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Spooler-Less Printing and the OpenPrinting Database

We support direct printing without any printer spooler through the PPD-O-Matic PPD file generator and companion foomatic-filters backend filter package. What follows is quick-start information on setting up your printer with this pair, followed by some details on how it all works.

Spooler-less printing has its advantages and disadvantages. It is a simple solution for machines without a local network where only one user is working at. One has no hassle with the requirements of most spoolers to have a correct network installation or with the many configuration options of the spoolers. There are also less temporary files produced, so that when one prints many pages in a high quality on a large paper size, one does not need tons of disk space. There is also no daemon which could open security holes.

The principal disadvantage is that the jobs are not spooled, you cannot continue working in your application before the printout is ready and you also cannot submit another print job from another application in this time, there are no queues which store the job until the first one is ready. You also have to make the device files (/dev/...) for your printers world-writable, which gives less control over them, as for example accounting facilities can be easily surrounded then. And without a daemon which could listen to printing requests from the network you cannot print jobs from remote clients (exception are protocols with their own daemon as SMB, here Samba is listening).


Quick Start

The foomatic-rip system does not only allow printing of PostScript files, but also printing of plain text, PDF, images, TeX/LaTeX, DVI, and perhaps other file formats. For plain text you must have one of the converters "a2ps", "enscript", or "mpage" installed on your machine, for the other formats both "a2ps" (to detect the format) and ImageMagick (for images), GhostScript 6.51 or newer (for PDF) and/or TeX and LaTeX (for TeX, LaTeX, and DVI) must be installed. Most distributions provide these programs, but not necessarily all of them are installed by default. foomatic-rip will auto-detect the installed converters and automatically choose the best one.

If you have a Postscript printer, you can make use of the PPD file provided by the printer's manufacturer. You can use also these PPDs with foomatic-rip, simply use them instead of the PPD-O-Matic PPD from this site. See the "Postscript" driver page and the instructions on how to use PPD files for more information.

More detailed instructions with examples and screenshots you will find in the tutorial chapter "Foomatic from the User's Point of View: Installing a Printer" (PDF). Note that the instructions in the tutorial are for the former Foomatic 2.0.x.

1. If your printer is not a native PostScript printer, you will need the driver that you wish to use installed (foomatic-rip and the PPD file only provide a way to easily execute the driver). There are several styles of driver; the ones suitable for your printer will be referenced from your printer's page in the database:
Ghostscript built-in
Ghostscript is present on most free and many commercial Unix systems. It is not part of Mac OS X as shipped by Apple. Ghostscript contains many "compiled-in" drivers.
You can see the available Ghostscript drivers on your system by running 'gs -h'. If the driver you need is not listed, you need to obtain a new Ghostscript package which includes this driver, or compile Ghostscript yourself. GPL GhostScript includes all known free software built-in drivers and Linux distributions ship it with all drivers actually compiled. Currently such drivers are not developed any more by third parties, as adding these drivers is awkward and there are plenty of interfaces for modular drivers: CUPS Raster, IJS, OpenPrinting Vector, filters, ....
CUPS Raster
CUPS has a native driver style called "CUPS Raster". These are executable programs, installed into CUPS' filter directory, which CUPS drives using a set of filters and Ghostscript. Such drivers are relatively easy to get going with CUPS, so are usually the best choice for CUPS users. With foomatic-rip one can use them also with other printing systems, though. You can see which CUPS Raster drivers are installed by examining the filters in /usr/lib/cups/filter; usually CUPS Raster drivers have names beginning with "rasterto". Each CUPS Raster driver program will also have one or more PPD files in /usr/share/ppd or /usr/share/cups/model, each containing a reference to the proper CUPS Raster program.
IJS
IJS is a plug-in interface to connect raster driver modules with Ghostscript (or a renderer in general) based on pipes. It was introduced for HP's HPIJS driver but currently it also used by several other drivers. The driver executables are usually installed into the standard search path for programs (/usr/bin or /usr/local/bin).
OpenPrinting Vector
This driver concept is developed by the Japanese members of the OpenPrinting project. It is a plugin interface for Ghostscript and other renderers which supports high-level (vector) graphics. This way modular drivers for printers with proprietary high-level page description languages can be created. Such printers are common on the Japanese market.
Filter
Some drivers are simply a filter into which generic bitmap output of Ghostscript is piped. This was one of the first solutions to make printer drivers without compiling them into Ghostscript. The filter executables are usually installed into the standard search path for programs (/usr/bin or /usr/local/bin).
Uniprint
A few drivers are Uniprint drivers. These consist simply of a upp file containing various parameters; most are included with Ghostscript. Others you will need to obtain and place in your ghostscript library directory (one of the directories listed under "Search path:" at the end of the "gs -h" output).
2. You will need a PPD file for your printer/driver, in case of a PostScript printer the one which came with the printer, for other printers running with a printer driver you should get one from the OpenPrinting database. To do this, you need to look up your printer's page in the database. When you want to use the driver which is recommended for your printer, click on the "download PPD" link in the summary box at the top of the page. For other drivers and some info about the drivers, go to the driver list at the bottom of the page. If a driver has no "download PPD" link, there is no info to generate a PPD in this driver entry, see the text of the driver entry, sometimes these drivers are covered by the PPD of another driver or the PPDs come with the driver.
3. Save the PPD file in the /etc/foomatic/direct/ directory (create it with 'mkdir -p /etc/foomatic/direct/' if necessary). It should have a short base name, which shows to which of your printers it belongs, and '.ppd' as file name extension, for example 'laserjet.ppd'. Alternatively, you can save the file also in ~/foomatic/direct/ to have a personal printer definition.
4. Edit the saved PPD file to set up the connection to your printer. Insert a line
*FoomaticRIPPostPipe: "| <command>"

