To CUPS or not to CUPS

Steve Bougerolle steveb at
Tue Jul 1 22:44:21 PDT 2003

On Wed, 2003-07-02 at 12:59, John Gay wrote:

> >LPRng was the first attempt to replace it with something modern.  It
> >works quite well but predates a lot of Linux development and isn't very
> >scalable or flexible.  For example, adding new drivers or backends or
> >filters to it can be a pain.
> >
> So for someone with a small setup, this would probably be simpler to setup.
> Although the new printing from scratch hint is even easier.

If you have the *right* setup it may be a bit easier to use, or if you
are already familiar with the BSD-style configuration of LPRng and not
as familiar with the more modern syntax of CUPS.  CUPS and LPRng fill
exactly the same niche so you would gain nothing in general simplicity
by using one over another.  They are both general purpose network-aware
printing systems. It just happens that LPRng assumes a couple things
which make it a bit easier to install for many people - but which can 
make it harder to install if you don't happen to fit the assumptions. 
It's also a bit behind the times with regards to things like drivers and
IPP (or at least the last version of it that I installed was behind the

> And this the an attempt at the 'Be all, end all' printing system. For many
> users looking for small simple systems, this is overkill. For people
> setting up large networked systems, it's indespensible. For those of us in
> the middle, having info to help point us one way or the other would be
> helpful.

It is overkill, I agree, but not by much.  CUPS network support is just
a matter of picking extra options.  You don't have to deal with it at
all for a small system.  The same is true of LPRng, and in fact one of
the big strengths of CUPS is that network print configuration is much
easier with it than with LPRng.

You do have to deal with drivers, but then that would be true for any
printing system and will be problematic depending on your make of
printer (Canon seems to have about the worst score in this area, don't
know about Xerox).

> I've been reading about foomatic
> and such at but I still don't quite get it
> yet. The first time I installed CUPS, it just listed the print driver for
> my Xerox M750 printer, along with hundreds of other printers. The second
> time, it only lists a few HP printers and the gs and raw printers. And I
> used the same sources both times, so I must have forgotten something.

CUPS and foomatic and are not the same thing. I find a real big pain to deal with and have rarely been
successful trying to use any of their drivers, although the general
advice on "which printer" is helpful.

There is an underlying problem that CUPS doesn't come with that many
good free drivers, because it's developed by a company that aims to make
money by selling the drivers.  I don't see that leading to CUPS being
replaced, though.

Steve Bougerolle <steveb at>
Creek & Cowley Consulting

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