Getting and setting PPD options via command line for use with lpadmin in OS X

There are some good hints for adding printers via the command line with lpadmin: Managing multiple printers via the command line

However, there is still confusion surrounding the setting of printer options from the command line, as a poster to Debian bugs pointed out back in 2006: lpoptions documentation doesn’t. After doing some testing, here’s the two main takewaways:

  • If you use lpadmin and specify options with “-o” the PPD is altered and OS X will recognize the options for the printer.
  • However, if you setup the printer using lpadmin without any options and later use lptoptions to set the options, they are not written to the PPD and the GUI is unaware of the printer’s options.

more helpful hints about lpadmin and lpoptions:

lpoptions -p printername -l

  • Prints PPD options, “Default” is filtered out from option name (compared to looking at the raw PPD)
  • It uses a colon when reporting key value pairs, however replace that with an equals sign when specifying an option
  • The option name stops at the first slash
  • Example: The duplex option for HP printers will output like this “HPOption_Duplexer/Duplex Unit: *True False”
    When specified as a “-o” option it would be “HPOption_Duplexer=True”

lpadmin … -o this=that

    • Alters the ppd that is placed in /etc/cups/ppd/ when the printer is installed

Unhelpful things:

lpoptions -p printername

  • These are NOT the PPD options you want to set

lpoptions -o

  • Only writes options to: /private/etc/cups/lpoptions (run with sudo) or ~/.cups/lpoptions (run as current user), GUI apps are unaware of these options


The following script compares the original and the newly installed PPD to generate the options syntax to be used with lpadmin: 

The main magic in this script is a little diff and sed:

diff "$originalfile" "$newfile" | grep "> [*]Default" | sed 's/> [*]Default/-o /g' | sed 's/: /=/g'

Script Workflow

  • Copy and paste the script into TextWrangler (or download ppdOptionsDiff.command), save with a .command extension and it will automatically take care of the executable bit
  • Setup your printer via the Printers Preference Pane in the GUI.
  • Look in /etc/cups/ppd and find the newest .ppd (it will be named as the printer)
  • Locate the original .ppd.gz (or .ppd) in /Library/Printers/PPDs/Contents/Resources/, usually the printer ppd is easily found by name, but some like Canon have some cryptic filenames, so look inside the /etc/cup/ppd file, the “PCFileName” variable sometimes helps to determine the file name
  • Run the script given below, it will ask you to drag in the original and the modified ppds. Out will come the “-o” options for use with lpadmin

You can also run the script with the original and modified file paths as arguments and the string will be output

The script “ppdOptionsDiff.command“:
#!/bin/bash
#set -x
#ppd option maker

if [ "$1" == "-h" ]; then
echo “$(basename $0) compares two ppds and outputs the differences as a string for use in lpadmin”
echo “Usage: $(basename $0) [original_ppd] [new_ppd]”
exit
fi

if [ -z "$1" -o -z "$2" ]; then
clear;
echo “Drag in the unmodified PPD from /Library/Printers/PPDs/Contents/Resources:”
while [ -z "$originalfile" ]; do
read originalfile
done

echo “Drag in the PPD from /etc/cups/ppd:”
while [ -z "$newfile" ]; do
read newfile
done

elif [ -n "$1" -o -n "$2" ]; then
newfile=”$2″
originalfile=”$1″

fi

#if file is compressed
if [ "${originalfile##*.}" == "gz" ]; then
#uncompress
IFS=$’\n\t’
gunzipFile=”/tmp/$(basename $originalfile .gz)”
gunzip < “$originalfile” > “$gunzipFile”
originalfile=”$gunzipFile”
fi

#test for file existence
if [ ! -f "$originalfile" ]; then echo “$originalfile is not a valid path”; exit; fi
if [ ! -f "$newfile" ]; then echo “$newfile is not a valid path”; exit; fi

#create options list by diffing and filtering
optionList=$(diff “$originalfile” “$newfile” | grep “> [*]Default” | sed ‘s/> [*]Default/-o /g’ | sed ‘s/: /=/g’)

#print out the options with no line breaks
IFS=$’\n\t’
if [ ! -z "$optionList" ]; then
for option in $optionList; do
echo -n “$option ”
done
echo
else
echo No differences
fi

#delete the temp file from gunzipping
[ -f "$gunzipFile" ] && rm “$gunzipFile”

exit


Example (with pathnames provided as arguments, otherwise runs in interactive mode):

$ ./ppdOptionsDiff.command /Library/Printers/PPDs/Contents/Resources/HP\ LaserJet\ 5200.gz /private/etc/cups/ppd/PRINTERNAME.ppd

-o HPOption_Tray3=Tray3_500 -o HPCollateSupported=True -o HPOption_Duplexer=True -o HPOption_Disk=RAMDisk

Use the generated string in lpadmin to set the printer options.