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Command-Line Printing in Linux

CUPS provides both the System V (lp(1)) and Berkeley (lpr(1)) printing commands for printing files. In addition, it supported a large number of standard and printer-specific options that allow you to control how and where files are printed.

This guide is taken from the Common Unix Printing System (CUPS) documentation. It is available on any system running CUPS (e.g. EECS Ubuntu Linux Desktops) at http://localhost:631/help/options.html.  You can also find CUPS documentation at

Printing Files

CUPS understands many different types of files directly, including text, PostScript, PDF, and image files. This allows you to print from inside your applications or at the command-line, whichever is most convenient! Type either of the following commands to print a file to the default (or only) printer on the system:

lp filename

lpr filename

Choosing a Printer

Many systems will have more than one printer available to the user. These printers can be attached to the local system via a parallel, serial, or USB port, or available over the network. Use the lpstat(1) command to see a list of available printers:

lpstat -p -d

The option specifies that you want to see a list of printers, and the -d option reports the current default printer or class.

Use the -d option with the lp command to print to a specific printer:

lp -d printer filename

or the -P option with the lpr command:

lpr -P printer filename

Setting the Default Printer

If you normally use a particular printer, you can tell CUPS to use it by default using the lpoptions(1) command:

lpoptions -d printer

Printing the Output of a Program

Both the lp and lpr commands support printing from the standard input:

program | lp

program | lp -d printer

program | lpr

program | lpr -P printer

If the program does not provide any output, then nothing will be queued for printing.

Specifying Printer Options

For many types of files, the default printer options may be sufficient for your needs. However, there may be times when you need to change the options for a particular file you are printing.

The lp and lpr commands allow you to pass printer options using the -o option:

lp -o landscape -o scaling=75 -o media=A4 filename.jpg

lpr -o landscape -o scaling=75 -o media=A4 filename.jpg

The available printer options vary depending on the printer. The standard options are described in the Standard Printing Options section below. Printer-specific options are also available and can be listed using the lpoptions command:

lpoptions -p printer -l

Creating Saved Options

Saved options are supported in CUPS through printer instances. Printer instances are, as their name implies, copies of a printer that have certain options associated with them. Use the lpoptions command to create a printer instance:

lpoptions -p printer/instance -o name=value ...

The -p printer/instance option provides the name of the instance, which is always the printer name, a slash, and the instance name which can contain any printable characters except space and slash. The remaining options are then associated with the instance instead of the main queue. For example, the following command creates a duplex instance of the LaserJet queue:

lpoptions -p LaserJet/duplex -o sides=two-sided-long-edge

Instances do not inherit lpoptions from the main queue.

Printing Multiple Copies

Both the lp and lpr commands have options for printing more than one copy of a file:

lp -n num-copies filename

lpr -#num-copies filename

Copies are normally not collated for you. Use the ”-o Collate=True” option to get collated copies:

lp -n num-copies -o Collate=True filename

lpr -#num-copies -o Collate=True filename

Canceling a Print Job

The cancel(1) and lprm(1) commands cancel a print job:

cancel job-id

lprm job-id

The job-id is the number that was reported to you by the lp command. You can also get the job ID using the lpq(1) or lpstat commands:



Moving a Print Job

The lpmove(8) command moves a print job to a new printer or class:

lpmove job-id destination

The job-id is the number that was reported to you by the lp or lpstat commands. Destination is the name of a printer or class that you want to actually print the job.

Note: The lpmove command is located in the system command directory (typically /usr/sbin or /usr/local/sbin), and so may not be in your command path. Specify the full path to the command if you get a “command not found” error, for example:

/usr/sbin/lpmove foo-123 bar

Standard Printing Options

The following options apply when printing all types of files.

Selecting the Media Size, Type, and Source

The -o media=xyz option sets the media size, type, and/or source:

lp -o media=Letter filename

lp -o media=Letter,MultiPurpose filename

lpr -o media=Letter,Transparency filename

lpr -o media=Letter,MultiPurpose,Transparency filename

The available media sizes, types, and sources depend on the printer, but most support the following options (case is not significant):

  • “Letter” – US Letter (8.5×11 inches, or 216x279mm)
  • “Legal” – US Legal (8.5×14 inches, or 216x356mm)
  • “A4” – ISO A4 (8.27×11.69 inches, or 210x297mm)
  • “COM10” – US #10 Envelope (9.5×4.125 inches, or 241x105mm)
  • “DL” – ISO DL Envelope (8.66×4.33 inches, or 220x110mm)
  • “Transparency” – Transparency media type or source
  • “Upper” – Upper paper tray
  • “Lower” – Lower paper tray
  • “MultiPurpose” – Multi-purpose paper tray
  • “LargeCapacity” – Large capacity paper tray

The actual options supported are defined in the printer’s PPD file in the “PageSize”, “InputSlot”, and “MediaType” options. You can list them using the lpoptions(1) command:

lpoptions -p printer -l

When “Custom” is listed for the “PageSize” option, you can specify custom media sizes using one of the following forms:

lp -o media=Custom.WIDTHxLENGTH filename
lp -o media=Custom.WIDTHxLENGTHin filename
lp -o media=Custom.WIDTHxLENGTHcm filename
lp -o media=Custom.WIDTHxLENGTHmm filename

where “WIDTH” and “LENGTH” are the width and length of the media in points, inches, centimeters, or millimeters, respectively.

