laserwriter, a perfect companion to the Macintosh, the system largely responsible for the desktop publishing revolution of the 80s.

It's device-independent

Postscript programs can be run to generate output on a pixel screen, a vector screen, a fax machine, or almost any sort of printer mechanism, without the original program needing to be changed. Postscript output will look the same on any Postscript device, at least within the limits of the device's capabilities. Before the creation of PDF, people exchanged complex documents online as Postscript files. The only reason this standard didn't "stick" was because Windows machines didn't usually include a Postscript previewer, so Adobe specified hyperlinks and compression for Postscript, called the result PDF, distributed previewers for it, and invented a market for their "distiller" tools (the functionality of which is also provided by ghostscript's ps2pdf and pdf2ps programs).

It's a real programming language

Postscript is a complete programming language; you can write software to do most anything in it. This is mostly useful for defining subroutines at the start of your program to reproduce complex things over and over throughout your document, like a logo or a big "DRAFT" in the background. But there's no reason you couldn't compute π in a Postscript program.

It's open

Postscript is fully specified in a publically available series of books (which you can find at any good bookstore). Although Adobe invented it and provides the dominant commercial implementation, other vendors like Aladdin produce independently coded implementations as well.

5.2. Non-Postscript

Failing the (larger) budget necessary to buy a Postscript printer, you can use any printer supported by Ghostscript, the free Postscript interpreter used in lieu of actual printer Postscript support. Note that most Linux distributions can only ship a somewhat outdated version of Ghostscript due to the license. Fortunately, there is usually a prepackaged up to date Ghostscript made available in each distribution's contrib area.

Adobe now has a new printer language called "PrintGear". I think it's a greatly simplified binary format language with some Postscript heritage but no Postscript compatibility. And I haven't heard of Ghostscript supporting it. But some PrintGear printers seem to support another language like PCL, and these printers will work with Linux (iff the PCL is implemented in the printer and not in a Windows driver).

Similarly, Adobe offers a host-based Postscript implementation called PressReady. This works much like Ghostscript does to provide Postscript support for a non-Postscript printer, but has the disadvantage that it runs only on Windows.

5.3. What printers work?

If you want to buy a printer, you can look in several places to see if it will work. The cooperatively maintained Printing HOWTO printer database aims to be a comprehensive listing of the state of Linux printer support. A summary of it is below; be sure to check online for more details and information on what driver(s) to use.

Ghostscript's printer compatibility page has a list of some working printers, as well as links to other pages.

Dejanews contains hundreds of "it works" and "it doesn't work" testimonials. Try all three, and when you're done, check that your printer is present and correct in the database, so that it will be listed properly in this document in the future.

If you're lazy, I keep a short list of suggested printers on my website. These center around color inkjets and low-cost laser devices; fully compatible mid-range and high-end devices are much easier to find. You can even help support this document and the website by buying from buy.com or outpost.com through me.

5.3.1. Printer compatibility list

This section is a summary of the online database. The online version includes device specifications, notes, driver information, user-maintained documentation, manufacturer web pages, and interface scripts for using drivers with several print spooling systems (including LPR, LPRng, PDQ, and CUPS). The online version of this list is also interactive; people can and do add printers all the time, so be sure to check it as well. Finally, if your printer isn't listed, add it!

Note that this listing is not gospel; people sometimes add incorrect information, which I eventually weed out. Entries I have not sanity-checked are marked with an asterisk (*). Verify from Dejanews that a printer works for someone before buying it based on this list. If you can find no information in Dejanews, mail me and I'll put you in contact with the person who added the printer.

Printers here are categorized into three types:

Perfectly

Perfect printers work perfectly - you can print to the full ability of the printer, including color, full resolution, etc. In a few cases printers with undocumented "resolution enhancement" modes that don't work are listed as perfect; generally the difference in print quality is small enough that it isn't worth worrying about.

Mostly

You can print fine, but there may be minor limitations of one sort or another in either printing or other features.

Partially

You can print, but maybe not in color, or only at a poor resolution. See the online listing for information on the limitation.

Paperweight

You can't print a darned thing; typically this will be due to lack of a driver and/or documentation on how to write one. Paperweights occasionally get "promoted", either when someone discovers that an existing driver works, or when someone creates a new driver, but you shouldn't count on this happening.

