OS X Tip: Software Update and Lion/Mountain Lion printer setup

Steps in setting up a new printer under the latest OS X may sound somewhate counter-intuitive to the longtime Mac manager.
Written by David Morgenstern, Contributor

When checking an Apple Support page about third-party printer and scanner drivers, I noticed a requirement that didn't jib with my previous learning. And this same requirement may create problems, or perhaps inconveniences, for those who have been slimming down systems on solid-state drives.

Near the top of the page are a couple of "important" notes:

Important: Run Software Update before connecting a printer or scanner. This will update your Mac's database of the latest supported printer and scanner models. Note: If you do not run Software Update before attempting to connect a new printer, you may see that software is not available.

So, we should run Apple Software Update for printers and before installing the printer? The answer is yes. And if you've kept adding all the printer drivers to your system with the update everything will be fine. This page is useful since it has a list of printers (printer/scanners) and lists the current drivers for Lion and Mountain Lion. It tells which features are supported. It also offers links to the latest Mac drivers on the printer and scanner makers' sites.

Actually, Apple says that Software Update may be more current than the list.

It is possible that Software Update will display software newer than what is listed in this article for a short period of time after each update becomes available.

However, if you've removed some of these drivers (or all of them) to save space on an SSD, then you will need to search for the drivers in Software Downloads.

A number of vendors orphaned older printers with the release of OS X Lion and later. At the bottom of the Apple list is a list of printers that are no longer supported by Software Update.

For orphaned printers, longtime Mac users may recall using Gimp-Print Project drivers and the CUPS project printing architecture with past versions of OS X (it was called Mac OS X back then). This project is now called Gutenprint.  However, while these drivers may support printing, they may not support all functions, some of which may be important to users, such as color on an inkjet.

If you have an unsupported, older Hewlett-Packard printer, check out the Linux Foundation's HPJIS, which provides printer drivers and PPDs for Macs. They may offer more functionality than the Gutenprint downloads.

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