apsfilter(1) magic print filter with auto file type recognition


lpr [-P printer ] [-C option1:...:optionN ] [file ... ] (lpd style)
lpr [-P printer ] [-Z option1:...:optionN ] [file ... ] (LPRng style)
lp [-d printer ] [-o option1:...:optionN ] [file ... ] (Solaris style)


Apsfilter is a magic print filter which allows you to print different document types ``automagically'' without having to convert them manually into a document format which is understood by your printer hardware.

Apsfilter uses third-party software to convert every supported file type into PostScript (PS) first. If you have a real PS printer, the data stream is then sent directly to the PS printer, otherwise it is piped through the famous PS interpreter gs(1) which supports a wide range of output devices.

Thus the question whether a particular printer is supported by lpr is actually the question of it either understanding PS directly, or being supported by gs(1) in some way (possibly using some emulation of another printer's software interface, like Epson's ESC/P2 or HP's PCL).

Another important thing to remember is that the required driver support has to be present in the installed gs(1) binary. gs -h lists (among others) which drivers are currently compiled in. SETUP warns when a selected driver is missing and guides in choosing another driver.

The FreeBSD ports collection offers an easy and comfortable framework for FreeBSD users to configure and install apsfilter, gs(1), gs third-party driver and filter programs for their personal needs.

The lpr script is designed to avoid temporary files as much as possible. So it is very efficient in use and doesn't fill up filesystems even when printing large printjobs in high resolution and best print quality.

Apsfilter offers a wide range of customization options through config files and lpr(1) command line options, see below.

Advantages over other magic filters

Apsfilter and its SETUP is completely written in a script language (see sh(1)). So it is easy to understand and modify even for users and admins who are quite new to the Unix business.

Apsfilter is highly customizable and its developement since 1994 has shown that it scales very well with the still growing demand of additional features.

Supported printers

Apsfilter supports locally connected serial, parallel and USB printers.

Remote printing cababilities: Unix remote printing (lpd protocol), printing to an AppleTalk remote printer via pap(1) as well as Windows remote printing via SAMBAs smbclient(1) on Windows 95/98/NT/2000 printer as guest user or using a real password protected Windows account.

Apsfilter 's SETUP utility supports in installing all supported printer types, no matter if local or remote printer, into the printer capability database /etc/printcap

Supported file types

ar, arc, arj, ASCII, BMP, CAB, cpio, DATA, DVI, FBM, FIG, FITS, GIF, Group 3 FAX, HTML, IFF ILBM, JPEG, Kodak Photo CD (PCD), LHA, MGR, MIFF, PAM, PGM, PBM, PNM, PPM, PDF, PNG, Postscript (PS), RAR, RLE, RPM, SGI, Sketch, Sunraster, TAR, Targa (TGA), TIFF ROFF, WMF, WorPerfect graphics, XCF, X Pixmap (XPM), X Window dump (XWD), ZIP, ZOO. Note that actual support depends on the installed filter programs.


Extract the tarball and execute ./configure in the apsfilter directory (maybe with some options; use ./configure --help to see a listing).

After that, login as root and call make install then you can set up printers with /usr/share/apsfilter/SETUP

SETUP adds the printer to the /etc/printcap database to make it available to the lpd(8) print spooler, and configures lpr for operation with that printer.

After successfull installation, SETUP remembers its previous configuration settings in a file called SETUP.cfg

Command line options

Several command line options to apsfilter are available which allow the user to influence the printing quality, color mode, paper size etc. The handbook includes a detailed listing.

Draft quality.
Low quality.
Medium quality.
High quality.
Photo quality.
Uni-/bi-directional sweeps.
Plain paper.
Coated (inkjet) paper.
Glossy paper.
Premium (photo) paper.
Color printing.
Gray printing.
B/W printing.
Automatic filetype recognition and data conversion.
Force printing as ASCII document. For example to print Postscript source code without actually interpreting it.
Pass-through mode, your print data won't be changed by any filter.
Paper size.
Text file filter to use, when printing ASCII documents.
Paper feed tray number.
highlight level for pretty-printing (N=0,1,2)
Whether you want headers in your text prints.
Whether you want borders in your text prints.
Pages per sheet.
Paper orientation.
Output pages in "book" format, implies "2pps,duplex,shortbind"
Whether to use duplex mode or not.
Paper binding edge.
Number of copies.


lpr -C high:color:glossy file.gif tex.dvi.gz file.html ...

prints some files of different types no matter whether compressed or not on the Unix default printer (see lpr(1)).

The -C option to the lpr command sets additional ghostscript driver-specific options. Here, `high' means high resolution (e. g. 600 dpi for an HP Printer using gs's ``cdj850'' printer driver), color output (e.g. 32 bits per pixel), and the paper type is set to glossy paper

lpr -C duplex somefile

enables pseudo duplex printing by halting the print queue after printing a documents even pages and so giving the user a chance to flip paper and restart printing after executing a special user command on the command line.

User gets a notification mail containing a session oriented magic wakeup command and key which restarts printing of the odd pages of the print job.

The so called magic command makes sure that only the initiator of the print job is able to restart printing after reinserting the paper.

Beware, if you have nasty users, this can cause print jobs to hang, filling up the print queue and at least the /var file system.


printer capability data base
apsfilter script
printer installation script, creates/updates /etc/printcap
saved settings from last printer setup
the apsfilter handbook in HTML format
configuration directory
global configuration file
printer specific configuration directory
printer specific configuration file
user definable printer specific configuration file
smbclient config file for printing on Windows remote printer
pap config file for printing on AppleTalk printer
config file for remote printer that needs special treatment


See apsfilter software center - http://www.apsfilter.org/ - for new versions, bugfixes and known bugs.

Please use the new tool apsfilter-bug1 to release bug- or problem reports. It automatically presents you a form in an editor window which asks you some standard questions. If you save and quit the editor session, then this report is sent automatically via e-mail to the proper apsfilter mailinglist.

If apsfilter fails to print something or prints it in a way you wouldn't expect and you want to report an apsfilter error then please save the debugging output of one print session using the new aps2file(1) utility by typing aps2file -D -Z options file > /dev/null 2> file.debug and including the debugging output in the file file.debug into the edit session of the apsfilter-bug utility, so that it is included into the mail to the apsfilter mailinglist.

Please note that you need to run /bin/sh (Bourne Shell), bash or a compatible shell, so that the above mentioned output redirection works. Under C-shell (/bin/csh) or tcsh it would't work. If you don't know, then simply make sure you use the Bournce shell by typing /bin/sh or bash then you should have no problems with redirection of stdout and stderr (> /dev/null 2> file.debug).


See official apsfilter homepage

Apsfilter Handbook including the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


Please send questions to the official apsfilter help channel [email protected] The above section BUGS and the file HOWTO-BUGREPORTS tells you how to report bugs. If you want to know how to troubleshoot your apsfilter installation, please read the manpage aps2file(1) and apsfilter-bug1 as well as the Apsfilter Handbook carefully.


The lpr manpage appeared first in apsfilter V 5.4.0.