In all cases, since this information is provided by dozens of people, none of it is guaranteed to be correct; entries with an asterisk (*) are particularly suspect. The facts, however, should be easy to corroborate from the driver web pages and manufacturer web sites.

And without further ado, here is the printer compatibility list:

Table 1. Linux Printer Support

Manufacturer

Perfectly

Mostly

Partially

Paperweight

Alps

  

MD-1000
MD-1300
MD-2000
MD-4000
MD-5000

 

Apollo

 

P-1200

  

Apple

12/640ps
Dot Matrix
ImageWriter
ImageWriter LQ
LaserWriter 16/600*
LaserWriter IINTX*
LaserWriter IIg
LaserWriter Select 360

Color StyleWriter 1500
Color StyleWriter 2200
Color StyleWriter 2400
Color StyleWriter 2500
LaserWriter NT
StyleWriter 1200
StyleWriter I
StyleWriter II

  

Avery

Personal Label Printer+

Personal Label Printer

  

Brother

HL-4Ve
HL-8
HL-10V
HL-10h
HL-630
HL-660
HL-720
HL-730
HL-760
HL-820
HL-1020
HL-1040
HL-1070*
HL-1250
HL-1260
HL-1270N
HL-1660e
HL-2060

HJ-400
HL-1050
HL-1060
HL-1240

DCP-1200
HL-1030*
MC-3000
MFC 7150C
MFC-4350
MFC-6550MC
MFC-8300
MFC-9100c
MFC-9500
MFC-9600

4550*
MP-21C

C.Itoh

M8510

   

CalComp

Artisan 1023 penplotter*

   

Canon

BJ-5
BJ-10e
BJ-20
BJ-200
BJ-330
BJC-70
BJC-210
BJC-250
BJC-600
BJC-610
BJC-620
BJC-800
BJC-4000
BJC-4100
BJC-4200
BJC-4300*
BJC-4400*
GP 335
GP 405
LBP-4+
LBP-4U
LBP-8A1
LBP-430
LBP-1260
LBP-1760
LIPS-III

BJC-80
BJC-240
BJC-1000*
BJC-2000*
BJC-2100
BJC-3000
BJC-4310SP
BJC-7004*
LBP-4sx

BJ-300
BJC-210SP
BJC-4550
BJC-6000*
BJC-6100
BJC-7000*
BJC-7100*
BJC-8200
MultiPASS C2500*
MultiPASS C3000
MultiPASS C3500*
MultiPASS C5000*
MultiPASS C5500

BJC-5000
BJC-5100
BJC-6500
BJC-8000
LBP-460*
LBP-600
LBP-660*
Multipass L6000*

Citizen

ProJet II*
ProJet IIc

printiva600C

  

Compaq

  

IJ300
IJ750
IJ900

 

DEC

DECWriter 500i*
DECwriter 110i*
DECwriter 520ic*
LA50*
LA75*
LA75 Plus*
LN03*
LN07*

LJ250*
LN17

1800*

 

Dymo-CoStar

ASCII 250*
ASCII+*
EL40*
EL60*
LabelWriter II*
LabelWriter XL*
LabelWriter XL+*
SE250*
SE250+*
Turbo*

   

Epson

Action Laser II
ActionLaser 1100*
ActionPrinter 3250
Dot Matrix
L-1000*
LP 8000
LQ-24
LQ-500
LQ-570+
LQ-850
LQ-2550
LX-1050
SQ 1170
Stylus Color
Stylus Color 400
Stylus Color 440
Stylus Color 460
Stylus Color 480
Stylus Color 500
Stylus Color 600
Stylus Color 640
Stylus Color 660
Stylus Color 740
Stylus Color 760
Stylus Color 800
Stylus Color 860
Stylus Color 880
Stylus Color 900
Stylus Color 980
Stylus Color 1160
Stylus Color 1500
Stylus Color 1520
Stylus Color 3000
Stylus Color I
Stylus Color PRO
Stylus Photo
Stylus Photo 700
Stylus Photo 720
Stylus Photo 750
Stylus Photo 870
Stylus Photo 1200
Stylus Photo 1270
Stylus Photo EX

