Apple says that Mac OS X comes with built-in support for several popular printers. OS X shipped with some drivers for Canon, Epson and HP printers. HP released an update for their LaserJets within days after of the operating system shipping. Brother has just released a set of drivers for their printers and multifunction products and others are doubtless on the way.
Either Apple was very thorough or I’m lucky because as soon as I plugged in my Hewlett Packard DeskJet 990C, it was recognized without the installation of any drivers or other software. I was pleasantly surprised.
As for printing itself, it works well — with one snafu. As far as setting up printers goes, it’s a breeze. Mac OS X can print to USB, AppleTalk, or TCP/IP (LPR) printers. You choose your default printer by going to the Print Center (a fine replacement for the Chooser), choosing a printer, and selecting “Make Default” from the Printer menu.
When you add a printer in the Print Center, for better or worse, it becomes your default printer. And if you have more than one printer connected, you can select one for a print job without making it your default printer. Just choose it from the Printer pop-up menu after choosing Print or Page Setup from an application’s File menu. (Unless you make changes, all documents that you create are automatically formatted for your default printer.)
Once you have your printer set up, it’s easy to control print jobs through the Print Center. During a print job, the utility’s icon shows up in the Dock. You can click it to access the Print Center. From there you can do things like checking the status, pausing, or canceling printing.
You can temporarily stop a particular document from printing or stop printing to a specific printer. If printing is in progress, click the Print Center icon in the Dock. Look at the printer queue window named for the printer that’s printing a document. Select the name of a document in the window and click Hold to pause a print job. To resume printing, click (you guessed it) Resume.
To stop all printing to a particular printer, select Stop Queue from the Queue menu. Choosing Start Queue revs up the printing process again. (If you don’t see the queue window in the Print Center, double-click the printer in the Printer List. If you don’t see the Printer List, choose View Printers from the Printers menu.)
The Print Center is also the place where you select printing options such as printing multiple copies, a specific range of pages, multiple pages on a single sheet, or to control the special printing features of an application or printer. If you want to customize settings and make them your default settings, it’s easy to do.
Alas, printing from Classic applications means returning to the Chooser. To print from a Classic program, you’ll have to choose the printer you want to use in the Chooser (which is found in the Classic Apple menu). Once you’ve picked out a printer, you’ll need to choose Page Setup from the application’s File menu and make the proper preparations for printing.
But it’s not the Classic/Chooser implementation that I have a problem with. It’s the inability to print documents as a PDF file. Although Mac OS X supposedly offers this capability, accessible through the Output Options menu in the Print Center (via a save as PDF checkbox), I was never able to get it to work.
Using the preview version of AppleWorks 6.1 for Mac OS X, I tried to save an eight-page text document as a PDF file. It saved 20 percent of it, then quit. Ditto when I tried to save a blank AW document.
For most printing tasks, Mac OS X works fine. But if you need to save a file as PDF, you’ll need some way to do it that doesn’t involve the Print Center, based on my experience.