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Novell iPrint: A Best-of-Breed Print Solution for Businesses

Articles and Tips: article

01 Oct 2001

A Novell White Paper

Delivering on its commitment to be the leading provider of Net Services software, Novell has developed iPrint for NetWare 6. iPrint provides a best-of-breed printing solution for businesses running as traditional enterprises, for those operating entirely on the Net, and for those anywhere on the large spectrum in between. This White Paper discusses the printing solutions possible through iPrint.


iPrint, NetWare 6, network printing


iPrint, NetWare 6


network administrators, integrators, developers



Prerequisite Skills

familiarity with networking basics

Operating System

NetWare 6



Sample Code



Delivering on its commitment to be the leading provider of Net services software, Novell has developed iPrint for NetWare 6. iPrint provides a best-of-breed printing solution for businesses running as traditional enterprises, for those operating entirely on the Net, and for those anywhere on the large spectrum in between. iPrint is built on top of the time-proven Novell Distributed Print Services (NDPS) and inherits the manageability, scalability, reliability, and ease of use that made NDPS the leading print solution for enterprises.

The functionality premiering in iPrint addresses the Net environment in four main areas:

  • Global access to printers

  • Customizable view of any print environment

  • Flexible print deployment configurations

  • Secure printing

The new power of iPrint hinges on its wholesale adoption of IPP, the IETF-ratified Internet Printing Protocol (RFC 2910-1), and its creative use of the Web browser and Web technology. This paper discusses the Net printing solutions possible through iPrint.

Net Printing: A Powerful Concept

The Net is having a profound impact on what system administrators and end-users are beginning to expect from their print services. Many are discovering how printing should work on the Net while attempting to replace traditional applications with their Web counterparts. Others are analyzing the impact the Net has had on a number of business processes and see the potential for printing in similar areas.

This section explores the exciting possibilities for printing on the Net as well as some of the inherent complexities of the Net model. A later section discusses how iPrint exploits these opportunities while resolving the intrinsic challenges.

The Opportunity

For printing, the promise of the Net is to provide universal access to print services across all types of networks-including intranets, the Internet and extranets; corporate and public-and across all leading platforms. The maturing model for Net access expects much more than just retrieving information about a company's printing configuration and status. The real power of the Net lies in achieving identical experiences, in the quality of service, level of functionality, and look and feel of the process involved, for all intended users, regardless of their point of access. The Net model can then offer unprecedented flexibility for the deployment of a print solution. Implementers can focus on the factors that will give their organization a position of advantage, such as hardware costs reductions, improved manageability, greater reliability, and tighter integration with other Web applications, and a great end-user experience.

Despite all the hype around the Net and its immense potential, only a relatively small number of Net services have managed to realize some of that potential. The following characteristics are common across the more successful Net services:

  • Internet Technology-Based. This might look painfully obvious, yet a number of solutions claim to be fitted for the Net while employing protocols and technologies that are Internet-illiterate. By building on Internet protocols such as TCP/IP and HTTP, a Net solution inherits the worldwide connectivity and redundancy of the Internet. It also becomes suitable for configurations that rely on the use of firewalls, network proxies, and other components of the World Wide Web infrastructure.

  • "On-demand"/"Contract-Based." The "on-demand" service model, also known as "contract-based," doesn't require that desktops of potential end-users be preconfigured to access a service. Instead, when a user discovers a service of interest, he or she can easily set up an account and safely download the logic necessary to enable his or her desktop to consume the service. This model is heavily dependent on reliable service discovery mechanisms and must support untrained end-users.

  • Highly Customizable. Some of the most successful services available over the Net are those that can provide a personalized view of the services available to a given user. Web pages customized for a given organization or individual can provide the context needed to guide users to discover and consume the offered services. Service customization includes requiring that a Net solution lend itself to the different possible system configurations employed by Internet- savvy organizations. For instance, it must support configurations like the hosted data center and its common variations.

  • Secure. Different system configurations and use patterns require various levels of print security. For instance, a commercial printing business needs user authentication to authorize users to print documents and charge back for the provided service. Similarly, printing a document with sensitive information from a company's branch office to another, traveling through public networks, is a plausible solution only if the transaction is encryption protected.

