TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Print Hints

PRINT HINTS

Sending PostScript Files to a LaserWriter

Dave Polaschek

A question that popped up pretty often for me when I worked in Apple's Developer Technical Support group, and that continues to appear in the Mac programming newsgroups on the Internet, is "How do I send PostScript TM files to a LaserWriter?" The simplest answer appears to be to use the PostScriptHandle picture comment. Wrong! In the Print Hints column "The Top 10 Printing Crimes Revisited" in develop Issue 26, I said that this would be a misuse of the PostScriptHandle picture comment, but I didn't give a full explanation of just how to send files to a printer. This column will explain how to send complete PostScript files the correct way.

First, though, I'd like to backtrack a little and explain more thoroughly why you shouldn't use the picture comment to send complete PostScript files. After all, if you do implement code that uses this technique, the files get to the printer, pages come out, and things seem mostly to work. What's the problem?

WHY NOT USE POSTSCRIPTHANDLE?

The problem with using the PostScriptHandle picture comment to send files to a printer is that you're using the Printing Manager to do some of the work for you and then bypassing it unexpectedly. The problems that will show up when you do this may not be obvious, but when a user does notice them it can lead to confusion.

First, when you use the PostScriptHandle picture comment, the LaserWriter driver has already set up the PostScript state for QuickDraw imaging. It has changed the coordinate system and has sent down the md dictionary that it will need to draw pages. At best, this is extra baggage that your PostScript files don't need in the way. At worst, since the driver has changed the coordinate system, your PostScript file may not print correctly. There's also a chance that the extra memory used by the LaserWriter's PostScript dictionary may cause your job not to print at all.

Second, using PostScriptHandle is wasteful. If background printing is enabled, the complete PostScript file, plus the extra things you don't need, will be spooled to the user's hard drive. Since what you're interested in is just getting the file to the printer, this is wasteful. In some cases, the job won't even be able to print, since your user won't have enough free space on the hard drive to hold a second copy of the PostScript file.

Finally, there's an aesthetic problem. The Printing Manager counts the pages that are going to be sent by looking at how many times PrOpenPage is called during your print job. If you've got a multiple-page PostScript file, the page count displayed by the Printing Manager will be out of whack. While messages like "Printing Page 4 of 1" won't actually hurt the user, spreading confusion is bad.

THE RIGHT WAY(S)

There are actually two right ways to send PostScript files to the printer. They're essentially the same in that you open a connection directly to the printer and send it the file you want to print, but the implementations are very different. You can either use classic networking and the PAPWorkStation.o library, or you can use Open Transport, which contains support for the PAP protocol. (For more on PAP, see "PAP? What's That?")

    PAP? WHAT'S THAT?

    The Printer Access Protocol (PAP) is the protocol spoken by all LaserWriters (and third-party Macintosh-compatible PostScript printers). It's designed around a few simple ideas:

    • Only one computer can be talking to the printer at once, so there's a unique connection between the two.
    • When the printer is ready to receive some data, it will ask the computer for that data. Similarly, when the printer wants to send data back to the computer, the computer must have already asked for that data. In other words, a read must always be active.
    • There's a separate status channel for the printer to report things like "Printer On Fire" or "Paper Jam."

    This last point means that there are actually multiple connections open for the one connection to the printer. This is a major source of the complexity of the code in the classic networking case. Open Transport hides this complexity from you.

    You can find out more about PAP in Chapter 10 of Inside AppleTalk.


The classic networking solution has the advantage that it's available in all Macintosh computers, out of the box. But it's more difficult to implement. Since you're working at a lower level, there's more room for you to get things wrong -- but there's also less worry of having library code that doesn't do things the way you want. Note that your code (at least part of it) can't be PowerPC native, because the libraries are 680x0 only.

Open Transport is a much simpler way to implement sending PostScript files to your printer. You talk to the networking library at a higher level, and you get a PowerPC-native implementation of networking. But of course you lose compatibility with older Macintosh models.

We'll look at both these solutions; sample code for each one accompanies this column on this issue's CD and develop's Web site. The choice of which technique to use is up to you. Note also that there may be other, more attractive alternatives in the future. For now, however, these are the two best options.

