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LaserWriter 8.6: Document and Software

This article has been archived and is no longer updated by Apple.

This article contains a link to the LaserWriter 8.6 printer driver software.


This software includes version 8.6 of the LaserWriter printer driver, which is included with Mac OS 8.5.

About Your Apple LaserWriter Printer Software for the Mac OS

This document contains important information about your Apple LaserWriter Printer Software for Mac OS-based computers. You may want to print this document and keep it for future reference. The main topics are:

LaserWriter 8 Printer Driver Version 8.6

Desktop Printer Utility Version 1.1

LaserWriter 8 Printer Driver Version 8.6

This software includes version 8.6 of the LaserWriter 8 printer driver, which works with PostScript printers. This section contains information about LaserWriter 8 and how to use it with most PostScript printers. LaserWriter 8.6 is supported on Mac OS 7.6.1 or later. LaserWriter 8.6 is supported on all Macintosh computers with a 68040 or PowerPC processor installed.

What's New in Version 8.6

  • IrDA printing IrDA printing was added to support the HP LaserJet 5MP, HP LaserJet 6MP, and 100% compatible IrDA Printers. This feature is only supported on the Macintosh PowerBook 2400, 3400, G3 and PowerBook G3 Series as well as the iMac computers. The Macintosh PowerBook 1400, 5300 and older PowerBooks are not supported.
  • ATSUI (Apple Type Services Unicode Imaging) LaserWriter 8.6 offers direct to PostScript translation of the new Apple Type Services calls. These calls along with LaserWriter 8.6 offer precise placement of glyphs, large character set support using Unicode, and text transformations.
  • Partial Font Downloading LaserWriter 8.6 supports the ability to download partial fonts containing only the glyphs used within a document. This support is for ATSUI and Japanese 2-byte applications. It is currently provided for TrueType fonts only. Other font formats may be supported in the future, depending upon OFA scalers that are made available.
  • Partial font support is only provided for pure QuickDraw applications. Applications that create their own PostScript will not take advantage of this capability until they are modified.
  • Partial font downloading occurs only when background printing is enabled. LaserWriter 8 subsets the font when it prints instead of using incremental font downloading.
  • Download Manager This feature allows documents of supported formats to be directly printed without launching the application that created them. Today's desktop printers are capable of downloading both PostScript and Encapsulated PostScript (EPS) files. This capability is an important feature which we have improved. In LaserWriter 8.6, when downloading a DSC conformant PostScript or EPS file, the new PostScript downloader will supply fonts used but not included in the document or available in the printer. LaserWriter 8.6 includes downloaders for the following file formats: PostScript, Encapsulated PostScript (EPS), PICT, and JPEG. In the future, other document types may be supported. An API has been provided to allow third parties to create plug-ins for other file formats. To force the application for launch for these file types, hold down the Option key when the file is dropped onto the desktop printer.
  • If the Download Manager can not handle the file dropped on it, desktop printing will act as it does today; it will launch the application that created the document and ask it to print the document.
  • Appearance Manager In order for LaserWriter 8's interface elements to better fit with Mac OS 8.x, LaserWriter 8.6 now supports the Mac OS 8.x look and feel (Apple Platinum Appearance). LaserWriter 8.6 now dynamically lays out the popups given the current system font and uses the system's popup menus.
  • ColorSync 2.5 Support LaserWriter 8.6 supports ColorSync 2.5.
  • Desktop Printing LaserWriter 8.6 has better integration with the Finder's desktop printing. LaserWriter 8.6 now spools its documents into the desktop printer folder (resolving aliases) instead of into the Print Monitor Documents folder.
  • PPD File Location With the release of LaserWriter 8.6, the driver will use the new FindFolder selector 'ppdf' that was introduced in Mac OS 8.0. The driver will use this selector to install and find PPDs in the Printer Descriptions folder.
    Note: The Printer Descriptions folder is located in different places for different versions of the Mac OS:
    • System 7.x System Folder: Extensions: Printer Descriptions
    • Mac OS 8.0 and 8.1 System Folder: Printer Descriptions (LW 8 looks in System Folder: Extensions: Printer Descriptions)
    • Mac OS 8.5 System Folder: Extensions: Printer Descriptions
  • Euro Glyph LaserWriter 8 has always maintained a set of glyphs which, when printed, are pulled from the Symbol font rather than from the font used on the Macintosh. LaserWriter 8.6 adds the new Euro glyph to this set. When an application prints using the Euro glyph in a given font, LaserWriter 8.6 switches to the Symbol font and prints the glyph in that font. PostScript 3 printers have the Euro glyph in the Symbol font and therefore present no special problems. Printers having interpreters prior to PostScript 3 do not contain the Euro glyph and to compensate, LaserWriter 8.6 downloads a Euro glyph character and maps it into the resident Symbol font.
  • Transferable Preferences Files LaserWriter 8.6 supports the ability to transfer LaserWriter 8 preference files from machine to machine. What this means is that you can now use a tool like RevRdist to clone your disk across several machines while maintaining your LaserWriter preference settings.

