Review: Universal printer drivers from Xerox, HP aren't so universal

Xerox's Mobile Express and HP's Universal Printer Driver let you use one driver for many devices. Too bad they're not truly universal.

Instead of a list of IP addresses, UPD offers a list of model name and numbers.

Instead of a list of IP addresses, UPD offers a list of model name and numbers.

Xerox Mobile Express

I started by downloading Mobile Express to an IBM ThinkPad running Windows XP. The 9MB installation file downloaded quickly and took just a few minutes to set up.

Note: When running the install routine, don't be surprised if you see a Windows dialog warning that you are installing a nonapproved program. According to Richie Michelon, product marketing manager for Xerox's Mobile Express, this happens because of the nature of the universal driver. "Windows XP doesn't recognize any digital signature for a device driver that's not associated with a specific device. But we assigned a third-party [VeriSign] digital signature to make sure it's secure," he said.

Mobile Express begins by asking you to name your current location. You can have the driver import all printers in your Printers and Faxes control panel and/or have it discover available printers automatically and choose the ones you want to use.

Once the initial setup is complete, the Xerox Mobile Express Driver becomes your default printer driver. The first time you take your computer to a new location, Mobile Express recognizes that it's on a different subnet and asks you to give the location a name before moving on to discover available printers.

Unfortunately, the discovery tool displayed rather arcane model numbers, not the more intuitive printer names I was used to seeing in the Printers and Faxes control panel. At the office, I was forced to use the IP address to identify each discovered printer. On the other hand, once you've discovered a printer, Mobile Express lets you give each a name that better describes the device.

After the initial discovery process, you can choose one printer and print a test page to it. That printer is automatically added to your list of printers (My Printers) in Mobile Express. To add others, you bring up the Xerox Mobile Express Driver Properties dialog, click on Printing Preferences and select Change Printer. Up pops the Xerox Mobile Printing dialog. The three buttons on the top of the Mobile Printing dialog let you view My Printers or the listing of discovered printers; you can also search for printers by IP address. By selecting each discovered printer, you can add it to the My Printers view.

Thereafter, Mobile Express remembers which printers are available in that location and shows you only those printers when you're there (although you can merge in lists of printers from other locations if you prefer to do so). For example, at Computerworld's office, Mobile Express initially found five networked printers on my floor. At my home office, it excluded the main office printers from its list, showing only what was available for my home. Printers that were offline were grayed out.

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Robert L. Mitchell

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