Zebra Label printers on Mac OS X “Lion”

How does a Zebra label printer run on a Lion machine? Without special drivers, until recently: not very good. The last driver update by Apple took care of that. Lion’s Zebra capabilities are exemplary now.

In order for you to benefit optimally from a label printer, you need to be able to use it from any application. In an ideal world, the driver will enable all the printer’s capabilities, and you can use the printer from any relevant app — including database apps like FileMaker, and labeling software like Labels & Envelopes.

Until recently, Mac OS X users were stuck with Dymo labelers if they didn’t want to buy an expensive custom-developed driver. Zebra label printer owners in particular were forced to buy the €200.00 Peninsula Group driver, or run Zebra’s own Designer Windows application in a Parallels’ or Fusion environment.

I myself am so lucky as to be a happy owner and user of a Zebra GX430t desktop label printer, and so I had to use Parallels and the Windows Designer app by Zebra. But I found the free Designer app rather limited in its capabilities, and I didn’t like the extra step of having to start Parallels and work in Windows.

So, against my better knowledge — at least, I thought it was, having tried the Mac driver a year ago with no luck — I decided to give the Lion CUPS driver another try. And guess what? It works like a charm.

I compared the Lion CUPS driver with the Peninsula driver and came to the conclusion that the Peninsula driver has largely become obsolete. As far as I can tell, all the features of the Peninsula driver are incorporated in the CUPS driver, enabling me to switch between direct thermal and thermal transfer, setting speed, adjust tear off, set print blackness and temperature, etc, etc.

The Peninsula driver used to have a glitch: it wouldn’t eject the label all the way; instead, it would stop 2mm before the label stop. The CUPS driver does what it has to do, without a glitch at all. The only disadvantage of using the CUPS driver is that it takes longer to start printing than the Peninsula one.

But the biggest advantage of the CUPS driver is that it comes free with Lion.