The sample code for the classic networking solution is the SendPS tool -- an MPW tool rather than a full application, but still useful for demonstrating how things work. The process is also described in the MacTutor article "Laser Print DA for PostScript." If you're interested in the nitty-gritty details, consulting the code and that article is your best bet. Here I'm just going to give an overview of the code. In a few cases, I'll make suggestions for how you might enhance the code to make a real-world application.

The main thing you need to understand about the PAP library that Apple supplies for classic networking is that it reports the connection status to you via a few variables rather than by way of completion functions. It's not truly asynchronous code, so if you want to write a program that will run happily in the background, sending PostScript files to a printer, you've got some extra work to do. It's possible, but a little tricky.

When we're in the process of opening a connection (in the code near the call to PAPOpen in sendps.c), we look at the wstate variable to tell us what's happening. All these state variables have three basic states: a positive value means we're waiting for the printer; negative values are errors; and 0 means the operation we're watching has completed. We also call PAPStatus periodically to get the printer's status so that we can display it to the user.

Once the connection is opened, we issue a PAPRead call. This is necessary because when the printer wants to talk to us, it can't just tell us it's ready to talk, but rather we must have asked it for some data first. (Remember, PAP is a protocol where the parties have to ask for data.) We check the rstate variable periodically to see if the printer has said anything to us. When it does, we need to read the data it has sent us and issue another PAPRead call.

Now we're ready to start sending blocks of data. We issue a PAPWrite call, and for each call, we watch the wstate variable to see when the write is done. While we're waiting for the writes to complete, we need to remember to check the printer's status and display it to the user (our write might be "stuck" because the printer is out of paper and can't print a page, for example; the user should see this so that she can replenish the paper).

Once we've sent all our data, we send the end-of-file to the printer. We do this by sending a packet with no data, but with the eof flag set. If we've got another job to send, there's no need to close the connection and reopen it; we can just start sending it as soon as the printer acknowledges our end-of-file.

That's the quick overview of the SendPS tool. If you need more guidance, see the source code; I've tried to comment it so that everything will make sense.

    You're not allowed to redistribute the PAPWorkStation.o library included with the classic networking sample code without first licensing it from Apple. To license the code, contact sw.license@apple.com for more details. It's really not that expensive, and you don't want to write it all yourself. Trust me.*

THE OPEN TRANSPORT CODE

The main code for the Open Transport solution is considerably easier to follow than the classic networking code, primarily because you don't have to worry about multiple state variables in order to send. You simply create PAP and PAPStatus endpoints (connections), and the main loop calls the Snd and Rcv functions for the PAP endpoint. There's a callback function that gets notified when the state of the endpoint changes and then sets a single state variable to match the state of the endpoint. Exception handling can be localized to this callback, which makes the code easier to read, and the status reporting can be handled in one place as well.

Because we don't need to continually poll the state variables, it's much easier to fit this code into an application, and the application will cooperate better with other applications. Getting good performance is also quite a bit easier with the Open Transport-based code than with the classic networking code, since you don't have to worry about waiting in the wrong place, polling a state variable.

WRAPPING UP

Implementing code to send PostScript files directly to a printer is more difficult than using the PostScriptHandle picture comment, but it offers a number of benefits to your users. The process is more straightforward, no extra print dialogs need to be shown, and no extra storage is required for spool files. You can provide as much or as little status information as you like (for example, you could add progress bars showing how much of the job is completed). And performance should improve in most cases, since you'll be talking directly to the printer, rather than through the layer of the Printing Manager. Convinced? I should hope so.


    RECOMMENDED READING

    • Inside Macintosh: Open Transport and Open Transport Client Developer Note (Apple Computer, Inc., 1996), available on the Open Transport Web site, http://www.devworld.apple.com/dev/opentransport/.
    • Inside Macintosh: Networking by Apple Computer, Inc. (Addison-Wesley, 1994) and Inside AppleTalk, 2nd ed., by Apple Computer, Inc. (Addison-Wesley, 1990).
    • Macintosh Technical Q&A QD 35, "Determining the Selected Printer's Address."
    • "Laser Print DA for PostScript" by Mike Schuster, MacTutor Vol. 2, No. 2 (February 1986). Articles from MacTutor, since renamed MacTech Magazine, can be found at http://web.xplain.com/mactech.com/magazine/features/articlearchives.html.
    • Lost Beauties of the English Language, by Charles Mackay, LL.D. (London: Bibliophile Books, 1987). Originally published by Chatto & Windus in 1874.
    • The UNIX-Haters Handbook by Simson Garfinkel, Daniel Weise, and Steven Strassman (IDG Books, 1994).


