Anyone using add-on printing products, or are the built-ins from Citrix and Microsoft good enough?

Back in the day, (which was what, six years ago?), it was a de facto "requirement" that you used third-party add-on printing products to make your Citrix or Terminal Server environment work.

Back in the day, (which was what, six years ago?), it was a de facto "requirement" that you used third-party add-on printing products to make your Citrix or Terminal Server environment work. In addition to solving the driver management problem (so admins didn't have to install dozens of different printer drivers on their servers), these add-on products often created smaller print jobs and did a better job of identifying and mapping client printers.

I remember triCerat's "Screw Drivers" (that's two words.. get it?) being one of the earliest products that I first used back in 2000. I think ThinPrint wasn't too far behind them. Between those two products and some of the lesser-known ones like EOL's Printer Manager (EOL became Provisioning Networks which became Quest) and UniPrint... I feel like probably 80% of every Citrix environment I touched was using one of these products.

Then in Presentation Server 4 which came out in eiarly 2005, Citrix completely rewrote their UPD client printing feature, basing it on EMF technology which was similar (although not identical) to what triCerat and ThinPrint were doing. (This was somewhat scandalous at the time, because that same Presentation Server 4 release from Citrix saw them license key technology capabilities from RTO Software and Arema--yet when it came to printing, it was like "screw you printing ecosystem, we're going to do this on our own!"

Citrix's first attempt at the EMF-based printing made for nice marketing slicks, but the reality was that it was super buggy and unreliable. But over the years, Citrix kept patching and updating and fixing it. And now four years later, it seems like most people are saying, "Yeah, the Citrix printing works fine, and that's all we use."

Similar changes are happening in Microsoft's world. Windows Server 2003 had a "fallback" printer driver solution built-in. While not as advanced Citrix's, it did allow simpler and smaller environments to be able to print within thinking about server drivers. Windows Server 2008 saw the fallback driver updated to XPS, and again, that's something that "just works" in a lot of smaller, non-Citrix environments.

So anecdotally, I'm seeing fewer add-on printing products out in the world today. Is that consistent with what's happening on your environment? Or is this just something that I've started to notice more? (Like when you get a new car, you suddenly notice them everywhere, even though there aren't actually any more of them on the road.) Maybe in my case, since I"m realizing that it is possible in some cases to go without third-party printing products, I'm just noticing that everywhere now?

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We're still on  Presentation Server 4 and we use ThinPrint


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My expereince is that many large companies just deal with install drivers all over the place, to avoid spending captial on driver software. It's very hard to get funding to support printing.


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I’m still to psychologically scarred from having to deal with each iteration of the ‘fixed’ Citrix printing solution that we’ve decided to stick with our Tricerat solution...which i stumbled upon at the first Briforum funnily enough.  Since then we haven’t had a printing issue for years. To be far it wasn’t cheap but it more than paid for itself in that it works 100% of the time.  At least now I don’t have to worry if a Citrix Hotfix Roll-up is gonna cause me printing problems.


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I think that the lack of new third party products come from both things you mentioned in the article.  


First, the base capabilities have gotten better (and not just printing)  This applies to both Citrix and the base operating system (although apparently not that many have moved to 2008 yet).  The base may not be as good as the third party products, but clearly some people think it is good enough.


Second, Citrix was making it awful for third parties to be in that business.  Why spend 1 to 2 years building an add-on if Citrix is going to squash your revenue by buying (in many cases) a lesser capable product and giving it away.  I think that Citrix is trying to be better these days in that regards, but those were dark days to be a Citrix ISV Aliance Partner.


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We're using Tricerat for a couple of servers that are being used by users in DC(servers are in sacramento). The rest of the servers are using builtin ica printing. We're also testing W2K8 with XPS universal driver, and so far it's working as advertised.


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Still using ThinPrint and SplitView


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Still runnving XA 4.5 without any 3rd party printing solutions in an environment with over 500 different printer models around! Thank goodness for driver mapping!


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We've been using the Citrix Universal Printer & Driver for years now - supporting up to 50.000 users. 99% of problems reported are fixed by reinstalling local printer drivers as these seem to be causing most problems. The only problem I can report is ica-over-ica when having a local network printer connecting to first server farm using CUP.


I also manage a W2K3 TS environment where the MS Fallback Printer Driver is used as the sole printer solution.


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I have been using ScrewDrivers since one of the early versions. At that time it wasnt an option not to use a 3rd party tool for printer-redirection. It was just to bad that Tricerat had to release update over update :-) It wasnt really stable and reliable untill Version 4. But now that Windows Server 2008 TS is fully accepted no need to "Screw the drivers" anymore. TS Easy print is the out of the box solution that just works! With a simple GPO you have all your terminalservers ready to go. And trust me, the need to have Windows Vista or XP SP3 (and .NET framework) as a client you really take for granted :-)


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Well, we are still using ThinPrint in a pure thin client + CPS 4.5 environment. This is because there is no local printer queues and printer drivers installed on thin clients, and we thus need a centralize print server. Windows print server can serve this purpose, but ThinPrint can further save WAN bandwidth for multiple remote sites.


