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last modified 2006-02-22 03:52 PM

CUPS is a sophisticated print system based on Internet protocols.

I've been using the Linux desktop for years. But for work related reasons I also have to use, on occassion, Microsoft Windows. Recently I have also begun to use Apple's Macintosh OS X. So my office is a heterogeneous environment with a GNU/Linux server and GNU/Linux, Macintosh and Windows clients.

From the beginning it has always been easy to use GNU/Linux as a file server. But it has never been easy to set up a print server. Support for printer drivers was spotty. Samba was the main networking protocol that one could use for non-Linux clients.

Then along came CUPS, the Common Unix Printing System. CUPS is completely cross platform. It is natively supported in GNU/Linux and Mac OS X, as well as some Microsoft Windows OSes (for the rest, Samba supports CUPS and can make CUPS printers available to any Microsoft Windows client).

CUPS is actually slightly misleading. It is actually a TCP/IP based print system, using a TCP/IP based print model. So even if your printer is hanging off your server's parallel or USB port, it is a network printer for all client's in the system. In fact, you can print from anywhere on the Internet depending on your security settings (after all, CUPS is TCP/IP based).

Essentially you use the CUPS browser-based interface to set CUPS up. Point your browser to:


You can easily give your printer a network name and choose one of the myriad drivers available for many popular printers. If your printer is Postscript or HP PCL compatible, you certainly won't have any problems at all. But CUPS supports many other printers as well.

The tricky part is getting your Macintosh and PC clients to automatically recognize the CUPS printer (for coughsomecough reason this happens automatically on GNU/Linux clients). The trick for doing this is explained in detail in this article. The key is getting your Broadcast settings right.

This article discusses the nuances of the client set up on Microsoft Windows, which apparently is trickier on pre-XP versions of the OS. As noted earlier, use Samba for Windows 98 clients.

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