A print service with support for the above capabilities is ideal for a wide range of Net solutions. For instance, it can allow organizations to rely more heavily on the Internet to provide printing for branch offices, telecommuters, partners, and customers. B2B and C2B printing can quickly replace document faxing with a number of additional benefits, including lower operating costs, improved document quality and confidentiality. A true Net print service can finally make support for mobile users feasible. It is a critical piece of reliable commercial printing and can play a key role in the migration of traditional IT to a hosted environment. The "User's Experience" section of this document describes in more detail what some of these solutions might look like.

The Complexity

As described in the previous section, the potential benefits of Net printing are considerable. Whether some have recognized that potential and gone in pursuit of it or whether they have been forced to piece together print solutions to go with their plans to move a business to the Net, many are encountering significant challenges along the way. As a result, most are still looking for alternative solutions to implement printing.

The relevance of the physical location of a print device is a fundamental difference between printing and many other Web applications. With most other applications, the Net has vastly succeeded in making the geographical location of a service provider irrelevant to the end-user. With printing, however, it is paramount that, regardless of the processes and distance a print-job has traveled to be printed, the rendered document be delivered in the vicinity of the intended recipient. Furthermore, for all but the simplest documents, it is not enough for the user's workstation to know how to transmit the document to a print service, it must also produce a document that matches the document format supported by the print device.

The above complexities translate into a variety of common printing problems. These problems are heightened in the Net model where it is cost prohibitive, or downright impossible, for IT to foresee all the needs of intended users and to control how their workstations are configured. The following list describes some common problem areas along with some of the workarounds in use today.

  • Printer Drivers. To achieve satisfactory quality and fidelity in a printed document, it is necessary to use a printer driver on the client workstation that matches the make and model of the target printer. Traditionally, IT has gone to considerable lengths to insure user workstations use the appropriate drivers. As seen above, this is not possible in the Net model.

    Current solutions use one or more of the following in an attempt to work around this problem: a) limit the applications supported so the job can be formatted by middle-tier processes, b) force businesses to standardize on a single printer make and model, c) force users to download and install a proprietary document formatter.

  • Document Transfer. Without a standard mechanism for transmitting print-job data and semantics, getting the document from the user's application to the printer is, at best, troublesome. Today virtually every solution relies on FTP, e-mail, or floppy disks to transfer documents to be printed. Users need to attach notes to their documents with print instructions such as the number of copies to be printed, color or black and white, and finishing options. This is not only non-standard and error prone, but also requires human intervention at the print room. IPP solves this problem.

  • Physical Location. In deciding where to print a document, users are not only interested in a device that supports certain capabilities, but also one within reasonable distance. To assist potential users in this decision, some system administrators periodically pass out and post fliers identifying available neighboring printers and hang signs by the printers. Others preconfigure workstations at a given location to only be able to send jobs to a pool of local printers. There are a few custom solutions that use the login identity and location of a user to automatically select a set of local printers. This requires organizations to spin off a team of programmers to develop and maintain these solutions, an obvious distraction from their core business.

  • Firewalls. The ability, or inability, to print documents to devices on the other side of network firewalls is tied to the mechanism used for the data transfer. Until the recent arrival of IPP, e-mail was the safest way to communicate printing documents across firewalls. Most solutions try to avoid the problem by using dedicated WANs or by deploying print servers outside firewalls.

  • Security. The main problem with security is the complexity of managing authorization accounts. Many organizations opt for disabling authorization checks rather than managing accounts on different printers or print systems.

These complexities, and the rudimentary tools to handle them, offset most of the benefits of using the existing Net print solutions. The multiple limitations imposed on these systems result in solutions that fail to scale on multiple fronts. The complexity of use deters potential Net users, who tend to be particularly fond of simplicity and versatility. Most discouragingly, too often after jumping through the countless hoops to get a job printed, users are only disappointed to discover that the quality of their printed documents fails to meet their expectations.

iPrint: The Net Printing Solution

Novell has invested heavily in the development of IPP, the Internet Printing Protocol. Not only has IPP benefited from Novell's vast experience in network printing, but also from the expertise of every major vendor of printers and printing solutions (members of the Printer Working Group).

