Publishing professionals seeking a speedy way to spool their print jobswithout resorting to a Windows NT or Unix servershould look at Printdesk 2.5, an easy-to-use print server from Ultimate Technographics. Printdesk speeds printing operations by providing centralized print queues linked to specific output devices. Sending print jobs to the queue is generally much faster than sending them directly to the printer. Printdesk also goes beyond basic print-spooling functions by letting you manage jobs after they’ve been placed in the queue.
Installing Printdesk is straightforward, although you do need to plug in an ADB hardware lock. Because print spooling is not a hardware-intensive task, you can use a relatively old Power Mac as your server.
Once you’ve installed the program, setting up print queues is easy: you just choose a printer and name a queue, and you’re all set. To print the job from a Mac client, you simply select a queue from the Chooser.
Ultimate claims that outputting your jobs via a Printdesk queue is up to 50 percent faster than printing directly to a PostScript device. However, we saw a relatively modest 30 percent speed boost when printing a 16-page QuarkXPress documentabout the same speed improvement you’d get printing to an AppleShare server.
Printdesk distinguishes itself from a traditional server’s print spooler by giving you many options for managing jobs after they’re placed in the queue. For example, you can designate a portion of the server’s hard drive to store jobs after they’re printed. You can then redirect the job to a different output devicea useful productivity feature if you want to proof a job on an inexpensive printer before sending it to a more costly one. You can also modify toner density, screen frequencies, calibration, scaling, page orientation, and many other variables directly from Printdesk.
The interface, while not particularly difficult, has a few quirks. Some settings are changed under Options and others under Preferences, a seemingly arbitrary distinction. The Spool window, which shows the contents of each queue, lists jobs in the order received; we’d prefer that it list them in reverse order, because the most recent job is usually the one you’re primarily interested in.
On the plus side, the central logbook, which shows the status of all current jobs, is easier to read than AppleShare’s and also lists information you won’t find in the AppleShare log, including physical page size, print-job duration, and job size.
Macworld’s Buying Advice Printdesk 2.5 is a good value for small prepress firms or design shops that want to speed printing without hassling with a high-end server. The company also offers a $1,995 version that includes Open Prepress Interface (OPI) capabilities.