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Gimp-Print for RISC OS logo

Gimp-Print for RISC OS
High-quality printing for RISC OS

Gutenprint for RISC OS logo

Photo-real printer drivers for current inkjet printers

Developing printer drivers for high-resolution and photo-realistic printing on modern inkjet printers (e.g., by Epson, Canon and HP) is a very demanding task. While printer drivers for mainstream platforms are made available by the printer manufacturers the RISC OS platform has been left behind without being able to drive the most recent printers with satisfactory results.

Luckily, there is a very active group of people developing Linux drivers for these printers: This is known as the Gutenprint (formerly Gimp-Print) project. Gimp-Print supports hundreds of printers and is constantly updated to support new printers as they become available. There is an emphasis on Epson printers because Epson publish their printer control codes (in contrast to other companies, e.g., Canon).

Gimp-Print for RISC OS is a RISC OS printer driver based on the Gimp-Print library. It can be used like any other printer driver to print from RISC OS applications (e.g., ArtWorks, OvationPro, Impression, PhotoDesk, Paint, Draw to name just a few).

These drivers support high-resolution printing with photo-real print quality and offer colour correction for different media types (plain paper, glossy photo-paper, overhead transparencies, etc.) as well as user-defined colour correction (brightness, contrast, saturation, density, gamma).

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From Gimp-Print to Gutenprint

The Gimp-Print/Gutenprint project has moved on enormously since the most recent release of Gimp-Print for RISC OS (version 1.06, released on 20-Nov-04). On July 30 2006, a major new version was released and announced by the development team as follows:

The Gutenprint project is pleased to announce the first public release of Gutenprint 5.0. This release, which has been under development for over four years, offers improved quality, greatly enhanced functionality, and support for many more printers than our previous version, Gimp-Print 4.2.

Updating the RISC OS port from Gimp-Print 4.2.7 to Gutenprint 5.0 is not trivial because the programming interface of the core print engine has undergone major changes, which means that substantial parts of the RISC OS interface layer have to be rewritten. Once that has been achieved it is likely that future versions of Gutenprint can be integrated without any significant effort.

The Gutenprint 5.0 porting work has already started and the projected release date is March 2007. You can find a list of printers supported by Gutenprint 5.0 here.

Gutenprint funding

In order to fund the Gutenprint 5.0 port existing Gimp-Print for RISC OS users will be asked to make another donation (between £10 and £20, details will be announced) when the new version is available. Again, at least for the time being, the new version will only be available to users who have donated.

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The Gimp-Print/Gutenprint code is free open source software that is published under the GNU General Public Licence. This licence allows the code to be copied, modified and reused but requires derived software to be published under the same licence. Therefore, the GPDriver application that implements the RISC OS printer driver is freely downloadable from my web site including source code. However, in order to cooperate with the RISC OS printing system it requires an interface layer that is currently available to supporters of the project only. In the long run it is well possible that the system will become a completely free RISC OS printer driver that can be shared by everyone, but for the time being, only those who donated can use the software.

Users who make a donation receive the download password for the web site.

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System requirements

Gimp-Print requires at least RISC OS 3.5 and potentially a lot of memory (depending on printer model). For the most memory-hungry models, 64MB of RAM is a good start, but you will probably need more for full-width high-resolution printing (before anyone asks, this is because of the memory requirements of the Gimp-Print library - the RISC OS specific components are happy with much less memory). It is likely that a virtual memory manager like Clare's !Virtualise can be used instead of physical RAM (of course, with some degradation of overall performance). A fast processor is certainly a good idea, too. Do not expect too much if you do not have at least a StrongARM (maybe performance on a slower processor with FP support, i.e., an ARM 7500FE, is acceptable as well).

Please note that the resource requirements depend on many factors, most notably:

  • The printer model
  • The output width (covered area of the paper)
  • The resolution (most notably, the vertical resolution), including quality setting (e.g., "1440dpi Highest quality" on an Epson Stylus C84 requires twice the amount of memory as opposed to just "1440dpi")
  • The ink set (printing with additional photo inks requires more memory)

To give you an idea, here are some benchmarks. All of these examples use the highest resolution/quality setting available for the given printer. The test was to print a high-resolution photo at full A4 size (minus print borders).

  • HP DeskJet 690, 600dpi, 2.1MB
  • Canon S800, 1200dpi: 2.7MB
  • Canon S450, 1440x720dpi, 5 colour photo inks: 4.5MB
  • Epson Stylus Color 760, 1440x720dpi Highest Quality: 17.2MB
  • Epson Stylus Photo 960, 2880x1440dpi, six colour photo inks: 60MB

More details for the Epson Stylus C84 at various resolutions/sizes:

  • Epson Stylus C84, 1440x720dpi Highest Quality, full page A5 photo: 81MB
  • Epson Stylus C84, 1440x720dpi Highest Quality, full page A4 photo: 100MB
  • Epson Stylus C84, 1440x1440dpi Highest Quality, 10x13.3cm photo: 108MB

Unfortunately, I am unable to deal with individual queries regarding resource requirements, so please do not enquire about the amount of memory required for a specific printer.

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Credits are due to Robert L Krawitz, Michael Sweet and all the others of the Gimp-Print team for creating this excellent piece of software. The Gimp-Print logo above was created by Richard G. Hallas based on the GIMP logo.

Mailing list

There is a SmartGroup-based mailing list to discuss this project. It can be found at http://www.smartgroups.com/groups/riscos-printing.

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Last modified: 17-Jan-07