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September 96 - Print Hints: The All-New LaserWriter Driver Version 8.4

Print Hints: The All-New LaserWriter Driver Version 8.4

Dave Polaschek

By the time you read this, version 8.4 of the LaserWriter 8 printer driver will have shipped. This driver -- LaserWriter version 8.4, for short -- is not the same old LaserWriter driver: it has new features that developers have been asking for, sports a new user interface, and beats earlier versions of the driver in the quarter mile.

Here I'll outline some of the changes -- a few minor, a few major -- that you need to be aware of for compatibility reasons. Even if you don't want to take advantage of any of the great new features, you'll at least need to address compatibility issues if any of the changes cause problems with your application.

To help you implement the new features, this column is backed up with detailed documentation on this issue's CD.


The 120-byte print record in the previous driver version doesn't have as many free bits available as some programmers would like. So to let you save all possible printing information about a document, Apple decided to allow for extensible print records.

If all you want to do is maintain compatibility with the new driver version, you shouldn't need to change your application at all. But if you want to take advantage of the extended print record -- and implement attractive features such as access to a larger number of paper sizes, tray handling that works with the PrJobMerge function, and the ability to reliably save more user settings from the Page Setup dialog -- you do need to make some minor changes, along the following lines:

  • Because the extended print record can be any size larger than 120 bytes, your application must not make any assumptions about the record's size.

  • Although the locations of fields that are currently defined within the TPrint structure won't change, you should use PrGeneral with the extended print record opcodes (described below) to access any additional fields.

  • When using an extended print record, you'll need to call the extendPrDefault and extendPrValidate functions where you previously would have called the functions PrintDefault and PrValidate. (The new extend functions really just call PrGeneral with specific opcodes, but are more convenient to use than PrGeneral itself.) See "Extending the Print Record" on this issue's CD for more information on the extend functions and how they use the new PrGeneral opcodes.
Those who break the rules might need to make more changes. See the Print Hints column in develop Issue 26 ("The Top 10 Printing Crimes Revisited") for more information.


LaserWriter version 8.4 adds three new PrGeneral opcodes for dealing with the extended print record: kExtendPrintRecOp (which extends the print record), kGetExtendedPrintRecOp, and kSetExtendedPrintRecOp.

Table 1 gives a complete list of all the PrGeneral opcodes as of June 1996 (but be aware that printing in Mac OS 8 might not implement all of these). These opcodes are all planned to be supported by LaserWriter version 8.4, except for the ones that aren't used by LaserWriter 8 (as noted in the table). Refer to the article "Meet PrGeneral" in develop Issue 3 for more information about PrGeneral.

Table 1. The PrGeneral opcodes

Opcode Operation
4 getRslDataOp
5 setRslOp
6 draftBitsOp
7 noDraftBitsOp
8 getRotnOp
9 NoGrayScl (not used by LaserWriter 8)
10 getPSInfoOp
11 PSIntentionsOp
12 enableColorMatchingOp
13 registerProfileOp (ColorSync 1 only; not used by LaserWriter 8)
14 PSAdobeOp
15 PSPrimaryPPDOp
16 kLoadCommProcsOp
17 kUnloadCommProcsOp
18 kExtendPrintRecOp (LaserWriter version 8.4 and later only)
19 kGetExtendedPrintRecOp (LaserWriter version 8.4 and later only)
20 kPrinterDirectOpCode (not used by any LaserWriter driver)
21 kSetExtendedPrintRecOp (LaserWriter version 8.4 and later only)


The print dialogs have been completely redesigned for LaserWriter version 8.4.

Applications that use the approved method of extending the print dialogs will continue to function. But if your application uses a nonstandard method of extending the print dialogs, it's in trouble. The definitive source about how to extend a print dialog is PDlog Expand, available as sample code on this issue's CD and included with the Macintosh Technical Note "Print Dialogs: Adding Items" (PR 09).

The new print dialogs have a pop-up menu that lets the user select between multiple panes of the dialog. In Figure 1, the General pane has been selected from the pop-up menu. When an application adds items to the print dialog, they're added to a pane that has the name of the application. Because of this new multipane dialog, applications that extend the print dialogs in a nonstandard manner will cause many problems, such as dialog items appearing in the wrong locations, standard items being overwritten within the dialog, and standard items being drawn incorrectly.