PPD Files

The LaserWriter 8 driver uses PostScript Printer Description (PPD) files to determine the characteristics of the printers it uses. PPD files contain information about individual PostScript printers. For example, PPD files describe the paper-handling capabilities of printers: the number of paper trays, their capacity, and the paper sizes they handle.

To take full advantage of your printer's features, you need to go through a simple setup procedure. When selecting your printer for the first time, or after installing an additional option, click the Create/Setup button in the DTP Utility or in the Chooser . This procedure causes the LaserWriter driver to query the printer for its characteristics and associate a particular PPD file with the printer.

You can also change your printer's setup by highlighting your desktop printer icon and then selecting Change Setup from the Printing Menu.

If you get an error about the preferences file when you choose an option that is specific to your printer, you may have an outdated PPD file. You should contact the vendor of your printer for an update.

Creating EPS Files

You can create an encapsulated PostScript (EPS) file in many applications by selecting Save-As-File in the Print dialog box, then clicking Save. When you create an EPS file, note the following:

  • Creating EPS files with the All option selected in the Font Inclusion pop-up menu in the EPS dialog box can result in very large files. If you include all fonts in an EPS file and save the file with the Unlimited Downloadable Fonts option selected, you may create an extremely large file.
  • If you create an EPS file with no fonts included and open the document, fonts in the document appear on your screen, but Courier may be substituted when you print.
  • When you create EPS files with preview information included, other programs that create their own PostScript code may not display the EPS file accurately on the screen.

Using the LaserWriter 8 Driver With the Kanji System

To print Japanese characters using KanjiTalk or the Japanese Language Kit, your system must have WorldScript II version 7.5.1 or later.

Using the LaserWriter 8 To Create PDF files

LaserWriter 8.6 provides support to create PDF files using Adobe Distiller. This requires a complete installation of Adobe Acrobate Distiller (not just the reader). Once installed follow these steps to create a PDF file: From your application, select Print from the File menu, select the Save as File from the General Popup menu, select Acrobat PDF as the Format, Select File as the Destination, then hit the Save button. This will invoke Distiller which will create the PDF file.

Using the LaserWriter 8 Driver With Applications

Some programs do not yet take advantage of the new features of the LaserWriter 8 driver or have small incompatibilities that result in printing problems. If you experience problems with an application, please contact the publisher of the program. In some cases a newer version of the program may be available.

The following section describes some special cases that you should be aware of when working with some applications. There may be other problems with these, or with other programs, not mentioned in this document.

  • Foreground vs. Background Printing: LaserWriter 8.6 and greater offer both foreground and background printing. In foreground, the driver doesn't spool the file being printed. An application may fail when printing in the foreground if the application assumes the driver will make a spool file.
    If you experience problems with foreground printing, change to background printing and try again.
  • With many programs, you cannot use the Flip Horizontal, Flip Vertical, landscape page orientation, and Layout option in the Page Setup dialog box in combination.
  • Some programs may print in color even when Black and White mode is selected.
  • Tray Selection: Applications that don't utilize LaserWriter 8's capabilities have some limitations with tray selection when printing from the Finder. To work around these problems, print from within the application and contact the vendor of this application.
  • Avoiding Conflicts with Application Print Options

Some applications provide their own printing options by adding checkboxes, buttons, or fields to dialog boxes. In the LaserWriter 8.6 printer software, these options are found in the application panes in the Page Setup and Print dialog boxes, accessible through the pop-up menus. A conflict can occur when these options are also provided by the LaserWriter 8.6 printer software. When the printer software and the application try to perform the same function, the results can be unexpected. If you are not getting the results you expected when setting certain options such as scaling or paper size, try setting the options in the application panes.

