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How to Use Mac Snow Leopard’s Printer Browser

The Printer Browser is where you control your printer activities. It runs automatically whenever it’s needed by Snow Leopard, but you can always summon it by clicking the plus sign (or Add) button on the Print & Fax pane within System Preferences.

If your USB printer is already natively supported (has a preloaded driver in Snow Leopard), you might not need to go through the trouble of clicking the Add button on the Print & Fax pane. Mac OS X can add a new USB printer automatically, so don’t be surprised if your Mac swoops in and does it for you as soon as you plug in a new printer. Also, the manufacturer’s installation program for your printer might add the printer for you in a behind-the-scenes way, even if Mac OS X lies dormant.

Although the Printer Browser doesn’t look like much, power lurks underneath.

Four toolbar icons along the top of the Printer Browser display the different types of printer conn
Four toolbar icons along the top of the Printer Browser display the different types of printer connections possible in Snow Leopard.

From the Browser, you can add these printers to your system. The four buttons are

  • Default: Click this button to add or display the entry for the default printer, which always appears in bold type.

    To choose your default printer that you’ve already added, click the Default Printer pop-up menu in the Print & Fax list and choose that printer. You can also choose the Last Printer Used option, which automatically makes the default printer the last printer you used.

  • Fax: Click this button to add a fax connection as a printer selection. If you don’t want to use Snow Leopard’s built-in faxing system, you can print directly to a third-party fax program which then dials, connects, and sends the document to a fax machine.

  • IP: Click this button to add a remote printer to your Mac through an Internet connection or a local network connection. Sending a job to an Internet Protocol (IP) printer actually shoots the document across a network or Internet connection by using a target IP address or domain name. Generally, it’s best to have a static (unchanging) IP address for a network printer; if the IP address changes often, for example, you have to reconfigure your connection to your IP printer each time it changes.

  • Windows: Click this button to add a shared printer that’s connected to a PC on your local network.

The most popular third-party printer driver is the Adobe Acrobat printer driver, which is installed by Adobe Acrobat and used to create electronic PDF documents. Although you can install Adobe Acrobat under Snow Leopard, you don’t have to! That’s because the operating system provides built-in support for printing documents in Adobe’s PDF format (which can then be viewed and printed on any other computer with Acrobat Reader or added to your Web site for downloading). Acrobat has more features, naturally, but don’t pay for Acrobat unless you need it!

In fact, you don’t even have to install a PDF print driver or display the Printer Browser! To print a document as a file in PDF format, click the PDF drop-down button in the application’s Print dialog, click Save as PDF from the menu, navigate to the desired folder and enter a filename, and then click Save.

Oh, and there’s one additional important control on the toolbar that isn’t actually a button: You can click in the Search field and type text to locate a particular printer in any of these dialog lists.

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