Where’s that printer driver?!

April 7th, 2009

Apple / Mac, The Internet

Setting up OS X Printer Drivers

Gutenprint Project

Yeah… Plug your Hack into most any printer and should be off and printing without issue. However, if like me, all your printers live out there somewhere on the network; you’ll need to connect to them via Bonjour (most new Enterprise-class printers have this protocol built-in), or via Samba/CIFs, etc. When doing this, since you’re using the network, the OS can’t readily identify the device that it’s connected to, therefore auto-installing/using the proper driver for it.

In cases like this, you need to tell OS X what printer driver to use. Now while Apple provides a nice selection of drivers, it’s a bit limited in contrast to those provided by the outstanding project known as Gutenprint. This project has been creating drivers for the Mac/Linux world since 2003. There’s support for over ~1400 printers at this point, using PostScript and/or CUPS, and they continue to add more all the time. The project was originally established to provide printer drivers that could work in conjunction with GIMP. It has since grown so large, that it’s become its own entity.

You might think that being 3rd party that the drivers would not be as good as those provided by the manufacturer, however, for most that I’ve used, I’ve found Gutenprint gives me much more granularity in the settings available and the number of print options I can take advantage of. Prints via the drivers are fantastic!

I was just updating to release 5.2.3 today, so I thought I’d let you all know of the project.

Hope some of you that print via the network (or local for that matter) find the software both helpful and/or an improvement from what you might have currently installed.

Please post comments and feedback on your experience with it (that is, should you even install it — but, I’m telling you, it’s essential stuff if you print a lot).

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Richard is a professional web developer and business consultant. He opened his first web hosting company at the age of 13 out of his bedroom on an ISDN connection and hasn't looked back since. Richard currently resides in sunny Florida.

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11 Responses to “Where’s that printer driver?!”

  1. Thomas

    I guess I stand corrected then. Anyway, great post and thanks for the tip!

  2. Dave Wolf

    @Thomas. Gutenprint might not throw “HP” in your face with the banner at the top of their page, but saying “Gutenprint actually doesn’t have any HP drivers.” is a little bit specious — as the list of supported printers rightly shows.

    @Everone. I think a lot of the scanner/copier/printer/fax combos might not be high on their development list as these aren’t necessarily meant for “high quality” photo/graphic/text printing (NOT SAYING that they can’t print such quality, however!)

    The Gutenprint project, again, was created for higher-end photo/graphic printers to work nicely in Unix/Linux OS’s in conjunction with GIMP, so it’s possible that’s the reason you don’t see yours.

    Just the same, our corporate network has 4 different HP LaserJets that are a little over a year old. Gutenprint has drivers for every single one of them. So, all the HP people out there, check the list before discounting Gutenprint as not supporting ANY HP printers.

  3. Thomas

    Thats strange because on the gutenprint homepage it says at the top “High quality drivers for Canon, Epson, Lexmark, Sony, Olympus, and PCL printers for use with CUPS, Ghostscript, Foomatic, and GIMP.” There’s no HP!!!! Maybe they stopped making new drivers for HP Printer because my printer is about a year old and it doesnt have drivers for it with Gutenprint.

  4. Dave Wolf

    @rahul. Gutenprint has drivers for the Epson Stylus C45. Try ’em out. I would be very curious, since nothing else is working for you, if Gutenprint could provide you a driver that actually works and allows you to print.

  5. Dave Wolf

    @Thomas… Umm… Not sure what you’re talking about with looking like idiots?! When connecting to an Epson printer (or most any printer) via SMB you have to pick a printer driver as, when not using Bonjour, the OS CANNOT detect the device you are connecting to. You must explicity tell the OS what driver to use for the printer you attached to. In this case, many times, Apple will not provide you a proper driver for the printer you’re attaching to (in the combo box). You’re only solution here is to plug straight into the machine to resolve the driver(s), or use something like Gutenprint, which will provide you the drivers for damn near any printer without having to “play tricks.”

    And, HP is not supported!? What? Huh? Check the supported printer list one more time:


    … there’s more than a few HP printers in there. I would bet money that your printer is in that list — not saying that you need to use their driver, but…

  6. rahul

    Hey, i’ve got an Epson Stylus C45, couldn’t find drivers for it on the official site. The inbuilt drivers on the Mac also dont work. Although it says Printer Found, Printer Ready etc..it wont print :(

  7. Richard

    It’s good to note that you can still find decent, cheap printers, scanners, copiers and fax machines that come with Mac software and drivers out of the box. I own a Lexmark All-In-One X4530 which includes a snazzy Mac interface that allows me to scan directly to applications on my HackBook! It also comes with native (Intel) print drivers and works flawlessly for about $69.99.

  8. Thomas

    Gutenprint actually doesnt have any HP drivers. Yeah… But I’m actually not having any problems with my HP printer. It prints, scans, and everything else its supposed it. The one “issue” i have with it, if you can call it that, is that the drivers for it in OS X are over 1gb in size. Btw, feel free to delete these last two comments because, no offense, but we both probably look like idiots.

  9. Dave Wolf

    @Thomas. No Problem. But, what HP Printer do you have that’s not supported?! I thought Guntenprint had damn near every HP printer ever made in there? Even though your HP is local and you obviously have no problem printing to it, I’m still curious as their HP support is quite comprehensive.

    Me… I assume have the same case as you when it comes to the wirelss network. I have an Epson Stylus Photo R320 connected to a Win XP Pro machine that is sharing it out on the LAN. I connect to it via SMB and use the R320 Gutenprint drivers; with a little tweaking, I have the prints screen matching and printing beautifully. Text looks great as well — and prints quickly. I get about the same speed as Epson’s “Draft” mode, but the quality of Epson’s “Normal” setting. So, Gutenprint wins.

  10. Thomas

    Well I guess I spoke too soon because this does not included HP drivers but thats ok because after a 30 second check, I realized that my HP printer is the wired one and the one I share over the network is Epson and that IS supported. So once again, thanks!

  11. Thomas

    I was looking for a good solution for networked printing. Im not cool enough to have a printer thats “network ready” so I have to use printer sharing for wireless printing and this can be tricky. These drivers were exactly what i was looking for and they’re not over 1gb like the HP drivers for OS X.