How To: Determine which ArcMap printer engine to use


Most Windows applications do not provide a choice of printer engines, using only a Windows printer engine. However, ArcMap provides you with a choice of three: Windows, PostScript, and one that requires a separate license, ArcPress. These engines will produce a slightly different output, depending on the printer and the Windows printer driver installed.

There are two basic types of Windows printer drivers: Windows PostScript, which sends printer-specific PostScript to the printer, and Windows native, which sends printer-specific native language to the printer.

If unsure whether the Windows printer driver available is PostScript or not, check the Windows driver properties.
Check the Printer Driver Properties. For both Windows NT and Windows 2000, open Start / Settings / Printers and open the properties by selecting the printer and selecting File / Properties.

With Windows NT, there is an icon of a printer in the upper left-hand corner on the General tab; if the printer driver is PostScript enabled, this icon will appear with the letters "PS" next to it. There will also be the name of the printer driver in the Driver box on the middle of the General tab, which should indicate whether the current driver is PostScript enabled or not.

With Windows 2000, the icon and printer driver name are on the Device Settings tab.

[O-Image] Determine whether printer driver is PS enabled

For example, with an HP DesignJet 5000PS, use the Windows PostScript printer driver, which will send print jobs in PostScript format. However, with the HP DesignJet 5000, which is not PostScript enabled, use the Windows native printer driver. This will send the print job in the native language of the printer, such as HPGL2/RTL for HP DesignJets.

Because HP DesignJet Windows drivers are very specific to each printer series, the HP DesignJet Windows native language is not necessarily the same as raster or mixed raster-vector language printer formats HPGL2 and RTL from ArcPress or ArcInfo workstation.


  • Windows: The Windows printer engine will always give the best print quality and color accuracy.
  • ArcPress: If the Windows printer engine fails to print, out of memory for example, or is taking a very long time, then use the ArcPress printer engine.
  • PostScript: Only use the PostScript printer engine when there is a need to create PostScript color separates.

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