Configuring a Printer in Ubuntu
In the Linux world, configuring a printer has traditionally been a challenge. For years, newcomers to Linux have been repeatedly challenged and even bludgeoned with scary terms, commands, and phrases that sound like a language from another planet. Users often had to edit fairly complex text files by hand and spend a good deal of time learning how to insert arcane instructions just to get a printer to work. However, things have changed with Ubuntu.
Most of the time, it is possible to add or configure a printer easily and quickly. The one caveat is that not all printer manufacturers provide Linux drivers for their devices. While the Linux community works very hard to write drivers, many times the newest printer models do not have adequate software to interact with Linux. Most printers that are older than 6 or 9 months seem to work quite well, though. You can also check before buying a printer to see what other people have experienced by looking at the list of models and the state of their drivers at http://www.openprinting.org/printers. The Linux Foundation maintains that list, which is a pretty good gauge for determining how well your model should work out of the box with Ubuntu, making this an excellent resource when shopping for new hardware as well as useful for troubleshooting when problems are encountered.
To get started installing your printer, go to System > Administration > Printing (Figure 4-9).
Figure 4-9 Selecting the Printing application from the System > Administration menu in Ubuntu
Selecting this option will bring up the Printers window, as shown in Figure 4-10.
Figure 4-10 The GNOME Printers dialog box
The Printer configuration application allows you to add printers as well as modify their settings. In the upcoming example, you will add a new printer and then view its settings.
The most important thing to remember when configuring a printer is to not get ahead of yourself. Before you start clicking on icons and running anything, make sure that you have completed the following steps.
- Note the make and model of the printer. This information is usually printed clearly on the hardware itself. In our example, we add a Brother MFC-7820N.
- Plug the printer in to your computer or to the network, and turn it on.
Launching the Wizard
Once you have properly prepared to install your printer, click on the New Printer icon. The system will then automatically search for any new connected printers and will launch a New Printer wizard, shown in Figure 4-11.
Figure 4-11 Step 1, selecting a printer
In most cases, the wizards will be able to detect an attached printer automatically and will include it in a list of devices on the left. If your printer is plugged directly into a router, it is possible for the printer Wizard to find it by selecting Find Network Printer.
Select the device with your printer's name, and then hit forward.
At this point, you will have to choose a printer manufacturer. If your printer has been automatically detected, the wizard will choose a manufacturer. Click forward.
In the next screen, you'll be asked to choose both a model and a driver. For autodetected printers, both should be automatically selected, and the default driver should work. You can always change it later. If no driver is selected, scroll through the list of options by manufacturer. Figure 4-12 shows that a driver for the Brother MFC-7820N has been selected.
Figure 4-12 Step 2, selecting a driver
Sometimes you may not find the exact model or driver for your specific printer. Generally, if the driver does not exist for your exact model, choose the closest one, and then test it. If that doesn't work, you can try other drivers intended for printers from the same manufacturer.
Click Forward to proceed with the installation. If you need to install a custom driver, click the Install Driver button. You can see this button in Figure 4-12.
Finally, you can enter a description and location for your printer, as shown in Figure 4-13. Click Apply to complete the process and set up your printer.
Figure 4-13 Step 3, entering printer location and description
After you click Apply, you will see your printer's name under the Local Printers heading. You can click on it and then print out a test page. Do so, and make sure that the page prints correctly. If you find that the page prints well, you are finished. You can now print from the applications you have installed. For example, you can print from OpenOffice.org, Mozilla, or even the command line.
You can also configure your Ubuntu system to send print jobs to a remote print server. If, for example, you have a Windows system with a printer attached on your network, simply choose the Network Printer radio button and specify the host name or IP address of the Windows system. You will then have to specify a connection protocol.
If your Windows system is sharing a printer, you will have to specify Samba, which is the standard way to get Linux and Windows systems to communicate with each other. You will still have to specify a print driver, as described earlier.