The main focus of iPrint is to help organizations realize the unimpaired benefits of printing on the Net by unleashing the power of IPP and Web technologies. It is, by far, the most versatile print solution ever developed by Novell-ready to support end-to-end printing out of the box and at the same time giving system administrators and system integrators the power to tailor a solution to precisely meet the needs of an organization.

This section describes how iPrint's key components work to achieve this goal while eliminating the complexities of printing on the Net.

Product Description

iPrint consists of server and workstation components working together to accomplish true Net printing. iPrint is in full compliance with IPP v1.1; as such, it will interoperate with any third-praty vendor's IPP-compliant component. The advanced capabilities of iPrint, however, require that iPrint support be present both on the server and on the user's workstation. Since iPrint uses the Web's download-on-demand software distribution model, system administrators only need to concern themselves with setting up the server components. Users download the capabilities they need to interact with the system on the fly.

The iPrint server components transform an NDPS printer into an IPP printer and give it presence on the Net. These components are seamlessly integrated with Novell's native HTTP stack, and can also be configured to use Novell's Enterprise Server. This relationship is important since IPP communication travels as HTTP packets and since iPrint relies on web pages for bootstrapping users into the system. The end result is a low-maintenance service back-end that supports the following functionality:

  • iPrint Communication. With iPrint, system administrators can enable IPP access to any NDPS printer. IPP is the ideal protocol for submitting print jobs and communicating printer-related information over the Net. Under the IETF's scrutiny, IPP was defined with Net security and firewall safety in mind. Recent industry-wide IPP bake-offs confirm that IPP's standard use of IANA-registered port numbers and MIME types greatly improve IPP's interoperability with network firewalls and proxies. This level of Net awareness is essential for B2B and C2B print solutions and solutions that support hosted data centers and remote Internet branches.

  • iPrint Printers Web Page. iPrint dynamically generates a Web page listing the iPrint printers hosted on a given server. The page includes the status of each printer and a link that users can follow to install each printer on their workstations. If a user's workstation doesn't have the iPrint workstation components needed to install the printer, the browser can automatically download the necessary files after getting user confirmation.

  • iPrint Location-Based Printing. Administrators can use the included iPrint Map Creation tool to create lists of printers or to build or import maps of buildings floor plans, then drag and drop printer icons onto the floor plan. The tool then prompts the administrator to select or type in the URL of the iPrint printer. The printer is then ready for the end user.

  • Printer Driver Download. Through a standard IPP extension users can download the printer driver needed to format documents for a specific printer. Through IPP the driver that matches the user's operating system and default natural language can be selected without the user's intervention. Printer driver files are compressed to expedite their download and may be signed to guarantee their integrity. Making printer driver download transparent to users removes most of the limitations encountered at various ASPs and Internet print shops today, while ensuring the quality and fidelity of the printed document.

  • iPrint Workstation Components Download. All the iPrint workstation components can be downloaded on demand through a web browser. If users visit the generated printer web page mentioned above, these components are downloaded automatically when users first try to install or communicate with a printer. System administrators may also wish to customize a web page that allows users to explicitly download these files. The iPrint workstation components do not require the presence of Novell's Client32.

  • Security Management and Enforcement. iPrint supports the standard security mechanisms prescribed by IPP; namely, HTTP Basic Authentication and SSL3 encryption. It uses existing NDS user accounts to perform the Internet authentication so system administrators don't have to manage two separate security schemes. iPrint uses the NDPS printer roles specified in NDS to control the type of access a user can have to a given IPP printer. iPrint security does not require users to be logged in to a NetWare server.

  • Customized Web Pages. System administrators can use the server hosting the iPrint back-end, or any other Web Server, to dish up Web pages offering a customized view of their print environment. Besides helping users navigate through available services, these pages can call into the iPrint workstation components to interact with IPP printers in real time. Through simple HTML constructs, for example, a web page can query the printer's status and characteristics, list pending jobs, or cause the printer to be installed on the user's workstation. iPrint offers system integrators unprecedented power to tailor a print solution to the needs of any customer.

