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How does printing really work?


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I have been printing for several years using a HP LJ 1010 and since a few month occasionally on a HP Deskjet 3820. When reviewing all the software I had installed (I occasionally go through all installs to remove software which after testing proved to be not delivering what I was looking for) I realised that I had possibly 30 packages installed to enable printing. Some analysis showed that the total printing 'sub-system' consists of 6 parts: cups, ghostscript, foomatic, hpijs, hplip and gutenprint.


I understand the need for cups (provide and manage printer queues, also over network). On the other end of the spectrum I now understand that (parts of) hplip are needed for communication with the printer (including the more advanced stuff such as clean printhead for my inkjet). This investigation also clarified that it is possible to remove most of hplip (some libraries remain); I have not yet discovered a need for more info/tools than what the typical print dialogs of applications provide. I also could remove task-printing and task-printing-hp (meta package, which pulls in hplip and some sort of foomatic to ijs converter) and task-printing-server (which pulls in CUPS).


Where I loose the plot is why I need both hpijs, foomatic and guten-print. All three seem to provide the basic driver info (convert postscript to printer-language), but none of the info I have found so far clarifies whether I need all three or that they are simply pulled in as a required dependency even though not really necessary (have seen this more with Mandriva).


Anybody who can clarify this or point me to a website which clarifies the roles of these components? The best I have seen is on HP's HPLIP, but that only clarifies role of hpijs. The foomatic website seems to suggest that foomatic's role (PPD provider and rasterizer) is very similar to hpijs.

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You definitely don't need Gutenprint for a HP printer, and most probably you don't need Foomatic, either.

I havewn't used a HP printer since ages, but I can make my Canon printer work without issues with no foomatic present (just cups athe the semi-crippled gutenprint driver, which is working fine, but with limited resolution abilities). I can even remove Gutenprint and use Turboprint instead, but Turboprint is neither free, nor cheap.

Edited by scarecrow
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