DAVE POLASCHEK (davep@best.com, http://www.best.com/~davep/) now works for LaserMaster Corp., where he does "Mac things" that confuse the people who actually build printers, since Dave seems to spend most of his time designing spiffy icons and then dragging them around his screen. In his spare time, Dave scrapes ice off his windshield, jump-starts cars, and de-ices locks. Earlier this year he cut a hole in a lake and spent hours sitting on the ice waiting for fish to find his hook (while he consumed a judicious amount of antifreeze). Who said life in Minnesota isn't exciting?*



Thanks to Rich Kubota, Quinn "The Eskimo!", Steve Simon, and Tony Wingo for reviewing this column.*

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

calibre 2.17 - Complete e-library manage...
Calibre is a complete e-book library manager. Organize your collection, convert your books to multiple formats, and sync with all of your devices. Let Calibre be your multi-tasking digital librarian... Read more
OmniGraffle Pro 6.1.2 - Create diagrams,...
OmniGraffle Pro helps you draw beautiful diagrams, family trees, flow charts, org charts, layouts, and (mathematically speaking) any other directed or non-directed graphs. We've had people use... Read more
OmniGraffle 6.1.2 - Create diagrams, flo...
OmniGraffle helps you draw beautiful diagrams, family trees, flow charts, org charts, layouts, and (mathematically speaking) any other directed or non-directed graphs. We've had people use Graffle to... Read more
RoboForm 2.0.2 - Password manager; syncs...
RoboForm is a password manager that offers one-click login, mobile syncing, easy form filling, and reliable security. Password Manager. RoboForm remembers your passwords so you don't have to! Just... Read more
Apple MainStage 3.1 - Live performance t...
Love the sound you got on your recording? MainStage 3 makes it easy to bring all the same instruments and effects to the stage. Everything from the Sound Library and Smart Controls you're familiar... Read more
Freeway Pro 7.0.2 - Drag-and-drop Web de...
Freeway Pro lets you build websites with speed and precision... without writing a line of code! With its user-oriented drag-and-drop interface, Freeway Pro helps you piece together the website of... Read more
A Better Finder Rename 9.44 - File, phot...
A Better Finder Rename is the most complete renaming solution available on the market today. That's why, since 1996, tens of thousands of hobbyists, professionals and businesses depend on A Better... Read more
Stacks 2.6.9 - New way to create pages i...
Stacks is a new way to create pages in RapidWeaver. It's a plugin designed to combine drag-and-drop simplicity with the power of fluid layout. Features: Fluid Layout: Stacks lets you build pages... Read more
Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Ea...
Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth is a new science-fiction-themed entry into the award-winning Civilization series. Set in the future, global events have destabilized the world leading to a... Read more
Logic Pro X 10.1 - Music creation and au...
Apple Logic Pro X is the most advanced version of Logic ever. Sophisticated new tools for professional songwriting, editing, and mixing are built around a modern interface that's designed to get... Read more