Known Issues with LaserWriter 8.6

  • An IDRA Printer may stay Busy"for upto 40 Seconds after and IrDA print job is Cancelled after the IrDA has been disconnected by breaking the beam. Wait 60 seconds and use the Try Again button or reprinter the job.
  • The initial Print or Print Preview in Microsoft Excel 5.0 is slow. It can take several minutes on a non-PPC system to do a preview. Other than the delay, it causes no adverse problems.
  • Installation of AdobePS 8.5.1 over LaserWriter 8.6 will cause LaserWriter 8.6 to not function properly. To use both drivers, Install AbodePS 8.5.1 first, then Installer LaserWriter 8.6.
  • On Pre-Mac OS 8.5 System software, the use of the Generic PPD (Printer Description Document) file may cause unpredictable results. Select the correct PPD file for your printer. If you do not have one, contract your printer vendor for the corret PPD file.
  • Printing from non-PPC Macs to LPR printers that are power-off or are otherwise not responding via the network may cause your Mac to appear hung. Power-up the printer or ensure that the printer is available via the network.
  • Cancelling LPR print jobs with Macs running System 7.6.1 may cause unpredictable results.
  • To avoid AppleTalk errors, print to no more than five desktop printers simultaneously.

Desktop Printer Icons Appear Inactive

When switching Mac OS systems, Desktop Printers may appear inactive when they should be active. This can be resolved by rebuilding the desktop printer database. The desktop printer database can be rebuilt by restarting your Macintosh with the Command and Option keys pressed down until the 'Rebuilding Desktop' progress dialog appears.

Using the Desktop Printer Menu and the Printer Selector Control Strip

The Desktop Printer menu appears on the right-hand side of your menu bar. This menu lists the names of all active desktop printers. A check mark is displayed next to the name of the default printer. Selecting the name of a printer from this list makes the printer the new default.

The Printer Selector control strip module is installed only on computers that already have control strip software installed. The Printer Selector adds an item to the control strip that provides functionality identical to the Desktop Printer menu.

Desktop Printer Utility Version 1.1

Mac OS Systems Supported by Version 1.1

Desktop Printer Utility is a new way to make Desktop Printer icons. You can use Desktop Printer Utility on System 7.6.1 Mac OS 7.6.1, OS 8.1 and beyond.

Unexpected Error on Launch

If you receive an unexpected error when launching the Desktop Printer Utility, please be sure the Shared Library Manager or Shared Library Manager PPC (for a Power PPC-based Macintosh) files are turned ON in the Extensions Manager and restart your computer before running the application.

Tips for Desktop Printing Troubleshooting

If No default desktop printer appears on your desktop

Problem: After installing the LaserWriter software, you no longer have a default desktop printer. This situation may occur if you do a Easy Install followed by a Custom Install of the LaserWriter software.

Solution: To fix this problem, click on the desktop printer icon that you want to be the default desktop printer. Then, from the Printing menu, select Set Default Printer.

If Desktop printer cannot be found

Problem: When you try to print, your spool files are moved to the Trash and an alert is displayed saying that the desktop printer could not be found.

Solution: There are two likely solutions to this problem. First, it is possible that your desktop printer has somehow become damaged. To fix this, drag the desktop printer icon to the Trash and reselect the printer in the Chooser. A new desktop printer icon will be created.

Second, your printer software may not be using a file format that is completely compatible with Desktop PrintMonitor. If your printer software is not published by either Apple Computer or Adobe Systems, it is possible that it is not making proper and legitimate use of PrintMonitor. If this is the case, your printer software will not work properly with Desktop PrintMonitor. The only resolution to this problem is to disable Desktop PrintMonitor and use old PrintMonitor. To print the documents you were working on follow these steps:

  1. Empty the Trash.
  2. Go to the Chooser and turn off background printing.
  3. Print documents again.

To correct desktop printing:

  1. Drag the desktop printer to the Trash.
  2. Go to the Chooser and turn background printing back on.
  3. Create a new desktop printer.

If "Not enough memory" message appears when dragging files to desktop printer

Problem: When you drag documents created by different software applications to your desktop printer icon, a message is displayed indicating that there is not enough memory to continue.

Solution: You may not have enough memory available to launch all of the software applications corresponding to the documents you have selected. You can resolve this situation by printing your documents individually or in smaller groups.

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