    A few concrete examples of the type of customization possible are given in the "User's Experience" section of this document. Sample Web pages implementing some of these examples are available with the product.

The iPrint workstation components enable a user's workstation to have the richest interaction with the iPrint server components. The workstation components are packaged with size and security in mind to encourage users to download them from the Net. They can coexist with Novell's Client32, but work independently of it. The following summarizes the key functionality of the iPrint workstation components:

  • HTML API. The iPrint workstation components support an API that can be accessed by any web page via JavaScript, Java, or HTML. Through this interface Web pages can be customized to communicate with a printer using IPP. The Web page can specify how it wishes the result of a request to come back, as an HTML page, Message (Pop-up) Window, parameterized URL, or XML document. iPrint ships with complete documentation on the iPrint HTML API as well as several sample web pages demonstrating its use.

    The following are examples of the type of functionality available to web pages though this interface

    • Install printer. Web pages may cause that an iPrint printer be installed on the user's workstation. The iPrint workstation components automatically ask the printer for the needed printer driver, given the workstation's OS and natural language. Web pages can specify whether the printer should be installed permanently or only for a specific duration. They can also specify printer driver defaults such as medium size (e.g., A4 or Legal), page orientation, duplexing modes, finishing, input tray, etc

    • Request IPP printer and job attributes. Web pages may request the values of any IPP printer and job attribute. IPP v1.1 defines over a hundred printers and job attributes describing a printer's state, capabilities, and configuration as well as the contents and state of the jobs queued up at the printer.

    • Control printer. Through web pages iPrint printers can be controlled over the net. Some of the operations available are pause and resume printer, pause, resume, and cancel job, and cancel all jobs.

    • Print test page. A web page can cause a test page to be submitted to a printer via IPP. System administrators can use such a mechanism to establish the printer's availability on the Net and the proper operation of the device itself.

  • IPP Print Provider. The iPrint workstation components implement a Windows print provider that uses IPP as its print protocol. This enables users to print directly to IPP printers and print servers from any Windows application. Printers installed via the iPrint HTML API appear to users as any other printer installed through the Add Printer Wizard. The iPrint workstation components also support installing a printer using the Add Printer Wizard. In this case the user must type in the IPP URL of the printer. When users interact with iPrint printers using the Windows Printers Folder, the iPrint workstation components satisfy the OS requests by issuing IPP queries to the appropriate printer or print server. The end result is identical user experiences for interacting with a local printer and a printer across the Internet.

  • Security. The IPrint workstation components can communicate with IPP printers using the following secure schemes: HTPP Basic Authentication, Digest (MD5) Authentication, SSL3 Encryption, and TLS.

Administrator's Experience

This section describes the steps for a system administrator to implement a working iPrint solution. The following assumes NDPS printers are properly configured to front-end the print devices to be shared on the Net. This configuration includes assigning printer drivers to the NDPS printers in question. For a description on how to set up an NDPS system, see products/ndps/details.html.

  • Installing iPrint. This step is only necessary in the release of iPrint is part of a Product Enhancement Pack. Future versions of NetWare will ship with iPrint included. An installation program is provided to copy iPrint files from a CD to the appropriate directories on the server.

  • Enabling IPP Access to Printer. In the first release of iPrint, system administrators need to access the iPrint web administration tool. With one click the NDPS printer will be iPrint enabled. After selecting the desired NDPS printer in iPrint web admin tool, the system administrator goes into the "iPrint client Support" view, checks the box labeled "Enable IPP access to this printer", and clicks on the "Apply" button. The dialog displays the IPP URLs through which that printer can be accessed. The administrator can specify that only secure IPP communication be allowed by checking the box labeled "Require security". The printer is now ready to accept IPP requests.

    The iPrint server components automatically generate a web page listing all the printers hosted at a given NDPS Manager with IPP access enabled. Through this page users can install any listed printers using their browsers. The URL of this page is the IP address or DNS name of the NetWare server hosting the printer with "/ipp" appended.

