As mentioned before in the first “Mac OS X Lion Basics installment,” it’s no fun feeling like the only person who doesn’t know how to complete a process you believe everyone else understands. In my experience, not everyone does know. That’s why I’m taking time, following Lion’s release, to review fundamentals.

Despite the push for paperless offices, printing remains a critical task. Here’s how to add a printer to a Mac OS X Lion system.

Adding a printer

Many administrators, particularly former Windows technicians unfamiliar with Mac printer installation, will be pleasantly surprised to learn that printer installation is typically much easier on Macs than on Windows systems. However, this is true only if printers are compatible with Mac systems. Prior to purchasing a printer, Mac administrators should first confirm the printer is Mac-compatible by reviewing Apple’s compatibility list. Once a printer is known to be compatible, users and administrators can proceed to installation.

As a matter of habit, Mac administrators should regularly download and install updates. Running Lion’s Software Update helps ensure that the most current printer drivers are downloaded and available. If Software Update hasn’t been run within the past month, that step should be taken before installing a printer.

Next, Mac users and admins should ensure the printer is turned on and ready to print. If installing a local printer, connecting the printer’s USB cable to the Mac. Lion should detect the printer, create a new print queue, and install the driver. If new or additional software must be downloaded, Lion will present a dialog stating so. Users can click the resultant Install button to download and install the required print driver.

Note that wirelessly connected printers may require an initial connection via a USB cable, but not always. But once a wireless printer is joined to the network, or other Macs, a Time Capsule or AirPort shares a printer, Mac systems should be able to find it if the printer supports Apple’s Bonjour service.

To add these “nearby” printers, Mac administrators can select the printer from the Printers pop-up menu when selecting Print from within an application. Again, if software must first be downloaded, Lion will provide a prompt for installing the necessary drivers.

Other options

Printer installation alternatives exist, too. You may install printers from the Apple’s System Preferences menu by selecting View, clicking Print & Scan, and clicking the + icon. The Bonjour service will scan the local network for compatible online printers.

If the Default method fails to identify compatible printers, you can choose the available IP or Windows buttons to manually configure required printer settings. Typically when manually configuring printer settings you must enter the protocol and address (if using IP settings) or specify the system or network hosting the printer (if using Windows settings).

Still another option when installing printers in Lion is to use the CD-ROM or DVD supplied by the printer manufacturer. However, unlike with many Windows printer installations, on Macs it’s often easier to try the preceding steps first.