The most significant changes in configuring and administrating Windows 2000 Professional's printing features come from Professional's bolstered network printing features.
In this section, we'll review basic print administration, walking you through printer installation and configuration, and examine Microsoft's relatively flexible printer management capabilities.
Microsoft has made the printing process pretty transparent to the average user. However, there's a lot of complexity beneath the surface; you'll need to learn the following basic Microsoft terms in order to get a handle on all the pieces of Windows 2000 Professional's printing infrastructure.
- Printer The printer is the physical device that outputs data to paper; these range from old-school dot-matrix printers to speedy laser printers. Sometimes the term print device is used to differentiate the logical printer from the physical device used to do the printing.
Logical printer The logical printer is the software interface between the operating system and the actual, physical printer. You can define a logical printer as a having a set of print properties, one of which is output to a particular printer or print device; and you can define another logical printer with a different set of properties that outputs to that same print device. When you use the Add Printer wizard, you are creating a logical printer. The simple term printer causes a lot of confusion in the Windows world unless you differentiate between a print device and a logical printer.
- Print job The print job is the source code that contains both the material to be printed and the instructions for printing. When you tell a word processor to print a document, it sends the document and instructions as a print job to the logical printer.
Printer driver The printer driver is the software that serves as the interface between the general print instructions generated by an application and contained in a print job, and the specific inputs required by a particular model of printer from a particular manufacturer. Each particular printer works best with its own specific printer driver, although you may find that generic print drivers or print drivers written for another manufacturer's printer may work satisfactorily. The latter is particularly true when the two printers or print devices are based on the same print engine that is repackaged by different original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Since a driver is essentially a first-layer interface between an operating system and a printer, there is a different driver for each different combination of operating system and printer.
- Print processor The print processor is a software component that works with the printer driver from a particular manufacturer to translate print jobs into instructions comprehensible to the particular model of printer.
- Print spooler The print spooler is the application that holds print jobs in memory or on disk until it can be printed. This is the component associated with the "print queue" that you get when you double-click on the printer icon that appears on your taskbar when you're printing. The print spooler is actually a collection of dynamic link libraries (DLL). (The term spool is actually an acronym for "simultaneous print operations on line.") Print spoolers come in two varieties: local spoolers, and network spoolers, called network print providers.
- Print router The print router examines a print job to see if it's bound for a local or a network printer, and sends it to the correct spooler.
- Print server The print server is the system that manages printers in a network-printing setup.Print monitor The print monitor is what actually communicates with the printer; the print monitor transmits data to the printer and, if connected to a printer with a bidirectional port, the print monitor can receive error reports and supply them to the operating system.