Virtual Printing Technology: What is It and Who Invented It?

Today, a wide range of software using the technology of virtual printing is available. Even Microsoft Office has its own virtual printer. However, despite the popularity of this technology, it is difficult to find information about it: the majority of developers devote not more than one or two phrases to this subject in the documentation to their software products. In order to correct this situation, we will examine in detail the technology of virtual printing and the advantages it gives to the end user.

What Is Virtual Printing and Who Invented It?

At the dawn of the computer era, IT companies independently produced all the equipment that was needed for their mainframe computers. However, in such a manner, the intensive development of the industry was impossible. Therefore, soon afterwards, compatibility standards were created, making it possible to assemble computers out of parts produced by various manufacturers.

The first versions of compatibility standards, in existence since the dawn of MS-DOS, only described the methods of attaching devices to the computer. The responsibility of interaction between user programs and peripheral devices rested on the shoulders of the developers of the programs. In such a way, a spreadsheet developer had to not only write his or her program, but also worry about whether it would be able to print on the printer installed in the office of the client. As a result, the client was tied to the equipment present at the moment the software package was installed, while the purchase of a new model of printer required an additional expense for the additional development and modification of all the software used by the company.

The next stage in standardization was the union of the interaction of user programs and peripheral equipment. The main idea of unification could be summarized as the rejection of incorporating the specifications of peripheral devices in user programs. Instead of this, it was decided to use universal drivers – special programs playing the role of middleman between the operating system and peripheral devices. The task of the drivers was to transform the standard commands of the operating system into commands understandable to the peripheral device and vice versa. Such a decision turned out to be very convenient. On the one hand, hardware developers, having produced the appropriate drivers, were able to insure the correct functioning of their products on any operating system. On the other hand, software developers stopped having headaches over the compatibility of their products with hardware.

Let’s take the printer as an example. Embedded in each printer is software managing the print heads or laser beam. Naturally, the operating system is not able to know the particularities of every printer in existence. Therefore, a set of graphical commands must be created for each operating system that manages printing. Now, in order to be sent to the printer, the spreadsheet program needs to transform each page of the document into a series of graphical commands and send them to the operating system. The operating system places each document in a queue and sends one after the other to the driver of the printer. The task of driver is to translate these commands into the “language” of the printer and send them to the printing device.

In such a way, all printers appear to the operating system as a driver. At the same time, certain drivers are able to function without printing devices being attached. In such a case, the printer will exist only in the “imagination” of the operating system, while the document being sent by the user to print, instead of being output to paper will, for example, be saved in the form of a file. This is the technology of virtual printing, while programs using this technology are known as virtual printers.

Why Are Virtual Printers Necessary?

Nowadays, nobody remembers who invented the technology of virtual printing. It is likely that it was a developer of printers for testing drivers. It is true that during the testing process, it is more effective and cheaper to save documents in the form of files than to physically print them. In our era, virtual printing is widely used. It is most commonly used for converting documents into images in various formats or for sending faxes from a computer.

What is so wonderful about virtual printers for the average user? To begin with, the use of virtual printing technology makes it possible to convert documents of any type. After all, all programs send documents to be printed in the form of a standard set of graphical commands. This means that a virtual printer with various degrees of success may be used for the conversion of text documents, spreadsheets, drawings and presentations!

Secondly, virtual printers differ from ordinary programs in that they are highly user friendly. After all, anybody, even someone that is just learning to use a computer, is able to print a document, which only requires opening a document in an editor and pressing a button on the instrument panel. As a result, users are able to use the new virtual printer immediately after installation without additional training!

Thirdly, a virtual printer can be installed on a server and made available for printing on the local network. In this case, the greater part of the computing load during the conversion of documents is transferred from the workstation to the server and enables users to continue working and not have to wait for the “virtual printing” to end.

Universal Document Converter – an Example of a Virtual Printer

A good example of a program using virtual printing technology is Universal Document Converter. This program is for converting documents of any type into PDF format or image files such as JPEG, TIFF, GIF, PNG, BMP, PCX or DCX. Thanks to the use of virtual printing technology, users of Universal Document Converter can convert all types of files such as text documents, spreadsheets, diagrams, drawings or even pages from websites! In addition, the process of converting documents is just as simple as printing them on a desktop printer. All this makes it possible to say that with the help of Universal Document Converter even an inexperienced user can convert documents into the needed format!
  • Kathleen Dodge-DeHaven

    Organist and Choir Director in St Augustine and St Mary Catholic Churches

    «Universal Document Converter is simple to use, and customer support is excellent: should you need to contact them, you can expect a prompt, courteous, and informed reply. I highly recommend this excellent program!»