We get this question a lot, and it’s worth discussing.
First, what do we mean by a shared printer?
Typically, a shared printer refers to a paper printer that is attached to a print server and then shared to multiple workstations on the network. It is very useful for a paper printer because it allows one physical resource (the printer) to be accessed and utilized by many users. Each workstation can print files, and then that printer file data is sent to the shared printer where it is queued up with other print jobs until each file is printed.
If you’ve ever worked in an office setting with many users sharing a printer, you’re probably familiar with the line of people waiting for their printouts because ‘that coworker’ sent a 200-page manual ahead of you. It has its drawbacks.
The primary advantage, of course, is cost savings since one printer can be utilized by many users.
So, back to the original question: Can Win2PDF be used as a shared printer?
The short answer is it can be used as a shared printer, with limitations, in some configurations, although we don’t officially support it. The reasons for this are likely true for just about any virtual printer. Win2PDF, like most virtual printers, simply works differently than a paper printer:
- There is no cost savings as in the case with the paper printer. The licensing for Win2PDF is ‘per workstation’, and the Win2PDF TSE license does not allow you to share the Win2PDF printer to an unlimited number of workstations. One license is needed for each computer, whether it is using the locally installed Win2PDF printer, or accessing the Win2PDF printer over the network. The price is the same in either configuration.
- There is no performance advantage like a paper printer might have. A shared paper printer may accept print jobs from multiple workstations, and then do further processing on the printer. But this isn’t the way Win2PDF works. Since Win2PDF converts files directly to PDF, it doesn’t offload any of the processing capability to the print server. The workstation does all of the processing.
- Win2PDF relies on some Windows operating system components to work correctly. When you run the Win2PDF setup program, the setup program checks for the existence of these needed Windows components, and then installs them if necessary. If Win2PDF is only installed on a print server, and then shared over the network, this check is not performed. Other workstations on the network may be able to access the shared Win2PDF printer, but the printing may fail if their specific machine is missing components.
When it comes to virtual printers, since there are no inherent cost benefits or processing speed gains, what most customers really want is an easy to deploy and manage PDF solution for a large number of users.
And that can be addressed in other ways that make more sense for a virtual printer. For larger numbers of users, we provide a volume license installer that can be used to push licensed copies to each workstation. And that, coupled with our silent install options, makes it easy to get Win2PDF on each desktop so that users can create PDF files hassle-free.
More details on this issue can be found at our online support FAQ.