  • Customizing a Print Solution. Though the previous steps are all that is required to enable users to install and use printers, system administrators and system integrators have the option of setting up customized views of their printing environment. These customized views should guide users in their selection of printing services. By avoiding the common mistakes users make when selecting and installing a printer, iPrint-based solutions can offer unprecedented printing reliability and user satisfaction. The following section provides a glimpse of the type of custom print solutions possible through iPrint.

User's Experience

One of the best selling points of iPrint is the power it gives system administrators and system integrators to implement custom Net print solutions. Thus, with iPrint the user's experience can be very different from one implementation to another. This section describes a few possible iPrint custom solutions, from the user's perspective. (The first configuration is supported by iPrint as a default and does not require Web customization.)

Installing from iPrint Generated Page. A corporate user receives a memo indicating that printers are available for her use at "http://printserver.our-". When she uses her browser to visit this site, she is presented with the list of iPrint printers hosted at printserver.our company .com. The list is automatically generated by the system and shows the status of each listed printer. Next to each printer there is a link that reads "Install". After clicking on one of these links, she is asked to confirm that she wishes to install the printer onto her workstation. She OK's the transaction. The printer driver that matches the printer's make and model and the OS on her workstation is downloaded. The printer is then installed on her workstation without any further user intervention. The next time she tries to print from an application she can select that printer from the available list of installed printers.

New Employee Setup. A newly hired employee logs into his company's internal site. He is presented with a personalized page containing corporate news, links to employee's benefits, and links to traditional productivity apps available for downloading. Under the heading "Remote User Workstation Setup" he finds a link that reads "Install my assigned printers". He clicks on the link and is taken to a page that informs him that four different printers have been installed on his workstation along with a description of each printer's capabilities and location.

Commercial Printing. A guest at a hotel room with Internet access needs to print a set of documents for an upcoming meeting. She connects her laptop to the room's Internet link device and launches her browser. She is automatically taken to the hotel's home page where a number of hotel services and local shops are listed. She selects a link that reads "available printers" which takes her to a page listing four different printers, one located at the hotel's front desk and three others at a nearby print shop. By each printer she finds whether the printer supports color, the cost per printed page, and a link to install the printer. She clicks on the link to install the printer that seems right for the job and is informed that the printer is now available on her workstation and will be automatically removed after her checkout date. She is also informed that she may now print to that printer from within her application and that any incurred costs will be automatically charged to her room account.

Location-based Printing. A sales rep is visiting a branch office to pick up promotional materials and print a few documents. Using the browser on his laptop he visits his company's internal home page and follows the link to "Corporate global print services". This takes him to a map of the United States with links placed at the regions of the country where his company has branch offices. By clicking on the state he is visiting he is taken to a page showing the two branches located in that state. He continues to follow a few more links until he is presented with a floor plan of the building he is at with icons representing the different printers available on that floor. By positioning the cursor over a printer icon the browser displays information about the printer. He clicks on the icon nearest his current location. This causes the printer to be installed on his workstation. He runs his application and prints the documents.

Printer Monitor Console. A printer operator is responsible for making sure sets of printers in an organization are always operational. He needs to know when a printer is out of paper, low on toner, jammed, etc. He implements a web page that shows the printers he's responsible for as icons located on a floor plan. Healthy printers are shown with a green background and printers that need attention are shown with a red background. The page updates itself automatically every three minutes. By clicking on a printer with a red background a separate browser page pops up displaying five different printer attributes, which, he has learned, give him enough information to know how to fix most error conditions.

System Requirements

The first version of iPrint is designed to work in an environment with the following characteristics:

  • Servers running NetWare 6 (iPrint will be available on Netware 5.1 if the customer has purchased upgrade protection)

  • User workstations running Windows 9x, Windows NT, or Windows 2000

  • Internet Explorer v5.x and Netscape v4.7x or newer versions (Netscape 6 not supported)

  • User workstations with or without Novell's Client32

  • Administrator's workstation running iManage and the iPrint client

* Originally published in Novell AppNotes


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