A print driver enables you to send print jobs to your printer. Manufacturers make printer drivers for every make and model of printers. They also make universal printer drivers.
Similar to the universal in universal serial bus (USB). Where universal doesn’t mean a USB plugs into any port on a computer. Rather universal means common interface.
Simply put, a universal printer driver is a print driver which works with any PCL printer. It isn’t specific to any make or model.
Meaning you can install a HP universal printer driver then use it for your Brother laser and Canon inkjet printers. As long as a printer has the same language as the universal print driver.
There are universal print drivers for PCL printers and universal print drivers for PS printers. However, there is not a universal printer driver for all printers or a universal driver for all operating systems. Universal printer drivers have to match operating systems and printer languages.
Every printer has a page description language (PDL) in the firmware it operates on. PCL is the most common page description language (PDL) language in inkjet and laser printers. A printer can have more than one PDL.
Since PCL is the most common language, universal printer drivers are for PCL printers unless they specifically say universal for postscript (PS).
Where to Get Universal Printer Drivers
Universal printer drivers are made by HP, Canon, Brother, Ricoh, Xerox, or any manufacturer of printers.
You get them from the product support section of the manufacturers website. They are listed among the print drivers you can download.
They are installed and used the same as any print driver.
When to Use Universal Printer Drivers
In my experience the most common use of universal printer drivers is on print servers found in large offices. Citrix, thin clients, and virtual desktops also tend to use universal print drivers since they use less memory or resources.
Universal printer drivers offer standardization for multiple clients with an array of printers.
Print servers can get bogged down with an abundance of print drivers. Different print driver file versions can also cause conflicts. When a universal print driver is installed it simplifies managing print drivers.
Universal printer drivers are good on laptops when you need to frequently add new printers. Once you install a universal print driver, you merely point the port to each new printer.
I’ve installed universal print drivers for home printers too. My first choice for home printers is a PCL 6 print driver made for the specific model of printer. But sometimes you have no choice to install a universal printer driver.
Pros and Cons of Universal Printer Drivers
Universal print drivers offer standardization of a printer fleet. Instead of installing and managing dozens of print drivers on a print server. One universal printer driver can handle several makes and models of printers.
Universal printer drivers also offer a basic user interface. Different brands customize their model specific print drivers. If you have multiple printers navigating each user interface is different. Using one universal printer driver streamlines the user interface for multiple printers.
Universal print drivers are mini drivers, meaning they don’t use as much memory or resources as other print drivers. I’ve not noticed them being faster than regular PCL or PS print drivers. Still, PCL is faster than PS in general.
Universal print drivers do tend to have formatting issues. I’ve seen them shrink documents or substitute slightly different fonts.
I’ve seen some universal printer drivers make prints lighter while other universal printer drivers make prints darker. It depends on the printer more than if it was a Lexmark or HP universal print driver.
If your printer has extra features a universal printer driver won’t be able to use them. For example, finishing options or mailboxes aren’t supported. Basic features such as duplex or additional trays are supported.
If you’re wondering if a universal printer driver is better than a regular PCL or PS driver, in my experience they aren’t.
If you want convenience, a universal printer driver is a good option. Convenience comes at a cost though. Consistent results printing PDF’s or images is better achieved with model specific PCL or PS drivers.
You can install a universal printer driver from different manufacturers for your HP, Canon, or Brother printer. It just has to have the correlating PDL. Universal printer drivers are PCL unless stated otherwise.
There is not a universal driver for all printers. Printers operate on a variety of languages such as: PCL, PS, UFRII, KPDL. Universal printer drivers exist for PCL and PS printers.
You download and install a universal print driver as you would any print driver. Then point the port to any compatible printer.
A good application of a universal printer driver is when there are multiple printers and users.
A universal print driver works by using a standard architecture across multiple makes and models of printers.
The Copier Guy, aka Dave. I’ve worked on scanners, printers, copiers, and faxes since 1994. When I’m not fixing them I’m writing about them. Although, I’m probably better at fixing them. I’ve worked with every major brand. As well as several types of processes. If it uses paper I’ve probably worked on one.