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Man Pages

Manual Reference Pages  -  PRINTCAP (5)


printcap - printer capability data base


Remote Printing
Transfer Statistics
See Also




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 seconds
df    str      NULL      tex data filter
  ( DVI format)
ff     str      '\f     string to send for a form feed'
fo    bool    false   print a form feed when device is opened
gf    str      NULL      graph data filter
  ( plot 3 format
hl     bool    false   print the burst header page last
ic    bool    false   driver supports (non standard) ioctl to indent printout
if    str      NULL      name of text filter which does accounting
lf    str      /dev/console      error logging file name
lo    str      lock      name of lock file
lp    str      /dev/lp      device name to open for output, or port @ machine to open a TCP socket
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 comma-separated, stty 1 -like list describing the tty modes
mx     num     0       maximum file size (in BUFSIZ blocks), zero = unlimited
nd     str      NULL      next directory for list of queues (unimplemented)
nf    str      NULL      ditroff data filter (device independent troff)
of    str      NULL      name of output filtering program
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 (horizontal)
py    num     0       page length in pixels (vertical)
rc    bool    false   when sending to a remote host, resend copies (see below)
rf    str      NULL      filter for printing
  FORTRAN style text files
rg     str      NULL      restricted group. Only members of group allowed access
rm    str      NULL      machine name for remote printer
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 page header
sr    str      NULL      file name to hold statistics of each datafile as it is received
ss    str      NULL      file name to hold statistics of each datafile as it is sent
st    str      status      status file name
tf    str      NULL      troff data filter (cat phototypesetter)
tr    str      NULL      trailer string to print when queue empties
vf    str      NULL      raster image filter

Each two-letter capability has a human-readable alternate name. Short form     Long form
af     acct.file
br    tty.rate
cf    filt.cifplot
ct    remote.timeout
df    filt.dvi
du    daemon.user
ff    job.formfeed
fo    job.topofform
gf    filt.plot
hl    banner.last
if    filt.input
lf    spool.log
lo    spool.lock
lp    tty.device
mc    max.copies
ms    tty.mode
mx    max.blocks
nf    filt.ditroff
of    filt.output
pc    acct.price
pl    page.length
pw    page.width
px    page.pwidth
py    page.plength
rc    remote.resend_copies
rf    filt.fortran
rg    daemon.restrictgrp
rp    remote.queue
rs    daemon.restricted
sb    banner.short
sc    job.no_copies
sd    spool.dir
sf    job.no_formfeed
sh    banner.disable
sr    stat.recv
ss    stat.send
st    spool.status
tf    filt.troff
tr    job.trailer
vf    filt.raster

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:



-w width

-l length

-i indent

-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 printcap entry.

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:


-x width

-y length

-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 remote lpd(8).

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 transferred 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 the server.

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) themselves.

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)
.Rs 4.3 BSD Line Printer Spooler Manual


The printcap file format appeared in BSD 4.2 .
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