printcap -- printer capability data base
The Printcap function is a simplified version of the termcap(5) data base
used to describe line printers. The spooling system accesses the
printcap file every time it is used, allowing dynamic addition and deletion
of printers. Each entry in the data base is used to describe one
printer. This data base may not be substituted for, as is possible for
termcap(5), because it may allow accounting to be bypassed.
The default printer is normally lp, though the environment variable
PRINTER may be used to override this. Each spooling utility supports an
option, -P printer, to allow explicit naming of a destination printer.
Refer to the 4.3 BSD Line Printer Spooler Manual for a complete discussion
on how to setup the database for a given printer.
Refer to termcap(5) for a description of the file layout.
Name Type Default Description
af str NULL name of accounting file
br num none if lp is a tty, set the baud
rate (ioctl(2) call)
cf str NULL cifplot data filter
ct num 120 TCP connection timeout in
df str NULL tex data filter (DVI format)
ff str `\f' string to send for a form
fo bool false print a form feed when device
gf str NULL graph data filter (plot(3)
hl bool false print the burst header page
ic bool false driver supports (non
standard) ioctl to indent
if str NULL name of text filter which
lf str /dev/console error logging file name
lo str lock name of lock file
lp str /dev/lp device name to open for
mc num 0 maximum number of copies
which can be requested on
lpr(1), zero = unlimited
ms str NULL if lp is a tty, a commaseparated,
describing the tty modes
mx num 0 maximum file size (in BUFSIZ
blocks), zero = unlimited
nd str NULL next directory for list of
nf str NULL ditroff data filter (device
of str NULL name of output filtering
pc num 200 price per foot or page in
hundredths of cents
pl num 66 page length (in lines)
pw num 132 page width (in characters)
px num 0 page width in pixels
py num 0 page length in pixels
rc bool false when sending to a remote
host, resend copies (see
rf str NULL filter for printing FORTRAN
style text files
rg str NULL restricted group. Only
members of group allowed
rm str NULL machine name for remote
rp str lp remote printer name argument
rs bool false restrict remote users to
those with local accounts
rw bool false open the printer device for
reading and writing
sb bool false short banner (one line only)
sc bool false suppress multiple copies
sd str /var/spool/lpd spool directory
sf bool false suppress form feeds
sh bool false suppress printing of burst
sr str NULL file name to hold statistics
of each datafile as it is
ss str NULL file name to hold statistics
of each datafile as it is
st str status status file name
tf str NULL troff data filter (cat
tr str NULL trailer string to print when
vf str NULL raster image filter
Each two-letter capability has a human-readable alternate name.
Short form Long form
If the local line printer driver supports indentation, the daemon must
understand how to invoke it.
The lpd(8) daemon creates a pipeline of filters to process files for various
printer types. The filters selected depend on the flags passed to
lpr(1). The pipeline set up is:
p pr | if regular text + pr(1)
none if regular text
c cf cifplot
d df DVI (tex)
g gf plot(3)
n nf ditroff
f rf Fortran
t tf troff
v vf raster image
The if filter is invoked with arguments:
if [-c] -wwidth -llength -iindent -n login -h host acct-file
The -c flag is passed only if the -l flag (pass control characters literally)
is specified to lpr(1). The Width function and length specify the
page width and length (from pw and pl respectively) in characters. The
-n and -h parameters specify the login name and host name of the owner of
the job respectively. The Acct-file function is passed from the af
If no if is specified, of is used instead, with the distinction that of
is opened only once, while if is opened for every individual job. Thus,
if is better suited to performing accounting. The of is only given the
width and length flags.
All other filters are called as:
filter -xwidth -ylength -n login -h host acct-file
where width and length are represented in pixels, specified by the px and
py entries respectively.
All filters take stdin as the file, stdout as the printer, may log either
to stderr or using syslog(3), and must not ignore SIGINT.
When printing to a remote printer using rm, it is possible to use either
if or of. If both are specified, of is ignored. Both filters behave the
same except that they are passed different arguments as above. Specifically,
the output filter is terminated and restarted for each file transmitted.
This is necessary in order to pass the resulting size to the
If the -p flag was passed to lpr(1), pr(1) is not executed locally, but
is requested of the remote lpd(8). Any input filtering via if will
therefore happen before pr(1) is executed rather than afterwards.
There are some models of network printers which accept jobs from lpd(8),
but they ignore the control file for a job and simply print each data
file as it arrives at the printer. One side-effect of this behavior is
that the printer will ignore any request for multiple copies as given
with the -# flag on the lpr(1) command. The rc entry will cause lpd(8)
to resend each data file for each copy that the user originally
requested. Note that the rc entry should only be specified on hosts
which send jobs directly to the printer.
If lp is specified as port@machine (and rm is not in use), print data
will be sent directly to the given port on the given machine.
When a print job is transfered to a remote machine (which might be
another unix box, or may be a network printer), it may be useful to keep
statistics on each transfer. The sr and ss options indicate filenames
that lpd should use to store such statistics. A statistics line is written
for each datafile of a job as the file is successfully transferred.
The format of the line is the same for both the sending and receiving
side of a transfer.
Statistics on datafiles being received would be used on a print server,
if you are interested in network performance between a variety of
machines which are sending jobs to that print server. The print server
could collect statistics on the speed of each print job as it arrived on
Statistics on datafiles being sent might be used as a minimal accounting
record, when you want to know who sent which jobs to a remote printer,
when they were sent, and how large (in bytes) the files were. This will
not give include any idea of how many pages were printed, because there
is no standard way to get that information back from a remote (network)
printer in this case.
Error messages generated by the line printer programs themselves (that
is, the lpd(8) and related programs) are logged by syslog(3) using the
LPR facility. Messages printed on stderr of one of the filters are sent
to the corresponding lf file. The filters may, of course, use syslogd(8)
Error messages sent to the console have a carriage return and a line feed
appended to them, rather than just a line feed.
lpq(1), lpr(1), lprm(1), hosts.lpd(5), termcap(5), chkprintcap(8),
lpc(8), lpd(8), pac(8)
4.3 BSD Line Printer Spooler Manual.
The printcap file format appeared in 4.2BSD.
FreeBSD 5.2.1 October 11, 2000 FreeBSD 5.2.1 [ Back ]