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Is Your Universal Print driver REALLY UNIVERSAL???

March 8, 2010

Follow me printing,  follow you printing, secure printing,  or rules based routing…. for these to work correctly we need to have EITHER all the same type of Printers OR a Universal Print Driver. Since I don’t know any company that has all the same model(s) of Printers or MFDs, lets look at the Universal Print Driver option.

What is a “Universal Print Driver”? For starters there are two flavors; Postscript or PCL. I will spare you all the gory details but let’s just say that these are two different printer languages. But once we have a PCL Universal Driver or a PS Universal driver what do you actually have? That depends on who you ask.

You may only be able to determine the capabilities of your vendors “Universal Print Driver” by asking a series of pointed questions. Why, you ask is this necessary? Because different vendors use the same term BUT mean different things by it. If we are going to have an intelligent conversation, it is incumbent upon us to first define our terms.

What the Vendors want you to think of when you hear the term “Universal Print Driver” is a single print driver that will print to any printer, right? Not so fast. The Sales guy will tell you that “YES we have a UNIVERSAL PRINT DRIVER”, and “A UNIVERSAL PRINT DRIVER CAN PRINT TO DIFFERENT MANUFACTURER’S PRINTERS”. So you say that is great we can load one driver on our end users PCs and they can print to various printers correctly (Oh no, you added the word “correctly”, Huston we have a problem).

This is where we separate the men from the boys when it comes to “Universal Print Drivers”. Once you purchase a solution that says it will provide a Universal Print Driver and you begin to impliment said solution you meet the system integrator (the technical guy) and you ask him the following questions, you may find out that the “Universal Print Driver” that his company sold you is not so Universal. What? Really? How come the Sales Person didn’t tell me this? (owwww…..That is the sound of me biting my tongue).

I am a fan of people making a fully informed decision. I am not a fan of misleading terms. So Let’s define a REAL UNIVERSAL PRINT DRIVER as one that (once the language is picked PCL or PS) it can print to any printer that supports that language (PCL or PS). Then it begs the question, does the “Universal Print Driver” that your vendor is pushing meet this standard? Here is a hint, don’t ask your sales person, ask their Systems Engineer, and make them look you in the eye when they answer.

Q1. Is it possible with your vendors Universal Print Driver to print to ANY make or model printer on your companies network and have it print correctly?

If they answer Yes to the above question please follow up with Q2 to see if they are lying.

Q2. How do you ensure that the user will get the output that they are expecting if there job is routed to a different Make or Model Printer than they originally chose?

What normally happens at this point is you find out the limitation of your vendors (not so) Universal Print driver. One vendor’s technical documentation states “If you want a print job generated for one printer to output successfully on another printer YOU must ensure that the other printer can understand all of the print commands included in the data stream from the driver.” A different vendor states that “the system does NOT check that the spool queues you select have compatible drivers, you must ensure this yourself”

What they are actually saying is that their Universal Print Driver is very limited. And unless YOU make sure that all of the printers that your end users want to print to are all compatible that their follow me \ you print solution is NOT going to work well.

So you ask…What is the alternative? Don’t all these follow me, follow you, secure printing solution all have this limitation? NO! The Canon UniFLOW solution has a TRUE, REAL UNIVERSAL PRINT DRIVER. Please ask Q1. The Answer is Yes! Now ask Q2. to see if we are lying. The answer is the Canon UniFLOW solution does NOT apply specific printer commands UNTIL the job is called for from the specific printer the end user wants to release the job at. So YOU do NOT have to ensure that each printer understands the print commands of another printer. The Canon UniFLOW Universal Print Driver is truly a  UNIQUE UNIVERSAL PRINT DRIVER! Because the printer commands are not applied until the job is released you can change the properties when you release it (B&W to COLOR, Simplex to Duplex, etc.)

Don’t let your sales person say oh yeah, universal print driver, yep! We have that too! Press them to define their terms so that you will know just how Universal (or not) their Universal Print Driver really is.

That’s My $0.02
Vince McHugh
vince.mchug@necs.biz
WWW.NECS.BIZ

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8 comments

  1. My first requirement for a “UNIVERSAL PRINT DRIVER” is that I don’t have to specify PCL, PS, GDI, UFR, XPS or whatever up front before I even install the driver. A UNIVERSAL DRIVER should not require that the end user know anything about your hardware. Does Sally from accounting know what print languages that beige box at the end of the corridor recognizes? No.

    OK so now that the reality of there being no such thing as a universal driver is gone lets look at what is left.

    1. I have an HP LaserJet4, can you print to it? sure the device is very basic PCL with no options.

    2. I have a Canon iR600. It requires specific non-standard header information even for PCL


    • dang, fat fingered a post before I was done.