Choice Provisions is Set to Launch Destr...
Choice Provisions is Set to Launch Destructamundo on iOS This Month Posted by Tre Lawrence on January 23rd, 2015 [ permalink ] Choice Provisions – home stable to | Read more »
King of Thieves – An Interview With Zept...
Ahead of the release of ZeptoLab’s King of Thieves, we were able to ask ZeptoLab’s co-founder, Semyon Voinov, a few questions about the inspiration behind the game and what that means for the Cut the Rope franchise. | Read more »
Handle Review
Handle Review By Jennifer Allen on January 23rd, 2015 Our Rating: :: SPEEDY ORGANIZINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Handle is a very convenient way of juggling your emails, To Do list, and Calendar all through one... | Read more »
The New Disney Inquizitive App Offers a...
The New Disney Inquizitive App Offers a Place for Fans to Take Disney Quizzes Posted by Tre Lawrence on January 23rd, 2015 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Hands-On With Cut the Rope Developer Zep...
Marking quite a departure from ZeptoLab’s past successes, namely the Cut The Rope series, King of Thieves is shaping up to be quite promising. Due for release in February, we were lucky enough to have some time with a preview build to see exactly... | Read more »
Fast Fishing Review
Fast Fishing Review By Jennifer Allen on January 23rd, 2015 Our Rating: :: LIVES UP TO ITS NAMEUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Fishing is far from relaxing in Fast Fishing, but it is fun.   | Read more »
The LEGO Movie Video Game is Available N...
The LEGO Movie Video Game is Available Now for iOS Posted by Ellis Spice on January 23rd, 2015 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Satellina Review
Satellina Review By Jennifer Allen on January 23rd, 2015 Our Rating: :: TWITCHY BUT TACTICALUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Satellina requires quick thinking and twitchy fingers, and it’s pretty fun.   | Read more »
Tail Drift, the Crazy 360 Degree Flyer,...
Tail Drift, the Crazy 360 Degree Flyer, Has Gone Free-to-Play in a New Update Posted by Jessica Fisher on January 22nd, 2015 [ permalink ] | Read more »
PureSkate 2 Review
PureSkate 2 Review By Tre Lawrence on January 22nd, 2015 Our Rating: :: ALMOST ALL AIRUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad PureSkate 2 lets one’s fingers do the skateboarding.   | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

College Student Deals are back, additional $5...
Take an additional $50 off all MacBooks and iMacs at Best Buy Online with their College Students Deals Savings, valid through April 11, 2015. Anyone with a valid .EDU email address can take advantage... Read more
iPhone 6 and 6 Plus GIve Apple Half Of US Mob...
Chicago-based Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, LLC (CIRP) have released analysis of the results of its research on mobile phone manufacturers for the calendar quarter that ended December 31,... Read more
Save $100 on MacBook Airs with 256GB of stora...
B&H Photo has 256GB MacBook Airs on sale for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 11″ 1.4GHz/256GB MacBook Air: $999 $100 off MSRP - 13″ 1.4GHz/256GB MacBook... Read more
21-inch 2.7GHz iMac on sale for $1179, save $...
B&H Photo has the 21″ 2.7GHz iMac on sale for $1179 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $120 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model from any... Read more
iPhone Usage Rates by State Correlate With Ed...
Chitika Insights notes that despite iPhones being the largest source of smartphone Internet traffic in North America, their latest study finds a relatively high degree of variation of iPhone usage... Read more
ProGearX Extendable Pole “Pov/Selfie Stick” M...
There’s something inescapably narcissistic about the concept of selfies as they’ve developed as a smartphone-driven social (particularly social media) phenomenon that rubs me the wrong way. However,... Read more
iPad Air 2 on sale for up to $100 off MSRP, 2...
 Best Buy has iPad Air 2s on sale for up to $100 off MSRP on their online store for the next two days. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale prices available for online... Read more
Roundup of Apple refurbished MacBook Pros and...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs available for up to $400 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and... Read more
Sale! 13-inch 2.8GHz Retina MacBook Pro for $...
 B&H Photo has the 13″ 2.8GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $1599 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $200 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model... Read more
Next OS X/iOS Version Upgrades Should Concent...
On stage at Apple’s World Wide Developers’ Conference in June 2009, Bertrand Serlet, the company’s Senior Vice President of Software Engineering at the time, announced that the forthcoming OS X... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Acura/Subaru Service Technicians - A...
Apple Automotive is one of the fastest growing dealer…and it shows. Consider making the switch to the Apple Automotive Group today! At Apple Automotive , Read more
Business Development Manager - *Apple* Pay...
**Job Summary** Apple Pay is seeking an experienced business development manager to support the identification, recruitment, negotiation and ongoing management of Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC)- Retail S...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
**Job Summary** As an Apple Solutions Consultant (ASC) you are the link between our customers and our products. Your role is to drive the Apple business in a retail Read more
*Apple* Lead Operator, GSOC - Apple (United...
**Job Summary** Apple is seeking an exceptional, customer service oriented and experienced persons to fulfill the role of Apple Lead Operator (ALO) as part of the Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.