Zebra label printer software runs on the Windows platform. This way Zebra can ensure its printers integrate with SAP and other high-end enterprise systems, but it does rule out Mac OS X drivers. An experimental CUPS driver is available to Leopard users, but this driver is flaky. The British Peninsula Group has the answer: a driver that integrates with the Mac OS X printing system and which delivers all the controls a Zebra GX430t user needs.
I tested the Peninsula Group driver with the Zebra GX430t, the desktop label printer we only just reviewed. The Peninsula Groupnot only developed an excellent driver for Zebra and other brand label printers, but it cleverly delivers extra functionality from within the driver. And from my tests, I can say I was astonished to see that it actually works very well.
But let’s first talk about the driver itself. Installing the Peninsula Group’s driver is standard procedure on Mac OS X. The only difference with other printer drivers that you might have to install, is that you need to create two printers for the GX430t — one for direct thermal media and one for thermal transfer media.
After installation, these two printers appear like any normal printers in the System Preferences.
I first tested the Peninsula Group’s driver with Belight Software’s excellent Labels & Envelopes, followed afterwards with Apple Pages, FileMaker Pro and Adobe Illustrator CS4. Labels & Envelopes has built-in support for Zebra printers using the CUPS driver, so I was very keen on seeing the application work with the Peninsula Group driver.
It worked like a charm. I just needed to set up my labels as custom type labels, because Labels & Envelopes doesn’t list the Z-Ultimate 3000T nor the Z-Select 2000T media I used for the test. When it’s time to print, the Peninsula Group driver has 4 panels. The first panel, which is the one you’ll most often use, allows you to set darkness, speed, gap between labels, and edge sensing. These are the settings that will change with every different label size.
The second panel is targeted at printer options. The only option I could use — and which is set to “ON” by default — was the Fast Copies On setting. This ensures a multi-copy label is downloaded into the printer memory only once, which speeds up printing considerably. Peelers, cutters, etc, are all interesting only when the printer has these options installed.
In the third panel, you can limit label to the page size set in the application or to a fixed size, which you can select from a drop-down menu. The last panel controls the extra Peninsula Group feature. It’s called “Extract from Larger Page” and when I first read that, I was very sceptical.
Using Labels & Envelopes, the GX430t performed just as good with the Peninsula Group driver as with ZebraDesigner running on Windows 7. Label quality was easy to control with the first panel settings, and I never got into trouble whatsoever. A perfectly developed driver, both for direct thermal and thermal transfer media.
The surprise came when I went on testing the Extract From Larger Page feature. I set up an A5 page in Apple’s Pages, knowing this application would print using the standard Mac OS X processes and procedures. On the page, I added some text in a ‘zone’ that more or less looked like a label, complete with a barcode.
I then selected the fourth panel in the Peninsula Group printer driver dialogue and turned on the extract feature, selected the correct label width and height and the correct margin adjust for the horizontal and vertical axis.
And lo and behold: the label was printed as if the page equalled the label size! This by itself makes the Peninsula Group printer driver a must have for Mac OS X label printing users, in my opinion, because it allows you to print labels even if you don’t have a dedicated label design program.
All it takes is Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, or one of the Adobe applications, and you can churn out labels from all of these applications without worrying too much about the correct alignment, size, etc. The only hurdle you’ll have to take is an intermediate export to PDF from all Adobe applications, because Adobe uses an old and obsolete printing engine that causes problems with the driver’s zone extraction capabilities.
For a single user license of the Peninsula Group Mac OS X label printer driver, you’ll pay 166.00 Euros. All over different forums on the web, I’ve seen people criticising this price. They forget two things:
- The Peninsula Group driver works with a large number of label printers from different brands
- The Extract from a Page feature is unique and extremely useful.
Yes, it’s true that most printer drivers on Mac OS X are free, and you can get an experimental EPL driver for free by using the CUPS driver that comes with Leopard. However, EPL doesn’t deliver all the capabilities of the ZPL command language, so if your printer is ZPL compatible like the Zebra GX430t, you’ll run into the driver’s limitations very soon. Also, there’s no way to control your printer’s media type (direct thermal or thermal transfer) and you’ll need a dedicated labelling program.
In contrast, the Peninsula Group driver is robust, offers all of the above and has that extra feature that makes your printer work with any application. If you consider all of this, you can’t but conclude the price is right. The Peninsula Group offers a demo that you can download from their web site.