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Doc: Adding printers on a Macintosh should be easier

Everyone has to install a printer on their computer eventually if they want to get any kind of work done. However everytime I have had to install a printer on a Macintosh it seems to be an epic feat.

Ok, let me explain my typical setup.

  • Usually the printer is directly connect to a Windows system via USB
  • I want to use the printer with multiple systems on my network
  • I want to save a few bucks and not have to buy a special network adapter/printer that sits directly on the network.

Pretty simple right? This is pretty similair to how most home networks are setup as there is little money to be spent on setting them up. Sure I would love to get a nice HP Laserjet with a network card built into it, but I don't have a few hundred bucks sitting around to spend on that.

So, what any normal person would do is setup the printer to be a shared printer on windows, and then begin trying to connect to the shared printer on the Mac.

First thing you need to do on a Mac, Just like on windows is make sure it is in the same workgroup. On a Mac you need to go through and open the networking system preference, and then go to the advanced options, then WINS settings, and specify the workgroup there.

Not too bad, but now we get to the real pain, installing the printer! Just like with windows you need a driver to use a printer. The problem is, there are very few printer drivers installed by default, and as a result you need to download the driver (if it exists). What makes this bad is that often the printer drivers do not simply install themselfs for use, they like to have a nice wizard as if you are trying to set them up locally. Many of these installers will not install the driver until it sees the printer connected to the computer. So it's a catch 22 as you can't install the network shared printer without the driver being installed.

I have yet to see an OS X printer install utility simply provide you with the driver files, or simply install the driver files in the system without jumping through hoops.

What is worse is if you happen to try to be connecting to a printer that is hosted on a Vista box, as you will then have to install additional services on your Vista box, because OS X does not yet meet the new SMB standard that Microsoft made with Vista.

In my opinion this is one of the things Apple needs to work with developers on, and that is better driver support and device installation. I can't blaime Apple too much about this, as 90-95% of their user base will be using the equipment as is, and will likely be connecting everything locally. However to get ahead they need to pay attention to that smaller part of the market, the power user market that is connecting to a wide variety of systems, and needs to manually specify settings, and sometimes install drivers.

Last Updated: 01/28/2009 10:04 PM

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