Ubuntu family printing - howto

Updated: December 7, 2012

Note: The issue discussed below has since been fixed in Ubuntu 12.10.

You have reached this tutorial because you seem to be facing one or several of the following problems: You are trying to print in Ubuntu, but cannot see any printers, local or network based, the wizard cannot advance because it does not see any devices and the relevant buttons are grayed out; trying to manually add network printers makes no difference.

I have already written a very detailed tutorial on Linux printing, but things have changed somewhat since. Ever since Gnome 3 came to life, the printing wizard applet used in the Ubuntu family distributions, including the likes of Linux Mint and Zorin and others, has changed. This means you may not be able to print easily. So I want to show you how to overcome the issue. Demoed on Zorin Core 6.


All right, so this is how it goes. You launched the printer menu from the Settings menu. It's called by different names, but it comes down to the window you see below. First, it will confuse you and warn you about the firewall. But ignore that.

Could not find printer

You wish to search for network printers, so you add the IP address below. You select Search by Address. However, nothing happens. The Add button is grayed out, nothing is shown in the applet, and you are stuck. The reason for this is, the applet is broken and sucks ass. So much for Gnome 3, right. Okay, let's resolve this crap.


Now, to make things simple: Open the command line and start the OLD printing utility. It is called system-config-printer. When it launches, click on the Add button. This brings you back to the same steps and functionality I outlined in my original tutorial.

System config printer utility

Found printer

Samba printer configured

Next, you will need to go through the usual steps of choosing your printer model and selecting the correct drivers, as well as other usual tricks. But we have done all that in the original tutorial, so no need for extra screenshots on those steps again. And of course, any other issues seen later will most likely be vendor and model specific. If you want tips for this particular HP model, we can have a followup article, should the need arise.

Printer configured


Without too much verbosity, the trick is to launch the old printing utility rather than the new one, and then just go through the standard steps of configuring your printer. You still may face problems with the selected drivers, the CUPS service may or may not respond, you might have to open the Web admin page and make some adjustments, read logs, restart services, and the rest. But all of these will happen AFTER the printer is found. The new and broken utility does not let you do even that. And that's the one we tackle here.

Hopefully, you will find this tutorial quite useful. The very first step is to find your printer, somewhere, and then set it up properly. Make sure you fire up the correct utility. After that, you're on solid ground. And yes, you're welcome.


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