Let Users Easily Find and Connect to Printers

At my company, users often had a difficult time locating and connecting to printers near their office or meeting room. To eliminate this problem, I set up Internet printing on our print server and created a map that people can use to locate and connect to printers.

Setting up Internet printing is straightforward. However, to use Internet printing, your print server needs to be running IIS. Our print server is running Windows Server 2003 and IIS 6.0. To enable Internet printing in IIS 6.0, you just need to open IIS, choose Web Service Extensions, select Internet Printing, and click Allow.

Once you've enabled Internet printing, you can get a nice overview of all your printers in the print server's web page at http://PrintServerName/printers, where PrintServerName is the name of your print server. Each printer has a link. Clicking a printer link brings up that printer's web page. As Figure 1 shows, you have options to get detailed information about that printer and options to monitor and manage it.

Figure 1: Sample printer web page (click to enlarge)

If you click the Connect option, then click Yes in the Add Web Printer Connection dialog box, the print server installs the appropriate printer driver and adds the printer's icon to the Printers folder on your computer. You can then use the printer as if it were attached to your computer. Note that if the print server's web page is in a Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) zone whose security settings are set to medium-low or lower, Windows creates a remote procedure call (RPC) printer connection, which is preferred in an intranet scenario. Otherwise, Windows creates an HTTP printer connection.

On the map, which is posted on our intranet, the printer locations are marked with hot spots, as Figure 2 shows.

Figure 2: Map showing the location of printers (click to enlarge)

Hot spots are hyperlinks on an image. They can be shapes (e.g., circles, rectangles) or text. On our map, users can get a brief description of the printer when they hover their mouse over a printer hot spot. When users click a printer hot spot, they're asked whether they want to add a printer connection to that printer. If they click Yes, the print server installs the that printer's driver and adds the printer's icon to the Printers folder on their computer. They can then use the printer as if it were attached to their computer.

To create a map, you first need to obtain some URLs from the printer web pages. On each printer web page, right-click the Connect option, and choose Copy Shortcut to get the URL. Paste the URLs in a text file. Then, create an HTML page that maps the printers' locations. With a floor plan in .bmp format, it's easy to create a printer map HTML page using Microsoft FrontPage. Using the URLs you copied, create hot spots for each printer location. If you want a hot spot to display a brief printer description when a mouse hovers over it, be sure to add that description to the hyperlink properties. Make sure you have the appropriate security settings on the printer objects.

You can find more information about setting up and using Internet printing in the Microsoft white paper "Printing Effectively with Internet Printing Protocol (IPP) 1.0". For more information about creating hot spots in FrontPage, see the "About hot spots and image maps" web page.

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