EPL-5700
Stylus Color 300
Stylus Color 670*
Stylus Color 850
Stylus Color II
Stylus Color IIs
Stylus Pro XL

Stylus Photo 2000P

EPL-5700L

Fujitsu

1200*
2400*
3400*
PrintPartner 10V*
PrintPartner 16DV*
PrintPartner 20W*
PrintPartner 8000*

   

HP

2000C
2500C
Color LaserJet 4500
DesignJet 3500CP
DeskJet
DeskJet 400
DeskJet 420C
DeskJet 500
DeskJet 500C
DeskJet 510
DeskJet 520
DeskJet 540
DeskJet 550C
DeskJet 560C
DeskJet 600
DeskJet 1200C
DeskJet 1600C
DeskJet 1600CM
LaserJet
LaserJet 2 w/PS*
LaserJet 2D
LaserJet 2P
LaserJet 2P Plus
LaserJet 3
LaserJet 3D
LaserJet 3P w/PS
LaserJet 4 Plus
LaserJet 4L
LaserJet 4M
LaserJet 4ML*
LaserJet 4P
LaserJet 5
LaserJet 5L*
LaserJet 5M*
LaserJet 5MP*
LaserJet 5P*
LaserJet 6
LaserJet 6L*
LaserJet 6MP*
LaserJet 1100
LaserJet 2100
LaserJet 2100M
LaserJet 4050N
LaserJet 5000
LaserJet 8000
LaserJet 8100
LaserJet Plus*
LaserJet Series II*
Mopier 240*
Mopier 320*
PaintJet*
PaintJet XL*
PaintJet XL300*
ThinkJet*

Color LaserJet 5
DesignJet 230*
DesignJet 350C
DesignJet 650C*
Designjet 750 C Plus*
DeskJet 310
DeskJet 610C
DeskJet 610CL
DeskJet 612C
DeskJet 660C
DeskJet 670C
DeskJet 672C
DeskJet 682C
DeskJet 690C
DeskJet 692C
DeskJet 694C
DeskJet 697C
DeskJet 710C*
DeskJet 712C
DeskJet 720C*
DeskJet 722C*
DeskJet 810C
DeskJet 812C
DeskJet 815C*
DeskJet 820C
DeskJet 832C
DeskJet 840C
DeskJet 842C*
DeskJet 850C
DeskJet 855C
DeskJet 870C
DeskJet 870Cse*
DeskJet 870Cxi
DeskJet 880C
DeskJet 882C
DeskJet 895C
DeskJet 895Cxi*
DeskJet 932C
DeskJet 950C*
DeskJet 970C
DeskJet 970Cse
DeskJet 1100C
DeskJet 1120C
DeskJet 1220C
LaserJet 2
LaserJet 6P
LaserJet 4000
PSC 500*

Color LaserJet 5000
DeskJet 320
DeskJet 340C
DeskJet 890C
DeskJet 930C
DeskJet 1000C
LaserJet 1100A
OfficeJet 500*
OfficeJet 600*
OfficeJet 625*
OfficeJet 635*
OfficeJet 710*
OfficeJet Pro 1170C*
OfficeJet Pro 1175C*
OfficeJet R45*
OfficeJet R60
PhotoSmart P1000
PhotoSmart P1100*

LaserJet 3100*
LaserJet 3150

Heidelberg

Digimaster 9110*

   

Hitachi

DDP 70 (with MicroPress)*

   

IBM

3853 JetPrinter*
4019*
4029 10P*
4303 Network Color Printer*
Execjet 4072*
Page Printer 3112*
ProPrinterII*

   

Imagen

ImPress*

   

Infotec

infotec 4651 MF*

   

Kodak

DigiSource 9110*
IS 70 CPII*

   

Kyocera

F-3300
FS-600*
FS-600 (KPDL-2)*
FS-680*
FS-800*
FS-1200*
FS-1700+*
FS-1750*
FS-3750*
FS-5900C*
P-2000*

F-800T*
FS-3500*

  

