In the old days of printer, we had lp and little else. While lp allowed for some network and client printing, its design was really not intended to support today’s printer capabilities and network print requirements. If there’s any one aspect of technology that Windows has greatly outstripped UNIX, it’s print capabilities. Easyspooler is designed to solve the problems with lp and bring UNIX’s printing requirements up to date. Although Easyspooler has been available for a while (since 1990 actually), Easyspooler’s latest release adds some extra features that make it noteworthy.

Easyspooler provides all the capabilities you need for sharing printers between a UNIX and Windows system, as well as handling print output to alternate sources like fax and e-mail applications. More like a mainframe printing application than anything else, Easyspooler gives an administrator complete control over the network printing resources. Users get flexibility they never had under UNIX.

Easyspooler installs quickly from CD-ROM. Our Easyspooler package had nothing else in the carton but the CD-ROM, with documentation only available through the CD. Since Easyspooler is likely to be installed and configured by administrators, this is not really an issue unless the administrator is new to SCO systems. An installation sheet may be a welcome addition for those users. We installed onto a dual-CPU 600MHz PIII with 128MB RAM running SCO OpenServer 5, as well as a single processor PII 450MHz with 128MB RAM running SCO UnixWare 7. Under both platforms installation took less than ten minutes. (Easyspooler will work under practically any UNIX variant, including Linux, as well as Windows.)

Easyspooler’s primary interface is character based. This allows Easyspooler to run on many target operating systems without worrying about GUI peculiarities. That doesn’t mean Easyspooler doesn’t have a GUI: version 5 adds a good graphical interface, but we suspect many administrators will still opt for the older character-based system because it works off any terminal, and it is faster. The menu interface is easy to use with obvious choices for each task. Adding and removing printers from Easyspooler’s control is a snap. Watching the print queues and moving jobs around in those queues is also much easier than with lp. An administrator or a user with access to Easyspooler can bounce shorter jobs ahead of longer jobs, despite when they were queued. This doesn’t alter the job’s priority, just the position in the queue.

Also handy is the ability to suspend a print job at any point, do something else, then resume at exactly the same place. For large print requests, this gives you the option to pause the print job, print the shorter jobs that are higher priority, then resume exactly where the larger job left off. A quick notification feature in case of a disabled printer will be a bone to those managing remote devices, as it alerts you to problems before users do. The administrator gets excellent control over any networked printer, without compromising security. Also, customizable output reports can provide summaries of print status, throughputs, and overall print handling.

Users will find many neat tricks embedded in the Easyspooler software. A common problem is printing very large jobs. With Easyspooler you can split a single job up over multiple printers. This is not the same as a printer pool, where a job gets printed on only one of the printers assigned to a pool. Instead, the user can specify what to print where, assembling a large document in much less time. To test split jobs we used Easyspooler to queue a 2,000 document to three different Hewlett-Packard Laserjet 8100DNs, but we threw in the condition that only two printers were to duplex while the third was to print on one side of the page only. Easyspooler handled the task with ease, and despite the speed of the 8100s we were finished much faster than queuing to a single printer.

User interfaces to Easyspooler are through the same syntax as lp, which allows much better integration into applications. For example, we easily integrated capabilities like split printing and job suspension into Adobe FrameMaker, which normally takes only lp commands. Easyspooler allows you to queue a print request by time (and date, too), which allows for printing at late hours when the printers will not be so busy.

Version 5 of Easyspooler adds a bunch of new features to the basic Easyspooler package. The most important addition is printer pooling, set up in a similar way to pools under Windows NT. A printer pool routes an incoming job to the first available printer in the pool, and can transfer queued documents to a pool printer when it becomes available. The Easyspooler pool handler is more talented than the rudimentary pooling under Windows NT because it can handle printers of different types in a pool, while Windows NT wants all the printers in a pool to be the same type. Easyspooler can send larger jobs to the fastest printers, instead of the first available.

There are few packages that make an immediate change to the way administrators handle entire networks, but Easyspooler does this. After using Easyspooler for a few days, you’ll wonder how you got along without it (especially on large networks with lots of printers to manage). Seay Systems offers a thirty-day trial betting that you’ll like the software enough to buy it. We did.

Seay Systems, Inc.
4925 Greenville Avenue, Suite 1200
Dallas, TX 75206
214-522-1306 fax

Summary: If you need to print under Windows or UNIX, this is the package to control the printers. A little expensive for smaller systems, but worth every penny.