Figure 1. The new multipane print dialog

Applications also shouldn't assume that the print dialog's foreground color is black or that the background color is white. Furthermore, when applications exit their CDEFs or user items, they should be careful to leave the foreground and background colors as they found them. Other items in the dialog rely on these colors, so if you change them the standard controls in the print dialog could take on unusual colors.


With LaserWriter version 8.4, when background printing is disabled, printing is one-pass. This means that there are no longer any big spool files to fill up your hard drive, and the first printed page comes out of the printer more quickly (because it doesn't have to wait for the entire document to spool). The downside is that because the LaserWriter driver isn't making two passes over the data to be printed, it might not be able to perform the same optimizations on the PostScript(TM) code as when background printing is enabled.

As a result, jobs printed with background printing disabled might print more slowly, and in a few cases the final quality could suffer. With the advent of one-pass printing, if your application has its own PostScript LaserPrep dictionary, it should use the PREC 103 mechanism for this dictionary. With this mechanism, the driver downloads to the printer the PostScript dictionary contained in the PREC 103 resource before it's needed by application-generated PostScript code. If the application doesn't do this and defines its own PostScript procedures at the page level, these procedures will be undefined as part of the one-pass font-handling mechanism and you'll get PostScript errors (mostly undefined operators, because the operators you defined aren't there).


Some of the functionality of LaserWriter version 8.4 has been broken out into shared libraries, including the following:
  • Converter library -- generation of PostScript code

  • PPD library -- parsing of the PostScript printer description file

  • Preferences and Collection libraries -- storage and retrieval of preferences file data

  • Downloader library -- downloading of PostScript and EPS files to a printer

  • PostScript Utilities library -- PostScript utility functions

  • Communications library -- communications
In the future, Apple may provide APIs to these shared libraries for third parties.


If you're a printer developer, you should know that the way PPD files are parsed and handled has changed in LaserWriter version 8.4. Previous versions of the driver would supply a "Printer's Default" choice so that the user could choose not to decide about a certain feature and accept the default setting of the printer. With version 8.4, the driver will no longer provide this option. If PPD creators want to continue to have a Printer's Default option for a user interface feature (called UIFeature in the PPD specification), they'll have to add it to the PPD file in the list of options for that feature.

Also, common features available through the PPD file will be added to the correct pane of the print dialog. Features that aren't recognized or that are vendor-specific will be placed in their own pane. This can cause problems: if you use a nonstandard naming convention for a common feature, it will be placed with all other unknown features, and if you use a standard name for a nonstandard feature, it will probably end up in the wrong location.

One other change is that you can specify the graphic elements you'd like to use for UI features specified within the PPD file. See "LaserWriter 8.4 PPDs" on the CD for information about how to design your own pane for use with LaserWriter version 8.4. The latest Apple PPD files are the best examples of how to implement the new features.


LaserWriter 8 introduced a number of new error codes, but they haven't been documented -- until now, that is. See the unofficial documentation "LaserWriter 8 Errors" on the CD. Future versions of this document will be released as Technotes. These error codes are provided for debugging purposes. Be aware that they may change in the future, so you probably don't want your application to depend on them.


That's a quick rundown of the new features of the newest version of the LaserWriter driver. These features should make printing a better experience for the user, should give the developer more flexibility, and should require no changes to most applications. And to top it all off, they're cool!


    • "Print Hints: The Top Ten Printing Crimes Revisited" by Dave Polaschek, develop Issue 26.

    • "Meet PrGeneral, the Trap that Makes the Most of the Printing Manager" by Pete "Luke" Alexander, develop Issue 3.

    • Macintosh Technical Note "Print Dialogs: Adding Items" (PR 09).

    • "Extending the Print Record,""LaserWriter 8.4 PPDs," and "LaserWriter 8 Errors," all on this issue's CD.

DAVE POLASCHEK ( continues to be confused by California. There's nice weather when it isn't baseball season, the earth moves even when he's alone, and it's easier to find good wine than good beer. Dave works in Developer Technical Support (DTS) at Apple. If you'd like more details, look at*


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