Review: Hewlett-Packard Universal Print Driver and the New Officejet Pro 8000 Enterprise Printer

ScreenShot074As detailed in our first-look evaluation of HP’s new Officejet Pro 8000 Enterprise Printer, one of the printer’s most significant features is its compatibility with standard PCL 6 page control and PostScript Level 3 page description languages rather than the line-by-line PCL 3 GUI print driver used by most other HP Officejet imaging products. As stated, this required a significant memory and processor upgrades over other Officejet products.

You may be thinking, how can these print drivers be significant? Here’s how:

Deployment—It’s the final step in the printer-installation procedure. Picture yourself as the IT guy who has been ordered to install 10 workgroup printers to be shared by 30 users. The un-boxing and setup of each unit is the easy part (approximately 10 minutes for the Officejet Pro 8000 in our evaluation). The hard part comes when IT has to ensure that the print drivers and any required software is installed and operating on all of the designated users’ desktop workstations.

The typical installation program can be run from the CD or from a network share.  During the 20-minute installation process, the installer must remain alert and readily available in order to advance through a series of four to six dialogs screens by clicking the “next” button.  Once the software is installed, IT then must customize the print driver from the printer folder, and set defaults for print quality, media sources, duplex printing, grayscale printing, etc. And, if the print driver’s user interface (UI) differs from that of any other devices, this adds to IT’s training and support duties.

However, with the Officejet Pro 8000 Enterprise Printer, there are two standard, traditional methods that IT can now use to greatly shorten the time it takes to customize and deploy print drivers, deploying print drivers and software in just a few minutes, not 20 minutes, in the traditional manner that they’ve used to deploy LaserJets, for instance.  (Previous Officejets’ print drivers were not compatible with the following deployment procedures.)

Point and Print – The printer is attached to a print server, and the print driver on the server is configured accordingly (for instance, specify default duplex and grayscale, and specify installed media types and sources, etc.). IT instructs users to search for their assigned printer on the network.  Once found, the user simply clicks on the printer’s icon and they’re presented with a dialog box asking whether they wish to connect to the printer. If the answer is yes, the pre-configured print driver is automatically installed over the network on the user’s workstation.

Automated Driver Deployment – Although several vendors provide this capability, we know for a fact that it’s included on HP and Xerox installation CDs, or prominently featured in the installation routine. The central component is the Driver Deployment Utility. This utility allows IT staff to create and distribute an executable printer-installation package that can be preconfigured and non-interactive. More importantly, it allows for the creation and distribution of print drivers with features such as color printing locked out for instance. Using this scenario, users (or installers) can be directed to a link that will launch the installation process.  Additionally, a Driver Configuration Utility conveniently lets IT staff open, modify and “save as” in order to quickly create new packages from the precompiled package.

The Universal Print Driver (UPD) – Here’s where the Universal Print Driver comes in. The Officejet Pro 8000 is also the first Officejet compatible with HP’s Universal Print Driver. As mentioned, if the driver’s user interface (UI) differs from that of any other existing device, this adds to IT’s training and support duties. While this can be expected from brand-to-brand, it’s not to be expected when the models are of the same brand. Ultimately this means that companies that have standardized on, or provide support for primarily a single brand of device, face the same problem (but to a lesser degree), as companies that use a hodge-podge of different-brand equipment–another unwanted deviant UI that requires additional training and support.

A more recent solution to this conundrum in the development of the Universal Print Driver.  However, since nobody to date has yet to develop a truly universal UPD that’s universal for all brands, many vendors have quasi-UPDs that encompass their entire line of “office” (dealer) products but not necessarily their models that are distributed via the B2B or retail channels.  We are aware that HP, Konica Minolta, Ricoh and Xerox have “universal” print drivers—universal as long as all your printers are recent models from the same vendor AND from the same distribution channel.

We reviewed several UPDs a while back and thought that with the new capabilities provided by the new HP Officejet Pro 8000 Printer, now is the perfect time to revisit:

HP Universal Print Driver 5.2.5

UPD 5.2.5 comes in two flavors, PCL (5x, 6) and PS (PostScript Level 3 emulation) and is compatible with scores of HP enterprise printers. It provides a single user interface across models, and minimizes support and training. Workstations can have only a single print driver installed, yet can print to any allowable number of HP devices on the network. Core updates can be automatically pushed to workstations. It can be deployed via Point-and-Print. It is not compatible with the Driver Deployment Utility.

