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8.1. How Printing Works

Mac OS X ships with a suite of software known as the Common Unix Printing System (CUPS)[1], which acts as the operating system's print server. Whenever you ask an application to print a document (using either the Aqua interface described later in Section 8.2 or the Terminal commands listed later in Section 8.5.2), it in turn makes a request to the print server. This maintains one or more queues, each of which represents a printer device and its first-in, first-out list of jobs. Jobs are the documents in the print server's memory, which wait their turn to go to a printer and be made into hardcopy.

[1] You can find information about CUPS, including full user and administrator documentation, at http://www.cups.org.

Mac OS X's print server is actually a network service that is able to receive and process print requests from other machines, but its default configuration refuses any request that does not come from the same Mac that it's running on. In other words, unless you turn on printer sharing (detailed later in Section 8.6), printer queues you set up on your Mac through the Print Center will be for your machine's own private use. This is probably what most computer users expect.


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