Group to develop universal print driver

Working quietly, an informal group of the leading printer manufacturers is creating a single universal print driver that will replace the more than 3000 drivers that are currently required.

The goal is to have only one driver included in the operating system, or a Universal Printer Driver Format (UPDF), with the individual characteristics of a particular printer described in a text file residing within the printer itself.

"We are hoping the [bidirectional] characteristics of the UPDF will help IT managers, in that less support of printers is needed," said Sandra Matts, chair of the UPDF committee in the Printer Working Group (PWG) and an engineer scientist for Workgroup Color LaserJets at Hewlett-Packard. "They won't have to configure every client's computer for each printer the client will use."

Commands would reside in the text file within the printer to invoke the printer's capabilities. If a user wanted to do duplex printing, for example, the text file would send the correct data stream.

On the operating system side, the driver is universal. It is on the client side that unique features are described.

"There is no such thing as a device-independent data stream," said Harry Lewis, a member of the PWG and a printing systems architect at IBM Printing Systems Division.

Every device may have different characteristics that can change.

A so-called metalanguage developed by the PWG would be able to describe all of the features of the printer for access by the single driver in the OS.

"Basically, it is similar to PostScript page description language," said Dan Wright, another PWG member and the product manager for alliances for standards at Lexmark.

According to group members, the finished driver will be available for testing in eight months to one year, with another two months needed for interoperability testing before it ships.

The universal driver will require the support of operating system vendors, such as Microsoft, as well as Unix operating system vendors. Currently, Microsoft ships a CD with more than 3000 printer drivers with each package of NT.

Microsoft support appears to be in place, according to Paul Moore, program manager for Windows NT 5.0 printing. The software company currently has Unidrive 5 in Beta 2 of NT 5.0, which is similar to technology that might be used as the basis for the UPDF, according to Moore.

Moore believes the UPDF will benefit IT departments.

"We think that a lot of IT manager problems arise from having too many printer drivers. The benefits [of a universal driver] would be all around," Moore said. "It will reduce the administrative load."

The single driver as envisioned by members of the PWG allow a UPDF to query the printer device for capabilities.

"Today, we really rely on the user selecting in the UI features of the printer," Matts said. "It's really a best guess at times. UPDF will allow our drivers to truly know what is attached to the printer at the start of the print job."

The Printer Working Group can be reached at

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?