preferably right after '*PPD-Adobe: "4.3"'. You can put the line nearly everywhere into the PPD file, but note that when you have two or more, only the last one is valid. '<command>' is a command into which you want to re-direct the output data of foomatic-rip. Due to the restrictions of PPD files '<', '>', and '"' are not allowed in the '<command>', replace them as follows (as in HTML or XML):

Character   Replacement
-----------------------
 <       &lt;
 >       &gt;
 "       &quot;
 '       &apos;
 &       &amp;

For a printer connected to the first parallel port use:

*FoomaticRIPPostPipe: "| cat &gt; /dev/lp0"

The first USB printer would need this line:

*FoomaticRIPPostPipe: "| cat &gt; /dev/usb/lp0"

Check the documentation of your operating system for the exact names of the device files for local printers. To make normal users able to print this way add them to the group "lp" and make sure that the appropriate printer device file "<tt>/dev/..." is group-writable for the "lp" group.
For a TCP/Socket/JetDirect printer with the host name "printer" listening on port 9100 you need this:

*FoomaticRIPPostPipe: "| /usr/bin/nc -w 1 printer 9100"

Note the "-w 1" in the "nc" command line, it makes "nc" exiting immediately after the data is tranferred to the printer.

*FoomaticRIPPostPipe: "| rlpr -Plp@printserver"

directs your jobs to the LPD printer queue "lp" on the machine named "printserver". Be sure that the tools you are using, as rlpr, nprint (printer on Novell server), smbprint (printer on Windows server), nc/netcat (TCP/Socket printer), or whatever you use are installed.

5. Install the foomatic-filters package.

(If you are using a PostScript printer with a PPD from your printer vendor, you probably do not need Foomatic and should skip this step). Usually, your Linux distribution ships the foomatic-filters package (you have /usr/bin/foomatic-rip then). If not, get the foomatic-filters package from here. You need a C compiler and the Ghostscript shared library to build it. See the USAGE file in the foomatic-filters package for more information.

6. If you do not have a text(and other files)-to-PostScript converter installed (see above), install one. This is used to print option documentation for your printer or non-PostScript files, so it's nice to have it right. If you have more than one converter installed and the one automatically chosen by foomatic-rip is not the desired one, edit the "textfilter:" line in the /etc/foomatic/filter.conf file inserting the name of one of the supported converters ("a2ps", "enscript", "mpage") after the colon. Do not forget to remove the "#" in the beginning of the line.
7. You should now be up and running. You can print documentation for your printer's options with:
foomatic-rip -P laserjet -o docs /proc/cpuinfo

instead of 'laserjet' you must use the base name (without path and without '.ppd') of the PPD file which you have saved in /etc/foomatic/direct/ (or in ~/foomatic/direct/). The documentation will include an example of how to specify options (which, of course, you just figured out by trial and error!).

8. To not need to specify the PPD file ("-P laserjet") on the foomatic-rip command line for your most often used printer you can define a default printer by creating a file /etc/foomatic/direct/.config (system-wide default) or ~/.foomatic/direct/.config (personal default) containing the line:
default: <PPD file base name>

So in our example it must be:

default: laserjet
9. A tip to make printing out of applications working easily: Set a symbolic link so that foomatic-rip can be called under the name lpr:
ln -s /usr/bin/foomatic-rip /usr/bin/lpr
10. To get your printouts well-centered and to be able to make use of the full imageable area (the area of the page where the printer can print, most printers cannot print up to the borders of the paper) of your printer, you should adjust the printout. With a driver made especially for your printer this is usually not necessary, but som printers, as for example PCL laser printers from other manufacturers than HP since need this adjustment since the Ghostscript PCL drivers are mainly tested on HP printers.

