What first attracted me to Linux was not so much that it was free, but that it ran on older equipment. I have an old PC that’s still functional, and I would like to extend its life a little longer with Linux. I also have an older HP DeskJet printer Model 855C. Would it run on Linux? To find out, I searched the Internet for Linux print sites, and this is what I found.

Red Hat hardware compatibility list (HCL)
It seemed a natural first step would be to search my Linux vendor’s site. In my case, I searched Red Hat’s Web site since I planned to install Red Hat 6.1. The site referred me to the Red Hat hardware compatibility list. This page lists the printer drivers that run with Red Hat 7.1 and where to find them. If you are planning to use printtool, the GUI printer administration tool that comes with Red Hat, this is a good place to start.

Red Hat’s Printtool gives you a GUI interface from which you can choose a ghostscript-supported printer type and UNIX device file to print to, and then it installs a print queue in /etc/printcap and uses a filter program from the rhs-printfilters package to support postscript and other common input types. The Red Hat Hardware Compatibility List page lists the printers that are compatible with printtool and where their drivers can be found. Some are available on the Red Hat Installation CD; others must be downloaded from the Linux community. There is also information on what limitations to expect from each driver and how difficult each one will be to install.

In my own case, I found some HP DeskJet printers listed, but not my particular model. Since this was a listing for Red Hat Version 7.1 and I planned to work with 6.1, I referred to the Red Hat 6.1 Reference Guide to confirm whether or not DeskJet printers were supported. The documentation indicated that some models were supported, but there were no print filters listed for my model. My next recourse was to check HP’s site.

HP Linux InkJet Driver Project
If you have an HP DeskJet inkjet printer, the HP Linux Inkjet Driver Project is a good site to search. Here you will find drivers and support resources for the HP Linux Inkjet Driver Project, which is an add-on to the GNU Ghostscript application. Over 40 DeskJet printer models are supported. You can download the driver from this site in either source or binary format. There are also links to HP’s LaserJet SourceForge Project (for those looking for LaserJet drivers) and to HP’s OfficeJet SourceForge Project (for OfficeJet models).

Since I was interested in getting my HP inkjet to run on Linux, I immediately went to the link for Supported Printers to find out whether there were drivers that worked with printtool. But, while the DeskJet 800C Series was listed, my particular model wasn’t. Also, the 800C driver that was available supported only basic printing functions, which meant it could only print in greyscale, among other limitations.

HP Linux support page
My next attempt led me to the HP Linux support page. Here I found a listing of the Linux drivers available for HP printers, from both HP and the open source community. For my particular model, it linked me directly to the information on HP 855C at LinuxPrinting.org where I found information on four compatible drivers and links to their home pages, as well as links to PDQ, LPR, and CUPS printing system interfaces. I also found a wealth of information, including forums and online manuals, at LinuxPrinting.org for setting up my printer with open source software.

LinuxPrinting.org support database
While the HP link took me directly to the printer information I needed, at LinuxPrinting.org you can search the site’s database directly for virtually any printer that is currently supported by a Linux driver. All you need to do is select your printer’s name and model number from the drop down list on the site’s printer listing page. Here you’ll find device specifications, notes, driver information, user-maintained documentation, links to manufacturer Web pages, as well as interface scripts for using drivers with several print spooling systems, including LPR, LPRng, PDQ, and CUPS.

Easy Software Product’s Print Pro
If what you really want is a GUI-based printer administration tool and the one that comes with your Linux distribution does not support your particular printer, you may want to consider Easy Software’s PrintPro. (My own search of Easy Software’s site confirmed that HP 855C color printing is supported.)

Print Pro is a commercial product based on the Common UNIX Printing System (CUPS) and supports a wider range of printers than open source CUPS. But the cost is steep, which may preclude its use with older printers.
Linux printer driver Web sites at a glance

Linux printer driver Web site

Red Hat Hardware Compatibility List


Lists print drivers that are compatible with Red Hat 7.1 printtool along with installation tips

Gives links to printtool—compatible open source drivers not available on Red Hat Install CD

Lists only hardware compatible with Red Hat Version 7.1; earlier releases not included

HP Linux InkJet Driver Project


HP’s Laserjet Sourceforge Project


HP’s Officejet Sourceforge Project


Lists Linux drivers and support services available for HP Printers

Drivers can be downloaded in either binary or source format.

This site supports only HP printers.

Listed drivers do not necessarily support all HP printer functions; other open source alternatives not listed.

HP Linux Support Page


Lists availability of Linux drivers for all HP Printer Models, whether or not HP supports them

Provides links to linuxprinting.org for downloading HP drivers available from the open source community

Lists only HP printer drivers

Information on printers no longer supported by HP is sparse.

linuxprinting.org Support Database (http://www.linuxprinting.org/

Most complete site on Linux printing

Lists all Linux printer drivers available, with links to their download sites and compatible interfaces

Includes documentation and support from the open source community

Drivers listed will not necessarily work with Linux vendors’ GUI printer tools.

Your Linux OS vendor may not support drivers listed.

Easy Software Print Pro


Provides GUI tools for installing CUPS-compatible printers

Wide range of printer drivers is supported.

Easy Software Print Pro printer installation software is a licensed software product whose cost may not justify the use of older printers.

Common Unix Printing System (CUPS)


Download site for CUPS (CUPS includes drivers for Epson and HP printers.)

Provides links to sites that support CUPS-compatible drivers not included with CUPS

Includes extensive documentation on CUPS

Users must know CUPS to install drivers.

Your Linux OS vendor may not support CUPS.

Where to go from here
These are just a few of the Web sites that I found helpful when getting started in Linux printing. From these sites, you will find numerous other links to Linux drivers, printer system interfaces, and how-to documentation. With more links being added daily, there’s a good chance that you will find what you need to get that old printer of yours to run on Linux.

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