Lexmark

4039 10plus
Optra Color 40
Optra Color 45
Optra Color 1200
Optra Color 1275
Optra E*
Optra E+*
Optra E310
Optra E312
Optra Ep*
Optra K 1220*
Optra R+*
Optra S 1250*
Optra S 1855*
Optra Se 3455*
Optra W810
Valuewriter 300*
Z32

1020 Business
3000

1000
1100
2030
2070
3200
5000
5700
7000
7200
Winwriter 400*
Z11*
Z51

1020
2050
Winwriter 100*
Winwriter 150c*
Winwriter 200*
Z22
Z52*

Minolta

PagePro 6*
PagePro 6e*
PagePro 6ex*
PagePro 8*

 

PagePro 8L*

PagePro 6L

Mitsubishi

CP50 Color Printer*

   

NEC

P2X*
PinWriter P6*
PinWriter P6 plus*
PinWriter P7*
PinWriter P7 plus*
PinWriter P60*
PinWriter P70*
SilentWriter LC 890*
Silentwriter2 S60P*
Silentwriter2 model 290*
SuperScript 660i*
SuperScript 1800

Silentwriter 95f*

SuperScript 100C*
SuperScript 150C*
SuperScript 650C*
SuperScript 750C*
SuperScript 860*
SuperScript 870*
SuperScript 1260*

SuperScript 610plus*
SuperScript 660*
SuperScript 660plus*

Oce

3165*

   

Okidata

ML 380*
OL 410e
OL 600e*
OL 610e/PS
OL 800
OL 810e/PS
OL400ex
OL810ex
OL820*
OL830Plus
Okipage 6e
Okipage 6ex*
Okipage 8c
Okipage 8p
Okipage 10e
Okipage 12i
Okipage 20DXn

Microline 182
OL 400w*
OL 610e/S
OkiPage 4w+*
OkiPage 8w Lite*
OkiPage 8z*
Okijet 2500*
Okipage 4w*
Okipage 8w*
Super 6e

Microline 192+
Okipage 6w*

Okijet 2010

Olivetti

JP350S*
JP450*
JP470*
PG 306*

   

PCPI

1030*

   

Panasonic

KX-P1123*
KX-P1124*
KX-P1150*
KX-P1180i*
KX-P2023*
KX-P2135*
KX-P2150*
KX-P4410*
KX-P4450*
KX-P5400*
KX-P8420*
KX-P8475*
KX-PS600*
kx-p1624*

KX-P2123*
KX-P6150*

KX-P6500*

KX-P6100*
KX-P6300 GDI*
KX-P8410*

Printrex

  

820 DL*

 

QMS

2425 Turbo EX*
LPK-100*

magicolor 2+*
ps-810*

 

magicolor 2

Raven

 

LP-410

  

Ricoh

4081*
4801*
6000*
Aficio 220*
Aficio AP2000

Aficio 401*

 

Aficio Color 2206*
Afico FX10*

Samsung

ML-85*
ML-4600*
ML-5000a*
ML-6000/6100*
ML-7000/7000P/7000N*
ML-7050*
QL-5100A*
QL-6050*
SI-630A*

ML-85G
QL-85G

 

ML-5050G*
SF/MSYS/MJ-4700/4800/4500C*

Seiko

SpeedJET 200*

SLP*
SLP 120*
SLP 220*
SLP EZ30*
SLP Plus*
SLP Pro*

  

Sharp

AR-161*

   

Star

LC24-100*
LS-04
NL-10*

LC 90*
LC24-200*
StarJet 48*

 

WinType 4000*

Tally

MT908*

   

Tektronix

3693d color printer, 8-bit mode*
4693d color printer, 2-bit mode*
4693d color printer, 4-bit mode*
4695*
4696*
4697*
Phaser 780
Phaser 850*
Phaser IISX*
Phaser PX*

   

Xerox

2700 XES
3700 XES
4045 XES*
DocuPrint 4508
DocuPrint C20
DocuPrint C55*
DocuPrint N17
DocuPrint N32*
Document Centre 400*

DocuPrint C6*
DocuPrint P8e
DocuPrint P12*
Docuprint C6*
Docuprint C8*
XJ6C*

Document Homecentre
WorkCentre 450cp*
WorkCentre 470cx*
XJ8C*

DocuPrint P8*
Work Centre XK35c
WorkCenter XE90fx*
WorkCentre XD120f*
WorkCentre XE80
workcentre 385*

* This entry has not been sanity-checked by me.