Download the alignment page align.ps (when you click on the link, the page will be displayed, please choose "File"|"Save As..." in your browser's menues to write the file to your disk) and print it. Follow the instructions on the page to do the adjustment.

11. If you want to print out of PPD-aware applications as Star Office, Open Office, GIMP, ... or from a client (Windows, MacOS), use the same PPD file as you already have used for setting up your printer queue and follow the appropriate instructions.


Printing with foomatic-rip

To actually use this now that you've set it up, you use the foomatic-rip command (or lpr when you have set the link as shown above). Here is an example:

$ foomatic-rip -P laserjet \
               -o duplex -o pagesize=legal -o resolution=150 foo.ps

would, assuming a LaserJet 4 or similar printer, print the file foo.ps on legal paper using the duplexer at 150 dpi. Your printer will probably have different options; see your docs sheet. You can leave out "-P laserjet" when you have defined "laserjet" as your default printer.

Options can also be supplied only to selected pages. To make an option setting acting only on certain pages one only needs to preceed the option by a page specification separated by a colon:

$ foomatic-rip -P foo1 -o 1:InputSlot=Letterhead -o InputSlot=Standard file
$ foomatic-rip -P foo1 -o even:Watermark=on -o odd:ColorMode=Gray file
$ foomatic-rip -P foo1 -o 1,6-10,15,20-:MediaType=YellowPaper file

The syntax is "even", "odd", or giving comma-separated page numbers or page ranges. Option settings with page selection override option settings for the whole document on the appropriate pages. More specific (less pages selected) settings override less specific settings on the appropriate pages.

The first line in the example prints the first page on letter head paper and the rest on standard paper. The second line prints the even-numbered pages with watermark and the odd-numbered pages in grayscale. The third line prints the first, the 6th to the 10th, the 15th, the 20th, and all later pages on yellow paper, the rest on standard paper.

Page-specific option settings cannot be set as default in the PPD files.

With some printer/driver combos it is also possible to use arbitrary, custom page sizes (as long as they fit into the printer). Then you have a "Custom" setting for the "PageSize" option which you can use as follows:

$ foomatic-rip -P foo1 -o PageSize=Custom.20x30cm file.ps

You give always at first the width, then the height and in the end one of the units "pt" (PostScript points, 1/72 inch), "in" (inches), "cm" (centimeters), or "mm" (millimeters). If you leave out the unit, "pt" will be used as default. The numbers do not need to be integers, something like "4.3x5.5in" is allowed.

With most drivers, you can also use the media=..., sides=..., and duplex standard CUPS/IPP options as documented in the user manual. Named paper types, trays, and sizes known to your printer driver will be picked out of a media= specifier just fine.

If it doesn't work, turn on the debug flag in /etc/foomatic/filter.conf and examine the debugging output in the file /tmp/foomatic-rip.log. Do not forget to remove the "#" in the beginning of the line. And feel free to contact us for help.


How does it work?

There are three parts to the Foomatic scheme:

The Database
The database contains a number of XML files which detail exactly how to execute a given printer driver. There are two front-ends which use these files: the human-readable one generates the information shown on all "Execution Details" pages, the PPD-O-Matic PPD generator computes an Adobe-compliant PPD file which you need to configure your print queue and PPD-aware applications/clients.
The PPD File
The PPD file generated by the database contains all inforation about important printer capabilities, available options and how to build the renderer's (usually Ghostscript's) command line depending on the user's choices for the options. foomatic-rip reads it to know how to execute the print job. GUI frontends read it to build dialog boxes in which the user can adjust the options. Besides the usual stuff the PPD file contains various extra lines beginning with "*Foomatic...". These contain details of the driver command line, the information whether an option accepts arbitrary numbers and not only the choices listed in the PPD file, and more. frontends and application programs ignore these extra lines.
The Filter
The filter 'foomatic-rip' is called from the command line or out of an application program with the name of the PPD file, a set of options and the name(s) of the file(s) to print (or no files to print standard input). foomatic-rip opens the PPD, extracts all options and their possible settings and also the command line to execute Ghostscript with the appropriate driver. It parses the PostScript input for option settings which were stuffed in by application programs and it also stuffs in PostScript code by itself, if needed.

We added a bunch of special code to pick out the media= and sides= options. These now map sensibly to the PageSize, MediaType, InputSlot, and Duplex options, if present. It's all a bit ugly if a driver supports an option that happens to be named the same as an existing standard ipp/cups option.

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