      2. I have a Canon iR600. It requires specific non-standard header information even for PCL because the Canon does not use the standard PCL identifier of %12345.

      3. I have a Toshiba eStudio450. There is no PCL5 driver, but the interpreter can render a PCL5 file. So now I guess that a universal driver not only needs to know whether the machine is PCL, it must know whether the target unit understands PCL5 as well as PCL6. Maybe most do, but we are talking UNIVERSAL here.

      4. If your driver WILL attach the correct escape codes into my print file, how? Do I have to have a driver for the HP4 and the Canon 600 and the Toshiba450 installed so that it knows what tray calls and staple commands are for my driver? Then what is the point of your UNIVERSAL driver?

      All this rolls back to the same point. Universal drivers are a pipe dream. The Canon UniFlow driver may be better than the competitors, but it it far from UNIVERSAL. In my mind a UNIVERSAL driver needs to be like a hammer. It does not care who made the nail. It does not care if it is a finishing nail, a scaffolding nail, or a shingle nail. The person on the swinging in does not know and does not care. DRIVE THE NAIL.


      • RUDI…THIS IS GLARINGLY OBVIOUS!

        THIS IS WHY THE COPIER-INDUSTY IS NOW THE…

        “COPIER KILLING FIELDS”

        WW3!

        MONEY+JOB DISSATISFACTION+DECEIT=

        21ST CENTURY CYBER-TRASH!

        I LOVE COPIERS FOR A REASON!


  2. Rudi,

    I wrote the article to bring out the point that while there is yet no “perfect” Universal print driver, there IS a significant difference between what one vendor calls a “Universal Print Driver” from what another vendors functionality supports. If the buyer is educated and asks a few key questions (see above) they can make an informed decision.

    I think that there are two things that a Canon UniFLOW solution can do that will be of interest to you:

    The first is that they send the printer escape codes separate from the job itself, so that you don’t lose functionality, as well as the added benefit of your job being formatted correctly for the output device that prints it. The above article covered that point.

    But you mentioned that you don’t want your end user to have to choose between PCL or Postscript. Unfortunately in the world of printers that we live in they each speak a specific printer languages(s). So we have to deal with this reality (vendors are not likely to give us printers that all speak the same language or even support the same escape codes). But that doesn’t mean we have to choose between all or nothing.

    Canon’s UniFLOW offers a Job Conversion solution. So that a job sent in Postscript could be converted to PCL. That is a huge step towards what you are looking for. The end user doesn’t care or have to know what language their printers support. How’s that for Universal?


  3. Hi Vince,
    Searching information about the UniFLOW System I came accross your nice article. Since you seem to know quite a bit about this issue, you might be able to answer my question:

    For UniFLOW to apply the right commands to each printer, is it necessary to previously install the drivers corresponding to each printer in my office?

    I found a white paper from UniFLOW that kind of touches the issue but it is not really clear if the UniFLOW already knows the commands of all possible printers, or if I first have to provide the system with this information.
    Here is the link to the white paper, in case you want to check it out: http://www.canon.co.uk/Images/White%20paper%20-%20universal%20driver_tcm14-686519.pdf

    Thanks!


    • Nora,

      The way that UniFLOW works is with Input and Output queues. The Input Queue is set up with a Universal Print Driver (PS or PCL) and it is shared. The Output Queues are set up with the manufacturers Print driver and are not typically shared.

      If the Customer wants to mix and match between PCL & PS there is a Job Conversion module that is added and the jobs can be converted on the fly. Since the output commands are not attached to the print job until it gets released at a particular printer, the commands always match the printer. The only exception is if you are using Printers that run a proprietary print language, they would need to be tested. Of course Canon’s own UFR II print language is also supported fully.


  4. It may be universal for printers but it sure isn’t for Microsoft’s constant updates… since IE9 appeared, Office application will crash this “universal” driver at sight… I know its hard to keep up with both printer drivers and Client Operating systems but “Universal” is remain to be seen.

    My two cents.

    Tony


  5. I HATE ADVERTISING/SALES “SPIIN!”

    IF A PRODUCT/LINE/SERIES IS SO GOOD….

    PROVE IT!

    INSTALL UNITS FREE AS REAL-LIFE TRIAL TEST-BEDS AND LET THE CUTOMERS/END USERS…

    VOTE WITH THEIR FEET!

    DON’T PRODUCE A “CYBER-TRASH” PRODUCT AND WASTE R+D MONEY ON “DOLLYING” IT UP…

    BECAUSE A BIRTHDAY CAKE MADE OF FECES IS STILL…

    A PILE OF STINKY POO!

    NO MATTER HOW MUCH MONEY YOU SPEND ON DECORATIONS+ICING SUGAR!



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