Snow Leopard favorite new feature: Effortless scanner/printer installs

Published by | Monday, September 21st, 2009

When Apple first announced at their 2008 World Wide Developers Conference that the new version of OS X would be called Snow Leopard, they included the surprising statement that Snow Leopard would have “zero new features.” Now of course, this was a bit of an exaggeration—there are enough new features to warrant my recording Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard New Features (available now!), but the point was that Snow Leopard’s main focus was under the hood, with the goal of making OS X faster, more efficient, and less bulky. Hence the the name Snow Leopard, which references the similarities of the new OS to the previous OS, Leopard.

Although the cosmetic changes are few, Snow Leopard features several enhancements to the Finder, the Dock, and to most of the built-in applications like QuickTime, iChat, Mail, and so on, but my favorite new feature so far is Snow Leopard’s greatly improved support for scanners connected directly to your Mac or on your local network.

Prior to Snow Leopard, I was locked in a never-ending battle with my moody and unpredictable network printer/scanner, which never seemed to be able to communicate consistently with my Mac. Some days it would work, some days it wouldn’t (I won’t name the brand, but let’s just say it rhymes with Pewlett Hackard). I was constantly updating and reinstalling drivers, restarting both the scanner and my Mac, and it would still only function properly occasionally.

But once I installed Snow Leopard, I was able to leave all the third-party software and drivers behind. Using Preview, which comes as part of OS X, I chose File > Import from Scanner and instantly my Mac found my scanner, installed drivers, and opened the scanning interface, from which I could select my scanning options and preferences. It just worked, and I’ve since tried it with my scanner in my home office as well with identical results. That alone was worth the $30 upgrade price to me.

And even if you don’t use scanners much these days, you’ll be happy to know that setting up a printer in Snow Leopard is just as easy. Again, you no longer have to manually install any drivers. As long as you have an internet connection, choosing File > Print will cause OS X to find your your printer and automatically install the proper drivers from the collection of pre-installed drivers included with the OS, or failing that, it will find the necessary software on the internet, download it, and install it. There’s nothing else you need to do. Of course, I haven’t personally tested every scanner/printer out there, but I’ve already experienced the ease and advantage of this feature several times when I’ve found myself in someone else’s office connected to a printer I hadn’t previously installed on my MacBook.

So if you’ve been considering upgrading to Snow Leopard and you rely on multiple scanners and printers as much as I do, I definitely recommend you make the switch. And be sure to check out my Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard New Features course in the Online Training Library®. I go into much more detail demonstrating how Snow Leopard recognizes and installs scanners and printers, and I cover lots more of what you’ll find in the latest version of Mac OS X.

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14 Responses to “Snow Leopard favorite new feature: Effortless scanner/printer installs”

  1. Curtis says:

    I too just ran into this feature after ‘HP Scan Pro’ no longer was functioning for me in snow leopard. Now, fax, scanner, and printer are all just one entry and was very nice! I love the scanner interface WAY better than what HP provided, and for me, less 3rd party software == better.. (;

    Only wish that ‘scanning’ was an application, rather than a pull down in preview or option in printer settings.. that way I can quickly scan through spotlight->’scan’

  2. Steve Armstrong says:

    Hi Garrick,

    Well, Snow Leopard works like a charm with my Canon MP830 printer/scanner. I’ve never tried to use my MP830 fax feature before, so I gave it a try — and that doesn’t work.

    What isn’t kind a love story is the relationship I now have with my home workhorse printer, my HP2015dn which is only a couple year old. I spend hours wondering why it wouldn’t work before I finally figured out that it stopped working after I installed Snow Leopard. The fact I can’t get my HP2015dn to work has cost me a lot more grief than the $30 for the Snow Leopard upgrade.

    Now I got my whining out of the way I really am looking forward to checking out your Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard New Features course. I certain that the time I invest in the course will make me glad I spent $30 on the Snow Leopard upgrade. I was just about ready to uninstall Snow Leopard until I came across this ray of hope.

  3. Garrick says:

    Hey Steve,

    Yeah, there are some printers that may still need manual re-installation of the drivers from the manufacturer. It looks like HP did just recently release an OS 10.6-specific driver for your HP2015dn. You can download it directly from their website.