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We'd like to use EMF Citrix Universal Printer but we've strange experiences with it. All EMF print job are smaller about 4% in both axis than we print it on classic autocreated printer. So we can't use it with special forms in HR and payroll.


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I am implementing a win2k8/xenapp5 environment now and expirience a strange effect that prints hang on the printserver which is stil a win2k3 server. With the right driver installed and the UPD as fallback configured in the policy it prints fine. No time to investigate it yet but it's still buggy I guess the UPD driver.


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Was using Screw Driver back on MetaFrame XP...Citrix UPD has been pretty solid for us since PS4.5 so we scraped Tricerat.


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LOL...I thought you were on vacation?!?!


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We use pure Server 2008 TS and it would be nice if the new Easy Printer driver worked well but unfortunetly that is not the case it is very unstable and causes the .Net Framework to crash often on the clients both in XP and Vista.  Also it has trouble with graphics.  So for the most part we are always forced to isntall the drivers on the server and set the group policy to not use easy print first.


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Hi Brandon


It would be interesting to learn what are the scenarios where .NET Framework crashes or there is trouble in the graphics in the print-outs while using Easy Print with WS08. Appreciate if you post more detail about these issues at blogs.msdn.com/.../introducing-terminal-services-easy-print-part-3.aspx.


Thank you


Gaurav Daga [MSFT]


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Excellent subject for a blog!


Am running pure 2003 TS for about 200 users with both mapped and client printers.   Problems that occur are almost always with oddball client printers.  Would go with 100% mapped server printers if I could do it politically (Layer 8, again.)


Will try a virtual 2008 TS with Ericom next week and try to report results here.  Goal is seamless app windows and better printing.


Brandon, Am very interested in the .Net Framework issues you've reported.


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For Windows 2008 servers are you running 64bit? I understand that changes the print drivers scenario.


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Still see ThinPrint but I must say I'm inpressed by WS2008 XPS.


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As the creator of ScrewDrivers, this blog obviously caught my attention!  


My take is that the EMF technology that Citrix and MS use is still limited.  That's why I created the TMF format to render our print jobs.  And the new XPS format from Microsoft is bloated in my opinion(depends on fat XML and .NET), so it still doesn't fit the needs of a lot of the people we talk to daily.


Oh, and I'd be interested in what everyone's take is on the native solutions within VDI?  When you compound the problem across a thousand XP workstations, we're finding that a 3rd party solution is even more worthwhile.


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I am a VP over at triCerat... the makers of ScrewDrivers.


I have been helping Microsoft and Citrix customers solve printing problems for 9 years now.


SBC printing and printing in general is the most underrated IT challenge today. (So much for the paperless workplace concept.)


I've seen companies use the "built-in stuff" and make it work, and I've obviously seen a third party solution used successfully.  I have also seen both fail miserably.


The reality is that every environment is different. A proper evaluation of your specific printing requirements is necessary in order to be successful.


That means understanding any operating system printing requirements, application printing requirements, user printing requirements, network printing requirements and even printer specific requirements first.


Then from there make the decision that works best for you, your IT department and your company.


The good news is that there are solutions out there. Some companies may use the "built-in stuff" and some may need a third party solution. Whatever you choose, the worst thing you can do for yourself and your company is to do nothing.


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Here is more details on the issues we have with Easy Print.  We are using 32 bit Server 2008 Standard and have problems with both Vista SP1 clients and XP SP2 & SP3 Clients. The problem is also not limited to one server we have 3 2008 Servers and all have done this at one point or another.  Some of the issues we have seen are that in Word 2002 if you reverse a clipart image it will not print and on occasion seems to also have trouble with Word Art and Watermarks.  These problems are often seen when printing to our Canon Pixma IP3000.  We are a school and our typing classes often encounter issues when printing where the spacing between characters is wrong.  It is almost like it has problems with some fonts because I have seen situations where changing the font will fix it.  These problems occur with an HP LaserJet 1320.  As far as the .Net Framework crashing I have seen this happen on both Vista and XP with .Net Framework 3, 3.5, and 3.5 SP1 where you will try to print and then on the client machine you get a message that the .Net Framework is not responding and you have to restart the computer to print again.  The printers that I have seen these erros with include Canon ip1500, Canon iP3000, HP LaserJet1320, and HP Deskjet 6830 to name a few.


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Two Words:  Quest's Print-IT


There's only one true universal printing solution!


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