I am left with two questions: 1) how does one deploy drivers with different settings (e.g.: no color printing for Shipping & Receiving)? 2) if you can’t do #1, do you have to resort to user and application rules in Web Jetadmin and its requisite user authentication component?  On the other hand, once the UPD is deployed, in theory you will never need to deploy a print driver for an HP enterprise product ever again.

Answer to Question #2
“Manage your print environment more efficiently with HP Managed Printing Administration (MPA) software. Designed specifically for companies that use HP’s Universal Print Driver (UPD), MPA allows you to create a customized print environment and manage the user print experience with ease. Create user groups, managed printer lists, and managed print policies effortlessly. Control user access to color, customize user notifications and automatically generate XML files. It’s all quick and simple with HP MPA. MPA is supported with the UPD installed in both traditional and dynamic modes.”  More information about MPA 2.5.9 is available here.

Nevertheless, since you’ve made it this far, we reward you with a UPD 5.2.5 review that has as many pictures as practical:

UPD Installation (1) UPD Installation (2)
After you click OK, install.exe runs automatically (as long the box is checked).

UPD Installation (4)

UPD Installation (5)

UPD Installation (6)
Four minutes and thirty seconds from start to finish with zero drama.

ScreenShot393 
The icon in the top left (HP Universal Printing PS) is the dynamic UPD printer object.  The top right icon (Officejet Pro 800 Enterprise A811a) is the traditional UPD printer object.  To access printer properties or create a traditional printer object, right-click the dynamic UPD.

UPD Installation (7)
The first time a newly-installed UPD is accessed, this dialogue appears.  Subsequent queries show up in a list of Recently Used Printers.  Note the variety of ways in which to Find a Printer.

UPD Installation (8)
The results of Search for Network Printer on our network.

UPD Installation (10)
With the dynamic UPD object, this validating process occurs each time the user checks printer properties (even print settings).  Although this feels like it takes an eternity (nearly two minutes in one case), it may actually serve as a deterrent that discourages users from changing default print settings (such as enabling color printing).  Note that the traditional UPD object promptly opens the properties page without the message.

 UPD PS (2)
With the exception of fewer Shortcuts, we were hard pressed to note any significant differences between the UPD’s Printer Preferences user interface versus that of other Officejet devices we’ve recently tested.

 UPD Printer Properties (1)
Printer Properties dialog from the Printer folder is identical to that of any other traditional printer object.

Conclusion
Installation of HP’s Universal Print Driver was quick and easy. The HP Universal Print Driver’s user interface is simple, and is exactly the same for scores of HP printer products, thus minimizing the cost of  training and support.  Even though it appears as though migration to a UPD may be ponderous for large legacy operations, there’s a huge payoff, since every workstation now has a “cleaner” and more efficient printing subsystem because it now needs only a single print driver in order to print to virtually any number of HP printers on a network.

Caveats
Users and enterprises who currently deploy customized and/or print drivers with features “locked-out” will have to user either HP’s MPA or control feature-use via user and application templates.  This means that you will have to employ and incorporate some sort of user authentication system and use either MPA or Web Jetadmin in order to limit printing and/or disable the use of features usage (e.g.: disable the printing of Excel worksheets or Outlook e-mail messages in color).

Who Should Consider HP UPD 5.2.5?
Any user who regularly prints to two or more HP enterprise-capable printers and has the means and way to migrate–especially so if the devices have disparate print-driver user interfaces. However, users who currently manage printers solely via customized print drivers will have to face more difficult deployment decisions.

By the way, about 30 seconds ago, we found out that HP UPD 5.2.6 is currently available.  Sigh.

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4 Comments on “Review: Hewlett-Packard Universal Print Driver and the New Officejet Pro 8000 Enterprise Printer”

  1. Rosetta Angela March 31, 2011 at 10:19 AM #

    Thankyou for helping out, wonderful information.

  2. Mohammed Barzeen (@mohdbrzn) October 29, 2011 at 6:21 AM #

    Thanks for the wonderful walk-through…
    Now for some reason i want uninstall from my system complete…

    Any tool for removing it…???

    • Terry Wirth October 31, 2011 at 2:38 PM #

      I am in the NE without power and running off a phone hotspot @ 10Kbps! So, I recommend that you delete the drivers you created but keep the driver core on your system. Meanwhile, I will look for an uninstall procedure once I get some proper throughput. Thank you for your patronage Good Sir!

  3. Carroll B. Merriman January 30, 2012 at 11:03 PM #

    I simply want to mention I am just new to blogging and really enjoyed this page. Almost certainly I’m planning to bookmark your site . You amazingly have fantastic article content. Appreciate it for revealing your web site.

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