Hi Everyone, I’m back with another installment of Printing for Dummies.   Week after week we get questions about how to print data from a webpage to a local printer.  Over the course of time, we've come up with a number of solutions and I thought I would take the opportunity to share them.

 

I’m not talking about printing the actual html page.  You can do that, but most people just use the built-in browser printing function to a regular office printer.  I’m talking about doing things like printing a shipping label based on form data on the website, inventory tags, or receipts.  Understanding your options is especially useful if you are expecting your webpages to be viewed by many different devices (ex. PC’s, tablets, mobile computers).

 

In this series of blog posts, I’ll talk about several printing options.  Based on your use case, likely only one of them will be useful to you.  In this post, I’ll talk about printing through print drivers.  The next post, I’ll talk about printing directly through Javascript ( HTTP POST ).  After that I’ll discuss some hybrid options.  If you want to know how to print from your webserver, I have a blog post here talking about Zebra’s capabilities.

 

If your web application is designed to primarily be used on PC’s and you are not sure what type of printer will be used to print the labels, the easiest way to print is using the built in printing function in most modern browsers.  Developers have two main options for this.  You can present the label or receipt as a regular webpage in HTML.  Some developers find it easier to create the document on the webserver as a pdf and present that to the customer.  The customer then has to click the browser or Adobe® print function to send the page to a driver. 

 

The benefits to driver based printing are that it is the standard technology for printing.  Also, you do not need to deal with vendor-specific print languages.  Most customers know how to use it and most web development is done using this method for printing.  The printers can be USB connected or networked to the user’s PC.

 

The downsides when printing via drivers are many.  Much of the printer setup is completely out of the developers control.  Drivers are set up by the users so it is highly possible that printouts may vary due to driver configurations.  Also most modern browsers have a virtual print driver which ends up doing some pre-formatting, then sends the document to a regular driver.  This complexity could also cause the printouts to differ for each user.  This may not be an issue for printing your Amazon® wish list on 8.5” x 11” paper, but it is when you are printing something like a small compliance label. 

 

Another issue is that a proper driver must be installed on the user’s PC.  Windows has generic drivers, but many times these are not useful with specialty or thermal printers. It is highly recommended that users download and use the newest Zebra Drivers for their printers.  Sometimes customers are not willing or able to install any software (including drivers) on their workstations due to lack of Administrator privileges.  Drivers are also only really highly available on PC’s.  If the website is viewed on a mobile device, drivers generally do not exist.   Even in the Enterprise space, operations are being converted more and more to mobile. 

 

In the end, printing from a website with a driver is good in specific situations, but is not useful in some applications.  In future posts I will outline Zebra’s answers for these issues.

 

For more information, see the Zebra Knowledge Management site.

To ask questions, see our Launchpad page.

 

Robin West

ISV Engineer - Zebra Technologies