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Printing options e.g. duplex, n-up printing

This page explains some of the printing options which are available under Linux, for example turning double-sided printing on or off, printing multiple pages per side of A4, or printing on unusual media. These options are used with the lpr command so only apply to text or postscript files.

Similar options will often be available in the menus when printing from a graphical application. E.g. to print single-sided from some popular applications:

  • In Firefox, Thunderbird and evince, go to the Page Setup tab in the Print dialog and set the "Two sided" option to "One sided".
  • In Google Chrome, uncheck the box for two-sided printing.
  • In acroread, click "Properties" in the print dialog and turn 2-sided printing off.

Some of these notes reflect Maths-specific featues of the CUPS setup, and so may not be true for other places.

Changing the duplex options (printing single-sided)

By default all of our printers which support double-sided (duplex) printing will do so on any job sent to them. If you want to print a document single-sided then you should add:

  -o sides=one-sided

to the command-line.

Likewise to specify the other types of duplexing you can use:

  -o sides=two-sided-long-edge
  -o sides=two-sided-short-edge

where the default is usually two-sided-long-edge.

A couple of examples. Printing a postscript file single-sided on g1:

  lpr -Pg1 -o sides=one-sided

Printing a dvi file single-sided on g1:

dvips test.dvi -o '|lpr -Pg1 -o sides=one-sided'

Selecting media type or source

By default most of our printers are set to print onto Plain A4 paper, but you might need something else e.g. glossy paper or A3 paper. In that case you need to select the right media type or the document will usually be printed as if on plain paper, perhaps using too much or too little ink.

Note that, although you can pick any valid media type that the printer understands, usually if you ask for a type/size that the printer doesn't currently have it will pause and ask for it to be loaded.

If you ask for something that the printer cannot do -- e.g. an unknown type or a size it cannot support -- then the job is usually just printed on whatever media the printer does have, though it might get be thrown away.

Some common media/source options include

  -o media=A3
  -o media=Letterhead
  -o ManualFeed=True
  -o InputSlot=Tray3_500

Note that in general the possible options are printer specific.

N-up printing

The default is 1-up (1 page of the document per side of A4). If you want text printed 2-up add

  -o number-up=2

to the command-line or generate the postscript yourself e.g. with a2ps (which defaults to 2-up) etc.

Please email any suggestions, corrections or errors to