It's interesting to see ongoing development in this important area, and the Iconbar spoke to Martin Wuerthner about this and other topics.
Until recently, printing on RISC OS machines has been extremely difficult. With the collapse of Acorn, drivers for popular, modern printers all but disappeared. Happily, however, this is no longer the case. If you use an emulator running on top of Windows, then technology such as UniPrint allows you to take advantage of the printer drivers on the host machine.
Even if you use a native box, things are much better than they used to be. Martin Wuerthner's post of the Gutenprint drivers has opened up the possibility of using a huge range of up-to-date printers direct from RISC OS. This does need a fairly powerful machine to make best use of, but its importance should not be underestimated. Using Gutenprint, RISC OS can drive many printers (especially Epsons) to their full potential - that's an amazing achievement.
That's all very well if you want to print from your local machine, but what if your using RISC OS to produce images and documents that you want printed elsewhere? Perhaps you want to produce PDFs that will read well on any machine, or prepare copy for a local printer. One obvious way to do this is to use the PostScript drivers. PostScript is a language used to describe documents in vector format (like Draw files). It's used everywhere, from small-scale print shops to massive multinational publishers. If you can produce high-quality PostScript files, you can speak to the world.
The PostScript solution
Sadly, as was the case with the generic printer drivers, Acorn's offering has become very out of date. It struggled with bitmaps, Unicode text and font replacement. If you were trying to use the Acorn drivers to produce professional output, the chances were you'd be disappointed.
Step forward Martin Wuerthner and John Tytgat. They've written new PostScript 3 drivers for RISC OS which fix these problems. The output is now high quality and capable of being sent to other machines without incurring blushes. To see the difference in output, have a look at these pics.
In conjunction with applications such as ArtWorks, EasiWriter, Photodesk or Ovation, RISC OS users can now produce output of a similar quality to users on more mainstream platforms. As with Gutenprint, that's a huge step forward.
Join the revolution
We spoke to Martin about the new products. Both he and John have been really pleased with the response since the drivers' debut at the London RISC OS Show. They're both busy fixing the inevitable niggles that arose from initial use, and are planning to make a new release in the near future. They also have plans to improve other aspects of the printing process on RISC OS, although Martin was keeping his cards close to his chest about future developments.
If you're using RISC OS for any kind of design work where the output needs to be viewed or printed by someone else, then the drivers are definitely something to consider. The package has been released commercially, and is available from the MW Software website for £35 or €40.