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Printing in an Ideal World

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Printing in an Ideal World

By Jim Felici, contributor to The Macintosh Bible, Eighth Edition

Printing still creates more headaches for computer users and computer support technicians than just about any other aspect of computing. Wires are one big headache--cables and connections are vulnerable to everything from competing technical standards to overzealous vacuum cleaners. I don't see this changing any time soon.

What could and should change, though, is the hassle involved in setting up and using the software that the Mac uses to print a page. In this day and age, it is primitive--no, demented--for anyone to have to deal with printer drives, PPD files, and all the other dippy little bits of software that need fiddling with and setting up before you can successfully hit the Print command. We shouldn't have to screw around with this stuff. This is what we have computers for!

When you hit the Print command, the Mac should poll the network--even if it's just one Mac and one printer--and see what's out there. It should then ask you, "Which printer do you want to use?" You tell it which one and, if that's the one you always want to use, to please stop asking.

The driver, PPD, and what-all-else information should be in the printer and uploaded to the Mac if need be. If it's an old printer, the OS has to be smart enough to use the driver that's available for it. I'm sick and tired of having to get new drivers for my peripherals each time the operating system is upgraded. With an OS of 100 MB or more, surely there's room for a translator that can make old drivers work with new machines.

This was the kind of thing that used to make the Mac smarter than other computers. I have always used both a Mac and a Wintel machine; these days, Windows is better at printing than the Mac. It's a sorry thing to say, but the Mac has lost its edge when it comes to this crucial, if unsexy, computing task. I want to see a return to the days when Apple evangelists could show someone how to print from a Mac and be able to truthfully say, "It doesn't get any easier than that."

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