Printers

Scrap the CUPS command line with the help of the Web and GUI

The CUPS command-line administration tools can seem archaic and cumbersome. In this Daily Feature, Jim McIntyre shows you how to work around the command-line quicksand by using the CUPS Web interface (along with a cadre of other helpful tools).


Any administration tasks done through the common UNIX print system (CUPS) command line may also be done through the CUPS Web interface. Not only does this make administration much simpler, but it also allows for easier remote administration.

In this Daily Feature, I will show you how easy it is to configure CUPS when you use its Web interface.

For more information
Need more CUPS information? Take a look at my “CUPS brings a universal standard to Linux printing”  article to see how CUPS is installed and administered via the command line.

Accessing the interface
The CUPS Web interface is located athttp://localhost:631/(where localhost is the IP address or host name of the server). Figure A shows the initial page for the Web interface.

Figure A
The CUPS Web interface is straightforward and simple to use.


To access any of the available menus, click on the link for the function needed and supply the correct username and password when prompted. To add a new printer to a system, select the link Do Administration Tasks and then select Add New Printer. The Add New Printer window shown in Figure B will then appear.

Figure B
The Printers screen begins by asking the administrator to add a Name, Location, and Description for the printer being installed.


To add the new printer to a system, provide the following information:
  • The printer name:  This will be the name used when any CUPS administration is performed.
  • The location of the new printer:  The location can be any text necessary to describe the printer’s location, such as Finance Dept or HR Laser.
  • The description:  The description can be any text that further describes the printer.

Once the printer addition is complete, configuration changes are made through the Printers menu. This menu is used to select and manage individual printers, and to check the status of a printer. The printer may also be stopped or set to reject print jobs while administration tasks are performed. Any aspect of printer configuration that is done via command line may be made through this menu.

In addition to these tasks, the CUPS Web interface provides access to the following administration tasks:
  • Printer class management:  A class is a collection of several printers. When printing classes are employed, print jobs are redirected to the next available printer in the class, rather than waiting for a specific printer to complete a print job.
  • Access help:  This allows the administrator to access the complete set of CUPS documentation.
  • Jobs:  Here, the administrator can manage print jobs currently in the print queue and view completed print jobs.

The Manage Printers screen (see Figure C) is used to control individual printers and may be used to control the following settings:
  • Print a test page from the selected printer
  • Start or stop the printer
  • Set the printer to accept or reject print jobs
  • Modify the printer settings
  • Configure the printer
  • Delete the printer and its configuration

Figure C
Clicking the Add Printer button will take you back to the screen shown in Figure B.


GUI interfaces for CUPS
The CUPS package doesn’t come with its own GUI. There is one commercial GUI for CUPS available from Easy Software Products. The developers at Easy Software also developed CUPS, so this is the best choice for large printing systems where easy integration with CUPS and product support are very important.

There are also several free GUI packages available for CUPS, including the following.

GtkLP
Available from the GtkLP home page, GtkLP is based on the GTK+ toolkit. GtkLP provides several powerful features, including:
  • IPP (Internet printing protocol), support
  • Printer-specific options
  • All standard-CUPS options
  • Different preferences/files for each printer
  • X- and Console-Support
  • Theme support from within GNOME and other GTK+-based environments
  • Japanese character support

KUPS
Available from SourceForge, KUPS is the KDE management tool for CUPS. KUPS provides a GUI for managing all aspects of CUPS printing, including:
  • Complete printer/class management
  • Powerful add printer wizard
  • Job management
  • CUPS daemon configuration

XPP
X Printing Panel (XPP) is also available from SourceForge. XPP allows users to select which printer jobs are sent to and to configure options such as color adjustment, paper, etc., for the selected printer. This particular GUI has an especially attractive feature that allows users to see which printers are currently available and allows the user to select which printer to use for a specific job.

Add it up
Take the various graphical configuration/administration options available for CUPS, add them to the command-line tools, and the result is a very powerful set of printer management tools. In comparison to LPD/LPR (Line Printer Daemon/Off Line Printer), CUPS is far and above the more enterprise-ready Linux printing system.

In any enterprise environment that I consult, I strongly suggest migration to CUPS so the administrator can enjoy access to a full complement of tools.

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