Apple has included AirPrint capabilities in the macOS for quite a while. Admittedly, AirPrint is a very convenient way to set up a printer, especially in a home office situation. In my experience AirPrint has been very disappointing. For that reason, I rarely set up any of my printers using AirPrint. Here is what I mean.
AirPrint vs Cups
When you try to install a printer in macOS Catalina or Big Sur, the macOS almost always defaults to the AirPrint driver.
Of course that depends on your printer being AirPrint capable. Most printers these days are AirPrint capable.
My problem with AirPrint is it is slow! I don’t care if you are installing an inkjet or laser printer driver. If you install the AirPrint driver, your printing is considerably slower than a traditional driver from the manufacturer or from Apple.
Most printer software installed by Apple is CUPS (Common UNIX Printing System ) drivers.
CUPS printer drivers have been around for a long time, they are quite sophisticated. If a printer is using a CUPS driver, you must connect it to the Mac via Wi-Fi or a USB cable. The AirPrint protocol connects via its capabilities.
By the way, you can manage a printer using the CUPS driver through the web browser on your Mac. This article explains how to activate the CUPS printer interface on your Mac and how to access it through the browser.
Here is the bottomline with all of this. If you don’t care about printing speed, then use the AirPrint driver. Maybe the CUPS or manufacturers drivers for your printer don’t work so well. Yes, AirPrint is always available. If you want the most sophisticated and fastest printing experience, then install a CUPS or manufacturers driver for your printer.1
- Manufacturers drivers come on the CD with your printer or can be downloaded from their website. ↩