old printer choking on variable fonts

I have a pretty ancient HP Laserjet (a couple of decades old) that still runs like a champ, but recent experiments with trying to proof some variable fonts has run into some trouble. I get long processing time and then vague error messages, even with relatively simple documents and variable font files that themselves are not large. I don't quite understand the tech, particularly whether the printer is being asked to do more processing and thus in danger of hitting the limits of its modest RAM. Has anyone else run into this? Is this, as it seems, a problematic issue with variable fonts and old printers?


  • Hin-Tak LeungHin-Tak Leung Posts: 303
    edited April 22
    Quite likely. You could use the pcl5 / pcl xl driver on the host side to shift the workload onto your computer (vs the printer's firmware, which is unlikely to be updated) to work around such issues.

    Even very old HP printers understand PCL 5/ PCL XL, and perhaps works better that way, than via their postscript (or pdf) driver personallity.
  • You haven't said how you are trying to print: on what OS, using what app, what print driver, and with what print driver settings.

    If the software (app/OS/driver) is sending the variable font data to the printer and expecting it to handle it correctly, that's not likely to succeed. And when the formats for variable fonts were designed, there was no expectation that that would ever need to succeed.

    Instead, the software should be sending data for the specific variable font instance, and in a format the printer will understand. It could send .ttf data for a specific instance if the printer can support that; or the software can rasterize and send the bitmaps.
  • Hin-Tak LeungHin-Tak Leung Posts: 303
    My guess is the host os is driving the printer in its postscript personality, with embedded ttf (type 42); the embedded ttf would have extra tables which the printer does not understand. Anyway, using the pcl5/ pcl xl personality would rasterize on the host side and get around that.
  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 1,151
    edited April 24
    Thanks for the responses.
    In this case it's a 2013 iMac running Catalina, and an HP Laserjet 1200. If I go in to change the printer driver which is currently "HP LaserJet 1200," the options that most resemble the advice above are choosing "Generic PCL Printer," or "HP LaserJet Series PCL 4/5." Would these options shift the load in the way you describe?

    Edited to add: tried each with just basic stuff to print, and found both "PCL" options did terrible making grayscale of colored parts (everything not originally black is unacceptably fuzzy), and the HP 4/5 one also cropped bits. 
  • Hin-Tak LeungHin-Tak Leung Posts: 303
    Is the 1200 color capable? I think the "generic pcl" (that usually means pcl 5) class driver has a default resolution quite low - 72 dpi ? And the coarse half toning (for those non-black part) means yes, it prints but at a coarse resolution. It might also operate in 'draft" mode for fast coarse printing which does not help. There are likely options you can change though - have you looked at the options? If you can, see if you can find " pcl xl" or "pcl6" driver,.which operates at 300 dpi by default probably... 

    Head over to hp's website to see if they have updated drivers for mac; and since this is quite a common printer, it should work well with gutenprint and hplip too.
  • Hin-Tak LeungHin-Tak Leung Posts: 303
    Hmm, apparently gutenprint is having problems on Catalina http://gimp-print.sourceforge.net/MacOSX.php#Catalina - this is probably the notorization / SIP problem.
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