The Printer Browser on Your MacBook

The Printer Browser on your MacBook runs automatically whenever it’s needed by Lion, but you can always summon it at any time by clicking the plus sign (or Add) button on the Print & Scan pane within System Preferences.

If your USB printer is already natively supported (has a preloaded driver in Lion), you might not need to go through the trouble of clicking the Add button on the Print & Scan pane. Mac OS X can add a new USB printer automatically, so don’t be surprised if your MacBook 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.

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Along the top of the Printer Browser, you’ll find four toolbar icons that display the different types of printer categories possible in Lion. 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 a printer you’ve already added as your default printer, click the Default Printer pop-up menu in the Print & Scan pane 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: If you have an external USB fax device, click this button to add a fax connection as a printer selection.

  • 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.

    Are you using Apple’s AirPrint feature on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to wirelessly print using your HP or Epson printer? If so, consider the fine AirPrint Activator 2.1 application from Netputing — it requires iOS 4.2 or later.

    Once you’ve installed AirPrint Activator 2.1 on your MacBook, you can AirPrint to virtually any networked or shared printer, regardless of the manufacturer. AirPrint Activator 2.1 is free to use, but the authors also appreciate donations.

  • Windows: Click this button to add a shared printer that’s connected to a PC on your local network. As long as a Windows user on your network has shared his printer (via the ubiquitous Windows File and Printer Sharing feature), you can use it. Sweet.

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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