Command-Line Printing

CUPS is the printing system used in most modern Linux OS's. It provides a variety of facilities for printing and managing the printing functionality.

CUPS understands many different types of files directly, including text, PostScript, PDF, and image files. This allows you to print from inside your applications or at the command-line, whichever is most convenient! Type the following command to print a file to the default (or only) printer on the system:

lp filename

Many systems will have more than one printer available to the user. These printers can be attached to the local system via a parallel, serial, or USB port, or available over the network. Use the lpstat(1) command to see a list of available printers:

lpstat -p -d
# -p specifies that it should list printers
# -d specifies to list the current default printer

Print to a specific printer using:

lp -d printer_name filename

If you normally use a particular printer, you can tell CUPS to use it by default using the lpoptions(1) command:

lpoptions -d printer

lp supports printing from standard input.

program | lp                   # prints using the default printer
program | lp -d printer        # prints to the specified printer

If the program does not provide any output, then nothing will be queued for printing.

For many types of files, the default printer options may be sufficient for your needs. However, there may be times when you need to change the options for a particular file you are printing.

The lp command allows you to pass printer options using the -o option:

lp -o landscape -o scaling=75 -o media=A4 filename.jpg

The available printer options vary depending on the printer. The standard options are described in the Standard Printing Options section below. Printer-specific options are also available and can be listed using the lpoptions command:

lpoptions -p printer -l

Saved options are supported in CUPS through printer instances. Printer instances are, as their name implies, copies of a printer that have certain options associated with them. Use the lpoptions command to create a printer instance:

lpoptions -p printer/instance -o name=value ...

The -p printer/instance option provides the name of the instance, which is always the printer name, a slash, and the instance name which can contain any printable characters except space and slash. The remaining options are then associated with the instance instead of the main queue. For example, the following command creates a duplex instance of the LaserJet queue:

lpoptions -p LaserJet/duplex -o sides=two-sided-long-edge

Instances do not inherit lpoptions from the main queue.

You can use lp to print multiple copies with the commands:

lp -n num-copies filename
lp -n num-copies -o Collate=True filename  # print collated

You can list the print queue of a printer using lpstat.

lpstat -o myprinter

This will give you a list of job-ID's for each printer that you can use to act on the job.

The cancel command cancels a print job.

cancel job-ID

The lpmove command moves a print job to a new printer or class.

lpmove job-id destination

Here is a list of some standard and useful printing options.

The -o media=XYZ option sets the media size, type, and/or source:

lp -o media=Letter filename
lp -o media=Letter,MultiPurpose filename

The available media sizes, types, and sources depend on the printer, but most support the following options (case is not significant):

  • “Letter” – US Letter (8.5×11 inches, or 216x279mm)
  • “Legal” – US Legal (8.5×14 inches, or 216x356mm)
  • “A4” – ISO A4 (8.27×11.69 inches, or 210x297mm)
  • “COM10” – US #10 Envelope (9.5×4.125 inches, or 241x105mm)
  • “DL” – ISO DL Envelope (8.66×4.33 inches, or 220x110mm)
  • “Transparency” – Transparency media type or source
  • “Upper” – Upper paper tray
  • “Lower” – Lower paper tray
  • “MultiPurpose” – Multi-purpose paper tray
  • “LargeCapacity” – Large capacity paper tray

The actual options supported are defined in the printer’s PPD file in the “PageSize”, “InputSlot”, and “MediaType” options. You can list them using the lpoptions(1) command:

lpoptions -p printer -l

When “Custom” is listed for the “PageSize” option, you can specify custom media sizes using one of the following forms:

lp -o media=Custom.WIDTHxLENGTH filename
lp -o media=Custom.WIDTHxLENGTHin filename
lp -o media=Custom.WIDTHxLENGTHcm filename
lp -o media=Custom.WIDTHxLENGTHmm filename

where “WIDTH” and “LENGTH” are the width and length of the media in points, inches, centimeters, or millimeters, respectively.

