Printing to MFPs in a Mac World

Posted On March 25, 2011 By Kevin O'Brien

MFP (multifunctional printer) network printing and scanning options for your Mac have come very far over the years.  While the Mac platform has always been regarded as the pinnacle for graphic design, print/scan options for many MFP’s were lacking in comparison to the PC world.  Over the past 10 years, Mac has made drastic improvements within its OS and along with that, software for your MFP to allow better print and scan integration.

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Before OS X users were stuck with OS-9 and very limited options for printing to your MFP (production printers had fairly good support).  If you could find a PPD (PostScript Printer Description) to work with your device then you had to cross your fingers and hope that options like account control and user tracking worked properly.  Scanning from your MFP to an OS-9 box via the network added another level of complexity since most applications at that time to bridge scanning were developed for Windows.  Few machines were offering SMB/CIFS(Server Message Block/ Common Internet File System) so most were stuck with scanning to a Windows machine via the manufacturer software and retrieving scans from that device instead of the Mac.

Enter OS X (most notably 10.2).  When Apple introduced OS X it was a complete overhaul of the whole system and was the move that catapulted Apple to where it is now in the mainstream.  OS X came bundled with protocols such as SMB/CIFS which allowed communication with Windows devices and in turn also meant network scanning from your MFP was possible.  It would still be a few years before most MFP’s adopted those protocols but nonetheless, the functionality was there.

Another noticeable and major change with 10.2 was the adoption of CUPS “The Common Unix Printing System.”  CUPS is an open source printing back-end with support for many protocols such as IPP, LPD, AppleTalk, Bonjour, SMB/CIFS, and others.  With CUPS as the primary printing system, Mac users were also exposed to a wealth of open source print drivers from Gimp-Print (now Gutenprint).  Chances are that the PPD you were searching for is now present in your new OS X installation without any additional configuration.  CUPS also incorporates many filters which allow Mac users to print to PCL enabled devices whereas before Postscript was the only option without a secondary filter.  Print jobs are submitted in Postscript, interpreted into PCL, then printed to your favorite PCL enabled device.  Of course the quality of PCL is still no replacement for true Postscript so most should still include that option if scrutinizing color quality.

These changes are really just the tip of the iceberg but if you are a Mac user, rest assured that Advance has the software and technology available to fully support you and your Mac environment.