Technologists got pretty excited about “the paperless office” in the eighties, but the PC explosion had exactly the opposite effect: Thanks to the proliferation of inexpensive, high-quality PC printers, we generate far more printouts than ever. There’s not much to printing from Windows XP, so this is a short chapter.
A printer is designed to follow computer instructions called printer codes from your PC. These codes tell the printer what fonts to use, how to set margins, which paper tray to use, and so on.
But the codes aren’t identical for every printer. Therefore, every printer requires a piece of software—the printer driver—that tells the printer how to interpret what it “hears” from your computer.
Windows XP comes with hundreds of printer drivers built right in; your printer also came with a set of drivers on a CD or floppy. You can often find more recent driver software for your printer on the manufacturer’s Web site, such as http://www.epson.com or http://www.lexmark.com, or from a central driver repository like http://www.windrivers.com.
Did you upgrade your PC to Windows XP from an earlier version—one that worked fine with your printer? In that case, Windows XP automatically notices and inherits your existing settings. If it’s a fairly recent printer with a fairly recent driver, it’ll probably work fine with Windows XP.
But if the printer is especially elderly, the printer software may be incompatible ...