The -o landscape option will rotate the page 90 degrees to print in landscape orientation:

lp -o landscape filename

The -o orientation-requested=N option rotates the page depending on the value of N:

Option Description
-o orientation-requested=3 portrait orientation (no rotation)
-o orientation-requested=4 landscape orientation (90 degrees)
-o orientation-requested=5 reverse landscape or seascape orientation (270 degrees)
-o orientation-requested=6 reverse portrait or upside-down orientation (180 degrees)

You can print two-sided using the -o sides=two-sided option:

lp -o sides=two-sided filename

The -o jobsheets=start,end option sets the banner page(s) to use for a job:

lp -o job-sheets=none filename
lp -o job-sheets=standard,classified filename

If only one banner file is specified, it will be printed before the files in the job. If a second banner file is specified, it is printed after the files in the job.

The available banner pages depend on the local system configuration; CUPS includes the following banner files:

  • “none” – Do not produce a banner page.
  • “classified” – A banner page with a “classified” label at the top and bottom.
  • “confidential” – A banner page with a “confidential” label at the top and bottom.
  • “secret” – A banner page with a “secret” label at the top and bottom.
  • “standard” – A banner page with no label at the top and bottom.
  • “topsecret” – A banner page with a “top secret” label at the top and bottom.
  • “unclassified” – A banner page with an “unclassified” label at the top and bottom.

The -o job-hold-until=when option tells CUPS to delay printing until the when time, which can be one of the following:

Option Description
-o job-hold-until=indefinite print only after released by the user or an administrator
-o job-hold-until=day-time print from 6am to 6pm local time
-o job-hold-until=night print from 6pm to 6am local time
-o job-hold-until=second-shift print from 4pm to 12am local time
-o job-hold-until=third-shift print from 12am to 8am local time
-o job-hold-until=weekend print on Saturday or Sunday
-o job-hold-until=HH:MM print at the specified UTC time

Aside from the web interface, you can use the lp command to release a held job:

lp -i job-id -H resume

The -o job-priority=NNN option tells CUPS to assign a priority to your job from 1 (lowest) to 100 (highest), which influences where the job appears in the print queue. Higher priority jobs are printed before lower priority jobs, however submitting a new job with a high priority will not interrupt a job.

The -o outputorder=normal and -o outputorder=reverse options specify the order of the pages. Normal order prints page 1 first, page 2 second, and so forth. Reverse order prints page 1 last.

The -o page-ranges=pages option selects a range of pages for printing:

lp -o page-ranges=1 filename
lp -o page-ranges=1-4 filename
lp -o page-ranges=1-4,7,9-12 filename

As shown above, the “pages” value can be a single page, a range of pages, or a collection of page numbers and ranges separated by commas. The pages will always be printed in ascending order, regardless of the order of the pages in the “page-ranges” option.

The default is to print all pages.

Use the -o page-set=set option to select the even or odd pages:

lp -o page-set=odd filename
lp -o page-set=even filename

The -o number-up=value option selects N-Up printing. N-Up printing places multiple document pages on a single printed page. CUPS supports 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, and 16-Up formats; the default format is 1-Up:

lp -o number-up=1 filename
lp -o number-up=2 filename
lp -o number-up=4 filename

The -o page-border=value option chooses the border to draw around each page:

Option Description
-o page-border=double draw two hairline borders around each page
-o page-border=double-thick draw two 1pt borders around each page
-o page-border=none do not draw a border (default)
-o page-border=single draw one hairline border around each page
-o page-border=single-thick draw one 1pt border around each page

The -o number-up-layout=value option chooses the layout of the pages on each output page:

Option Description
-o number-up-layout=btlr Bottom to top, left to right
-o number-up-layout=btrl Bottom to top, right to left
-o number-up-layout=lrbt Left to right, bottom to top
-o number-up-layout=lrtb Left to right, top to bottom (default)
-o number-up-layout=rlbt Right to left, bottom to top
-o number-up-layout=rltb Right to left, top to bottom
-o number-up-layout=tblr Top to bottom, left to right
-o number-up-layout=tbrl Top to bottom, right to left

The -o fitplot option specifies that the document should be scaled to fit on the page:

lp -o fitplot filename

The -o raw option allows you to send files directly to a printer without filtering. This is sometimes required when printing from applications that provide their own “printer drivers” for your printer:

lp -o raw filename

The -o prettyprint option puts a header at the top of each page with the page number, job title (usually the filename), and the date. Also, C and C++ keywords are highlighted, and comment lines are italicized:

lp -o prettyprint filename