5.4. How to buy a printer

It's a bit difficult to select a printer these days; there are many models to choose from. Here are some shopping tips:

Cost

You get what you pay for. Most printers under $200-300 will print reasonably well, but printing costs a lot per page. For some printers, it only takes one or two cartridges to add up to the cost of a new printer! Similarly, the cheapest printers won't last very long. The least expensive printers, for example, have a MTBF of about three months; obviously these are poorly suited for heavy use.

Inkjets

Inkjet printheads will clog irreparably over time, so the ability to replace the head somehow is a feature. Inkjet printheads are expensive, with integrated head/ink cartridges costing ten times (!) what ink-only cartridges go for, so the ability to replace the head only when needed is a feature. Epson Styluses tend to have fixed heads, and HP DeskJets tend to have heads integrated into the cartridges. Canons have three-part cartridges with independently replaceable ink tanks; I like this design. OTOH, the HP cartridges aren't enormously more expensive, and HP makes a better overall line; Canon is often the third choice from the print quality standpoint; and Epson Styluses are the best supported under Linux at the moment. You just can't win.

Lasers

Laser printers consume a drum and toner, plus a little toner wiping bar. The cheapest designs include toner and drum together in a big cartridge; these designs cost the most to run. The best designs for large volume take plain toner powder or at least separate toner cartridges and drums.

Photography

The best color photograph output is from continuous tone printers which use a silver halide plus lasers approach to produce—surprise!—actual photographs. Since these printers cost tens of thousands to buy, Ofoto.com offers inexpensive print-by-print jobs. The results are stunning; even the best inkjets don't compare.

The best affordable photo prints come from the dye-sublimation devices like some members of the Alps series (thermal transfer of dry ink or dye sublimation). Unfortunately they have poor Linux support (the one report I have speaks of banding and grainy pictures), and even then it's unclear if the dye-sub option is supported.

The more common photo-specialized inkjets usually feature 6 color CMYKcm printing or even a 7 color CMYKcmy process. All photo-specialized printers are expensive to run; either you always run out of blue and have to replace the whole cartridge, or the individual color refills for your high-end photo printer cost an arm and a leg. Special papers cost a bundle, too; you can expect top-quality photo inkjet output to run over a US dollar per page. See also the section on printing photographs later in this document, and the sections on color tuning (such as it is) in Ghostscript.

Speed

Speed is proportional to processing power, bandwidth, and generally printer cost. The fastest printers will be networked Postscript printers with powerful internal processors. Consumer-grade printers will depend partly on Ghostscript's rendering speed, which you can affect by having a reasonably well-powered machine; full pages of color, in particular, can consume large amounts of host memory. As long as you actually have that memory, things should work out fine.

Forms

If you want to print on multicopy forms, then you need an impact printer; many companies still make dot matrix printers, most of which emulate traditional Epson models and thus work fine.

Labels

There are two supported lines of label printer; look for the Dymo-Costar and the Seiko SLP models. Other models may or may not work. Avery also makes various sizes of stick-on labels in 8.5x11 format that you can run through a regular printer.

Plotting

Big drafting formats are usually supported these days by monster inkjets; HP is a popular choice. Mid-sized (11x17) inkjets are also commonly used for smaller prints. Much plotting of this sort is done with the languages RTL, HP-GL, and HP-GL/2, all of which are simple HP proprietary vector languages usually generated directly by application software.

5.4.1. What do I have?

I own an HP Deskjet 500, a Lexmark Optra 40, and a Canon BJC-4100. All work perfectly: the HP and Canon are older models, well supported by Ghostscript; and the Optra is a more modern color inkjet with full Postscript and PCL 5 support (!).

I also own a Hawking Technology 10/100 Ethernet print server (model 7117, actually made by Zero One Technologies in Taiwan); this makes it possible to put the printer anywhere with power and a network jack, instead of just near a computer. It's a little dongle that attaches to the printer's parallel port and has an Ethernet jack on the other side. The only flaw with this is that it doesn't allow bidirectional communication, so I can't arrange to be sent email when the ink is low.




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