Note: this article originally ran in Small Dog’s Tech Tails newsletter. Reprinted here because it’s very useful for Mac users in general.

Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard brings a multitude of under-the-hood improvements, most of which are invisible to the normal user. However, changes to the Print and Scan architecture will affect users of older printers, scanners, and all-in-one units. Here is some useful information if you are about to make this upgrade.

Apple has bundled printer drivers with recent versions of Mac OS X and has taken things a step further in Snow Leopard, currently including software drivers for multifunction devices from Apple, Brother, Canon, Epson, Fuji-Xerox, Gestentner, HP, Infotec, Lanier, Lexmark, NRG, Ricoh, Samsung, Savin, Tektronix, Xerox, as well as selected drivers for some other manufacturers. Check your device against Apple’s list to see whether it is compatible for printing and/or scanning in Snow Leopard.

Apple’s knowledge base also has an entry called Mac 101 – Printing that details the exactly how to set up your printer.

Apple is also providing driver updates through Apple Software update for devices from Brother, Canon, Epson, HP, and Lexmark (and possibly others in the future). Now instead of getting individual updates for each device from manufacturers’ websites, printer driver updates come directly through Apple’s Software Update mechanism. For other manufacturers, you can keep checking for updates in the first link above, and the respective manufacturer’s website.

A big change in Snow Leopard is the discontinuation of AppleTalk support. AppleTalk, a long-lived protocol for printing and file sharing, saw it’s final iteration in Leopard, and is now completely gone in Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. If you have a printer that uses AppleTalk, you can try to see if it supports any other methods for printing, such as Bonjour, IP Printing, or generic PCL support. There are some very old printers that support only PCL and AppleTalk, so you can try the generic PCL drivers for those if all other options are unavailable.

In 10.5 and earlier, most scanning was done through custom applications provided by each scanner vendor. Some of that custom scanner software will continue to work on machines upgraded from 10.5 to 10.6, but most scanning devices work under Apple’s own Image Capture application found in the Applications folder. In the short run, some users with slightly older gear will have to wait for newer driver updates to use Image Capture, but anyone with a new scanner or all-in-one unit should be able to use Image Capture right out of the box. Please check the compatibility list to check for your specific unit.

Printers and scanners are often neglected as consumers and businesses upgrade their gear. If you find that your equipment isn’t fully supported in Snow Leopard, this is a great time to upgrade to more modern printers, scanners, and all-in-one units that support modern protocols like Bonjour. While our consulting staff can often coax more support out of older gear, the most cost-effective choice is often to just get new gear that works right out of the box, provides more robust features, networking, power consumption, and reliability.

Give us a call or stop in one of our stores to talk about new gear, or contact Rob Amon in corporate sales if you are interested in bigger office printers, printer leasing, and printer/scanner gear that goes beyond the list on our website.

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