Lesson 1: Network Printing

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This lesson presents an overview of the network printing process and describes how a shared printer works within a network operating system.

After this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Give an overview of the network printing process.
  • Describe the role of print spoolers and queues in network printing.
  • Describe the steps required to make a printer available for sharing to the network.

Estimated lesson time: 15 minutes

The Network Printing Process

As shown in Figure 11.1, when network users want to print data on a shared network printer, they send their data to a print server. The server then feeds that data to a shared printer.

click to view at full size.

Figure 11.1 Data to be printed goes first to the print server

A print spooler is software that intercepts a print job on its way from the application (a word processor, for example) to the printer, and sends it to a print queue. A print queue is a buffer where the print job is held until the printer is ready for it.

Network printing occurs in the following four steps.

  1. An application formats its document data into a form the printer can use, and sends it out.
  2. The computer's redirector sends the data onto the network, where it travels to the print server computer.
  3. The print-spooler software on the print server computer places the data in a print queue on the server.
  4. The print queue stores the data until the printer is free to print it.

Print queues generally use RAM for storage because it can move data faster than a hard disk can. However, if numerous documents are sent to the printer at once and the queue overflows, the overflow documents will be sent to the print server's hard disk to wait their turn in the queue.

Sharing a Printer

Connecting a printer to a network print server will not, in itself, make the printer available to network users. The printer is a resource on the server, and—like any other resource—it must be shared to the network before anyone can access it. In a server-based network, access to the printer can be controlled in the same way as access to any other resource on the server.

To send print jobs to a printer, users have to be able to identify or see the printer from their computers. In other words, the network operating system (NOS) must provide a way for the printer to contact network computers to identify itself and signal that it is available.

Essential Printer Information

Every NOS has its own version of printer sharing, but each requires the administrator to provide printer drivers and supply the NOS with information about the printer.

These procedures include:

  • Loading printer drivers so that the printer can work with the print server.
  • Creating a share name for the printer so that other network users are able to recognize and access it.
  • Identifying the destination of the output so that the redirector knows where to send the print job.
  • Setting information and output format parameters so that the NOS will know how to handle and format the print job.

The Print-Sharing Utility

This process can seem complex, but most network operating systems have utilities to help administrators enter the information. In Windows NT Server, for example, a utility called the Print Manager presents the printer setup screen shown in Figure 11.2.

click to view at full size.

Figure 11.2 Windows NT Print Manager printer setup

Connecting to a Printer

After a printer has been shared, users must use the NOS to connect to it. To do this, users need to know two things:

  • The name of the server to which the printer has been connected
  • The name of the printer

This explains why the administrator needs to supply a name for the printer during the sharing process. Current computer operating systems, such as Windows, provide a graphical user interface to help users connect to a printer.

To use Windows NT as an example, you can double-click on the server name and select the printer. To connect to the printer on the server, double-click the server icon, and then select the required printer from the list.

Exercise 11.1: Term Definition Review

In this exercise, a list of terms is given in the left column. For each term listed, fill in the definition in the space given in the column to the right.

Print spooler 
Print queue 
Print-sharing utility 
Share name 
Printer driver 
Print Manager 


Lesson Summary

The following points summarize the main elements of this lesson:

  • The redirector is used to direct the print job from the local computer's printer port out to the network.
  • A print spooler is software that intercepts a print job and sends it to a print queue.
  • A print queue is a buffer in which the print job is held until the printer is ready for it.
  • A printer, like files and directories, must be shared on the network before any user can access it.
  • Most network operating systems have a utility to help administer the printing process.

MCSE Training Kit Networking Essentials Plus 1999
MCSE Training Kit: Networking Essentials Plus, Third Edition (IT Professional)
ISBN: 157231902X
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2005
Pages: 106

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