Printing: Duplex & Margins

If you are using KDE4, you may discover that a number of applications that use GTK/GNOME (e.g., Firefox and Thunderbird) to print, their Print…|Page Setup screens will not let you select any Two-Sided options. Since there is no nice global KDE4 printer configuration tool yet, the fix is to:

  1. Access CUPS using a web browser via http://localhost:631/.
  2. Click on the Printers tab.
  3. For the desired printer, select Set Printer Options.
  4. Change the Duplexer Installed setting from Not Installed to Installed.
  5. Click Set Printer Options.

Also, if you are using HPLIP and are having issues with the print margins, then this may help:

  1. Upgrade to the latest stable CUPS, if you haven't already done so.
  2. Upgrade to the latest stable HPLIP, if you haven't already done so.
  3. Run the hp-toolbox tool.
  4. Delete all of the relevant HP printers.
    • This will delete all settings and PPD files for those printers.
  5. Recreate all of your HP printers.
    • This will recreate all default printer settings, PPD files, etc.

I recently encountered this issue on a computer which was only resolved by (i) ensuring the latest stable releases of CUPS and HPLIP were installed and then (ii) deleting all HP printers and recreating them. With hp-toolbox, deleting and recreating all HP printers is quick and easy: simply use the round "-" (to delete) and "+" (to create) buttons.

NOTE: If you do this for an HP printer supporting duplex printing, remember to follow the directions given earlier to set the Duplexer Installed setting to Installed! 🙂

Finally, avoid using "testing" or "unstable" versions of CUPS or HPLIP unless you have a newly released printer that was unsupported, or, there is a critical bug fix for your printer that must be fixed.

Office Printer Versus Photo Printer Prints

I had the opportunity to examine the differences between two excellent printers: an HP OfficeJet 8500 Wireless and an HP Photosmart C8180. Both are All-In-One InkJet printers made by Hewlett-Packard. The OfficeJet is a printer, scanner, copier, and fax machine with a number of features and the Photosmart is a printer, scanner, and copier machine.

I was curious as to how much of a difference there would be between the 4-colour OfficeJet printer and the six-colour Photosmart printer using the high-end 8.5"x11" HP Premuim Plus High-Gloss photo paper. The test picture I used was a high-resolution version of this picture of a wasp and an ant on a trumpet vine that my Dad took a couple of days ago:

Wasp and ant on a trumpet vine.To avoid any issues with computer printer drivers, I placed the picture on a USB memory stick, inserted it directly into both printers, and used each printer's touchscreen to output the 8.5"x11" borderless print.

The results were very interesting. Both printers outputted correct, excellent colours with at their respective highest resolutions. However, as I predicted, the 4-colour print lacked the depth and vibrancy of the six-colour print. While many would not notice too of a difference, the difference is dramatically best described as the 6-colour print looks real (i.e., its appearance is best described as fantastic) and the 4-colour print is best described as a very good print. Put another way, the 4-colour version looks flat –almost matte, even though it is on glossy paper.

After seeing the 4-colour glossy print looking almost matte, I was curious to see how it would look on matte paper. So, I printed it again on HP Premium Plus matte paper to compare. The 4-colour matte print looked completely matte (as expected) as compared to the glossy print (which was only about 50% glossy). As a result, the 4-colour matte print looked better than the 4-colour glossy print since the latter was only partially glossy in appearance. On the other hand, the 6-colour Photosmart printer's glossy print was beautifully 100% glossy and its matte print was completely matte (both as expected).

While not surprising, the Photosmart printer is the device of choice to output photographs, but, it was nice to see the differences between a standard, office-style printer and a photo printer. Certainly, for lesser pictures or if one could not afford to get an office and a photo printer, one would enjoy prints from the office printer. That said, for pictures that look real, have vibrant colours, and are worthy of framing, the photo printer with high quality photo paper is a must-have to output digital photographs.