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I seldom have to print anything on paper anymore, so my knowledge about printers is really limited. Last weekend, I demoed Oneiric to my father, who still prints stuff, and even though his printer is attached using USB, I had to select the printer from a list. Why is that? I mean, if I attach a memory stick, I don't have to select it. It just works. Why is that no so with printers? For network printers, I understand why they have to be added, since a company can have thousands of printers when one user only needs to use a couple of them. But shouldn't directly connected printers just work?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

According to Ubuntu docs, things are supposed to happen exactly as you expect:

Plug your printer into your computer and power it on. Most printers will automatically be detected an configured. Once detected, a printer icon will appear in the notification area and after waiting a few moments, you should get a popup with the text "Printer is ready for printing.

Unfortunately, setting up a printer may be more difficult than mounting a flash drive, so sometimes auto-detection fails. In this case you need to add the printer manually.

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You could always print to a file instead, or tell the system to use a printer in the network, which isn't automatically seen.

And since Linux evolved from a networking-server-system, having multiple printers available was very common for Unix systems.

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