The product which saved the Mac, and Apple, was its LaserWriter printer of March 1985. What had been a quaint computer with a small but loyal following was, with the addition of Aldus PageMaker, transformed into the heart of the Desktop Publishing revolution. Key to that was the way that the Mac could turn WYSIWYG page layouts into PostScript through Apple’s special printer driver. Ever since, Macs and printer drivers have enjoyed an intimate relationship.
This changes as of macOS 10.14 Mojave. As I noted here a few days ago, Apple has now discontinued support for its printer compatibility listing. For those printers which don’t support driverless printing via AirPrint, you’re on your own trying to obtain a driver from the printer manufacturer’s support site, unless of course you happen to discover that Apple does still support your old printer.
It’s actually far worse than that, because Apple’s account doesn’t match up to those of printer manufacturers, and you could easily end up abandoning a printer which could still work as well as it ever has done. Between them, Apple and the printer manufacturers have created chaos which will cause many users many problems.
I have an HP ‘TopShot’ LaserJet 200 colorMFP M275nw – I always like the snappy names that they come up with, they make searching for support so much easier – which is I suppose around seven years old. It’s a multi-function system, which prints in excellent colour, scans and copies, all over my wired ethernet network. With the decline in printing to paper, it has seen very little use. But when I need it, it’s one of my most essential peripherals: “print a copy, sign it, scan it back in, and send it to us as quickly as possible”, you know the sort of urgent task.
According to Apple’s now-abandoned support site, its own drivers for that model only support its printing function, and don’t work with its scanner. This is strange, because my iMac can both print to it, and scan from it, using macOS drivers over the wired network.
HP’s support site tells me that, contrary to Apple’s claim, support for that model in macOS 10.13 is delivered through Apple Software Update, but further down that page it informs me that:
“Since October 2016, HP printer software packages are no longer delivered through Apple Software Update.”
Nowhere on HP’s support site can I find any resolution, and it isn’t listed among those models which support AirPrint either – and Apple doesn’t include it in its list of printers with AirPrint support. The only good news is that it isn’t among those HP printers for which macOS support is definitely not available any more.
This is what I had feared: my printer, which was hardly a budget consumer device, has fallen between Apple’s discontinued support, and HP’s confused and largely absent support. Perhaps I’d be better just sending it for recycling, and buying something new. Which would, I suspect, please HP.
But after nearly thirty years of wrangling with printer drivers on Macs, I wasn’t so easily defeated. My MacBook Pro, which had never had the benefit of migration from an older system and started off with High Sierra, was an excellent testbed.
When I tried to add my printer to the Printers & Scanners pane on the MacBook Pro, in Mojave, I was surprised to see it offered via AirPrint. But when I used that to configure the printer, its scanner didn’t exist.
I removed the printer, and added it via its legacy driver instead. This engaged macOS
softwareupdate, which generously provided me with every driver for the 267 different HP models which are apparently still supported, despite Apple’s inability to maintain its public listing. Among those is my precise model, although I’m not quite sure what I’m meant to do with the other 266.
Apple’s old non-AirPrint driver installed perfectly, and despite the disinformation in its now unmaintained listing, it includes support for the scanner. Noting that driver is over a year old, and heeding Apple’s preference for AirPrint, I then deleted the printer yet again, and added it using its AirPrint support. This has left the scanner fully-functional, so I now have my obsolete and unsupported multi-function printer-scanner working fully under Mojave, without the dubious help of third-party drivers.
Apple’s withdrawal from providing good printer support will not only pose many users and system administrators thorny problems, but send many perfectly good printers off for recycling, which is hardly environmentally friendly. It is shoddy, cheapskate, and uncaring – words which are surely the very antithesis of Apple’s carefully cultivated image. Its only beneficiaries are those trying to sell us new printers, and those who write the problem pages in Mac magazines (like me!).