    If you’re looking for more of a scanning application than Preview, try Image Capture, located in your Applications folder. Your scanner should automatically show up as a device in the app’s window, so you don’t have to pull down a menu each time you want to scan.


  4. Steve Armstrong says:

    Thank you. All is better now, my hp printer works now. What timing! I’m enjoying your course and liking many of the new Snow Leopard features so far.

  5. Steve Armstrong says:

    Hi Garrick (again),

    I’m working through your Snow Leopard course one-by-one and getting a lot out of it.

    I have a Logitech Orbit AF webcam that I have used the macam download to make it work in previous versions of Mac OS. With Snow Leopard I haven’t been able to make it work.

    I’m thinking maybe its time to upgrade my webcam anyway. I don’t need anything better than what I had, but whatever I buy I want it to work flawlessly with Snow Leopard.

    What webcam are you using in one of your Quicktime video lessons? If this isn’t the proper place to ask general questions, can you let me where best to ask such questions? Its just that I’m trying each of my devices and/or apps as I go through your course and some of my stuff isn’t working.


  6. Garrick says:

    Hey Steve,

    In that lesson I’m actually using a Sony camcorder connected to the Mac via firewire. (If you have a similar old firewire camcorder sitting around, they make great hi-res webcams.) Unfortunately, Apple seems to prefer to embed their iSight cameras into their monitors these days, so you can’t get an external one through them anymore. Logitech does make this model for Macs:

    But I’m sure if you give it enough time and keep checking google, you’ll find someone who has a workaround to make your Orbit work with Snow Leopard.

  7. Michel says:

    This article is VERY misleading as snow leopard can actually PREVENT network scanning from being possible.

    I was scanning perfectly across my home network using HP software to my 1 year old HP2320 printer/scanner. After upgrading to snow leopard, network scanning is NO LONGER supported. Neither HP or Apple seem to want to make any effort to update their drivers, and this for an 18 month old device. I find it an outrage.

    I now have to keep an old macbook pro around running leopard to be able to scan.

  8. Hi Michel,

    I’m not positive which HP device the 2320 is, but if it’s the Color LaserJet series, it does look like Snow Leopard-specific drivers for it were released in an OS X update back in November of last year:

    Also, are you using HP’s scanning software, and have you tried using Preview or Image Capture instead? The point of my piece was that I was avoiding messing with HP’s software entirely because I’ve always found it so inconsistent, and am now using Preview or Image capture when I need to scan from my HP device.

  9. Steve says:

    Now this was a life saver! I just bought a new Mac and all of a sudden my HP wouldn’t scan. Then I got the little message that the scanner couldn’t be initialized. You are right too by the way, HP software is not all that good. My scans are actually going faster with Preview. What’s up with that?

    Thanks again!

  10. Liz says:

    Garrick thank you so much for this… have been tearing my hair out trying to get my old Canon scanner to play nice with SL since the Canon driver stopped working. Preview works great.. whew!

  11. Fred Hoffman says:

    I tried what you suggested, but Snow Leopard won’t recognize my HP 5500c scanner. Based on what I’ve seen on a number of web posts, this is a common issue.

  12. Meesh says:

    My iSight no longer works since I’ve upgraded to Snow Leopard from Tiger. I’ve had to delete PhotoSmart because my HP F2120 printer/scanner no longer worked. I now use Image Capture to scan my docs (although PhotoSmart was much more efficient).

    What can I do about getting my iSight to work again? I think there’s something wrong with the hardware altogether because I’ve tried 2 new webcams and I still get a black screen in PhotoBooth & Skype.

    Any suggestions? (I’ve probably tried them all, LOL!)

  13. Chris says:

    I tried this, but Preview or Image Capture does not seem to recognize my scanner. (HP scanjet 3670)

  14. Jerry says:

    After spending a week unsuccessfully trying to get Snow Leopard to recognize my CanoScan u1220n (which worked flawlessly under Vista, for Pete’s sake!) this seems like a rather cruel joke. “It just works” my ____!!!

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