I am shopping for a new printer for my office, and I have become aware that some printers have postscript drivers whereas others do not. For instance, this printer that I'm considering http://www.amazon.com/Canon-imageCLASS-MF6160dw-Wireless-Monochrome/dp/B00E3WE4AI/ref=cm_cd_ql_qh_dp_t comes in two versions, one with postscript and one without, and the postscript version is 100 dollars more expensive. This other printer that I'm considering does not have postscript if I understand the specifications correctly. http://www.amazon.com/Samsung-SL-M2885FW-XAA-Wireless-Monochrome/dp/B00IQBT3VW/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top.

From what little information I've been able to find online, the postscript driver is needed to print out some (but not all) lengthy pdf files, especially if you are doing desktop publishing. I regularly print out pdfs of math articles that have been compiled from LaTeX files, usually no longer than about 30 pages, but on rare occasions as long as about 100 pages. The majority of my printing will not be these math papers, but rather handouts, tests, and quizzes for the classes that I am teaching, also generally compiled into pdfs from LaTeX.

Do I need a postscript printer for my printing needs, or will an ordinary printer suffice? I don't need to print anything at desktop publishing quality, just for my personal academic use. I do need all of the math symbols to display correctly in the printed document. I've used a variety of printers to print math papers and never had trouble, so I think I'll be fine with an ordinary printer, but I just want to double check be for I spend a lot of money on a printer that won't work for my needs.

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    Close voters: (a) leave a comment to say why you are voting to close, (b) give the poster time to react – Andrew Swann Sep 15 '14 at 6:59
  • Postscript is a full programming language. It requires more of the printer to support this. Large PDF's just require many pages, and are typically prerendered by the printer driver in the submitting computer. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Sep 15 '14 at 9:04
  • The main thing is having a proper printer. I've seen printers from big companies where their postscript interpreter was incomplete. Then all of a sudden Adobe Reader starts using some exotic postscript operators and thus the print may not even come out right. Interestingly enough, if we used a different PDF viewer than Adobe reader, then no problems. – daleif Sep 15 '14 at 17:46
  • In my somewhat checkered experience, office-grade printers almost never implement PostScript correctly and completely; one is much better off having Ghostscript convert to the printer's native input format first. (Most current Linux distributions do this for you automatically.) – zwol Sep 15 '14 at 18:11

I have never heard of a technical reason why a long PDF document could be printed on a PostScript printer but not on a non-PostScript printer and I strongly doubt there is one. Hence: you should not need a PostScript printer for printing PDFs no matter how many pages long.

A PostScript printer has a different potential advantage over other printers: the software that translates abstract geometrical objects like lines and boxes to pixels is part of the printer and can be finely tuned to the hardware by the manufactorer. When this Raster Image Processor is part of the printer driver of the desktop computer, the fit might not be as good. However, there are several other factors that affect print quality and unless you are a professional printer, this should not be a concern.

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    There are still a limited subset of PostScript specials within the scope of PDF specifications varying from computations to object descriptions. Some non-PS printers cannot render these instructions and hence the discrepancy. – percusse Sep 15 '14 at 20:53
  • Are you referring to TeX specials that emit PS that ends up in a PDF? Or are you referring to genuine PDF operators? In any case, this is not a matter of document length. – Christian Lindig Sep 16 '14 at 4:18
  • Right, I should have also included my implicit assumption; I think by lengthy documents the OP assumes it would be easier to hit a strange PS instruction. So I converted in my mind but didn't write it down. – percusse Sep 16 '14 at 11:17
  • Thank you. The reason I had been mislead on this topic was because of this thread on Amazon. One of the posters understood postscript incorrectly and gave misleading information. amazon.com/… – Norman Lewis Perlmutter Sep 17 '14 at 6:45

A PostScript printer would be useful (some work is done outside your computer) only to print PostScript files, however it is not necessary. If you want to print PDF's, a PostScript printer doesn't help, however you can still print them.

See also http://desktoppub.about.com/cs/printing/a/postscriptprint.htm, especially If you are a professional desktop publisher or graphic designer who works with commercial printers and service bureaus you will probably need to know and use PostScript remark.


I had once a printer with an in-built postscript interpreter (laser printer at this time always had one). That can be useful: You can print a postscript file without going through a postscript interpreter and the printing system of your computer. I could download ps-files to the printer and the postscript interpreter there did all the work. This is faster and puts much less stress on the CPU of the PC. As at this time I had to print a lot of tournament builetins and had a not very powerful computer the time gain was very welcome.

But nowadays I don't think that it is needed, certainly not for your type of printing. I would more care for network capabilities: Make sure that you can print from more then one computer through wlan or ethernet.


PostScript -- see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PostScript -- is a computer language. I'm not an expert for printing, but afaik if the OS doesn't support your printer, you can use it nonetheless if the printer "understands" PostScript.

For people using Microsoft Windows there will almost always be a printer driver, but for Unix, Linux and whatever, PostScript is at least a fall back solution.

Disclaimer: I'd be happier if somebody with greater knowledge of PostScript could verify this.

As some folks here have doubts about the connection to LaTeX: In the old days TeX was not able to produce a PDF, but DVI. From DVI there was a way to get a PostScript file. And pstricks can do some things Tikz never will be able to. But don't mix these three use cases of PostScript (printer "driver" / output format / drawing) of PostScript.

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