By Mark L. Chambers

Printer Browser runs automatically whenever it’s needed by Yosemite, but you can always summon it at any time by clicking the plus sign (or Add) button on the Printers & Scanners pane in System Preferences.

If your USB printer is natively supported (has a preloaded driver in Yosemite), you might not need to go through the trouble of clicking the Add button on the Printers & Scanners pane. 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 OS X lies dormant.

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

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Along the top of Printer Browser are three toolbar icons that display the printer connections possible in Yosemite that you can add to your system:

  • Default: Click this button to display the entries for any printers that are automatically detected by your Mac (no matter what the connection type).

    To choose as default a printer that you’ve already added, click System Preferences and click the Printers & Scanners icon. Click the Default Printer pop-up menu in the Printers & Scanners pane, and choose that printer. You can also choose the Last Printer Used option from the pop-up menu, which automatically makes the default printer the last printer you used.

  • 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 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.

    If you’re using Apple’s AirPrint feature on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to wirelessly print (using your AirPrint-compatible printer), consider using the fine handyPrint application from Netputing. After installing handyPrint on your Mac, you can then use AirPrint to print to virtually any networked or shared printer, regardless of the manufacturer.

    The handyPrint app is free to try, but the authors require a donation if you want to fully license the software. If you prefer a stand-alone hardware printing solution for your iOS devices — one that doesn’t require your Mac to remain turned on in order to print — consider the xPrintServer wireless print server from Lantronix, which retails for $100.

  • Windows: Click this button to add a shared printer that’s connected to a PC on your local network. “Hey, I get to use the enemy’s printers, too?” That’s right, as long as a Windows user on your network has shared his or her printer (via the ubiquitous Windows File and Printer Sharing feature). Sweet.

Oh, and one additional important control on the toolbar isn’t actually a button: You can click in the Search box and type text to locate a particular printer in any of these dialog lists. (In a larger company, this field can save you the trouble of scrolling through several pages of shared printers.)