Setting the Orientation

The ”-o landscape” option will rotate the page 90 degrees to print in landscape orientation:

lp -o landscape filename
lpr -o landscape filename

The ”-o orientation-requested=N” option rotates the page depending on the value of N:

  • -o orientation-requested=3
    portrait orientation (no rotation)
  • -o orientation-requested=4
    landscape orientation (90 degrees)
  • -o orientation-requested=5
    reverse landscape or seascape orientation (270 degrees)
  • -o orientation-requested=6
    reverse portrait or upside-down orientation (180 degrees)

Printing On Both Sides of the Paper

The -o sides=two-sided-short-edge and -o sides=two-sided-long-edge options will enable two-sided printing on the printer if the printer supports it. The -o sides=two-sided-short-edge option is suitable for landscape pages, while the -o sides=two-sided-long-edge option is suitable for portrait pages:

lp -o sides=two-sided-short-edge filename
lp -o sides=two-sided-long-edge filename
lpr -o sides=two-sided-long-edge filename

The default is to print single-sided:

lp -o sides=one-sided filename
lpr -o sides=one-sided filename

Selecting the Banner Page(s)

The -o jobsheets=start,end option sets the banner page(s) to use for a job:

lp -o job-sheets=none filename
lp -o job-sheets=standard filename
lpr -o job-sheets=classified,classified filename

If only one banner file is specified, it will be printed before the files in the job. If a second banner file is specified, it is printed after the files in the job.

The available banner pages depend on the local system configuration; CUPS includes the following banner files:

  • “none” – Do not produce a banner page.
  • “classified” – A banner page with a “classified” label at the top and bottom.
  • “confidential” – A banner page with a “confidential” label at the top and bottom.
  • “secret” – A banner page with a “secret” label at the top and bottom.
  • “standard” – A banner page with no label at the top and bottom.
  • “topsecret” – A banner page with a “top secret” label at the top and bottom.
  • “unclassified” – A banner page with an “unclassified” label at the top and bottom.

Holding Jobs for Later Printing

The -o job-hold-until=when option tells CUPS to delay printing until the when time, which can be one of the following:

  • -o job-hold-until=indefinite
    print only after released by the user or an administrator
  • -o job-hold-until=day-time
    print from 6am to 6pm local time
  • -o job-hold-until=night
    print from 6pm to 6am local time
  • -o job-hold-until=second-shift
    print from 4pm to 12am local time
  • -o job-hold-until=third-shift
    print from 12am to 8am local time
  • -o job-hold-until=weekend
    print on Saturday or Sunday
  • -o job-hold-until=HH:MM
    print at the specified UTC time

Releasing Held Jobs

Aside from the web interface, you can use the lp command to release a held job:

lp -i job-id -H resume

where “job-id” is the job ID reported by the lpstat command.

Setting the Job Priority

The -o job-priority=NNN option tells CUPS to assign a priority to your job from 1 (lowest) to 100 (highest), which influences where the job appears in the print queue. Higher priority jobs are printed before lower priority jobs, however submitting a new job with a high priority will not interrupt an

Specifying the Output Order

The -o outputorder=normal and -o outputorder=reverse options specify the order of the pages. Normal order prints page 1 first, page 2 second, and so forth. Reverse order prints page 1 last.

Selecting a Range of Pages

The -o page-ranges=pages option selects a range of pages for printing:

lp -o page-ranges=1 filename
lp -o page-ranges=1-4 filename
lp -o page-ranges=1-4,7,9-12 filename
lpr -o page-ranges=1-4,7,9-12 filename

As shown above, the “pages” value can be a single page, a range of pages, or a collection of page numbers and ranges separated by commas. The pages will always be printed in ascending order, regardless of the order of the pages in the “page-ranges” option.

The default is to print all pages.

Selecting Even or Odd Pages

Use the -o page-set=set option to select the even or odd pages:

lp -o page-set=odd filename
lp -o page-set=even filename
lpr -o page-set=even filename

The default is to print all pages.

N-Up Printing

The -o number-up=value option selects N-Up printing. N-Up printing places multiple document pages on a single printed page. CUPS supports 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, and 16-Up formats; the default format is 1-Up:

lp -o number-up=1 filename
lp -o number-up=2 filename
lp -o number-up=4 filename
lpr -o number-up=16 filename

The -o page-border=value option chooses the border to draw around each page:

  • -o page-border=double
    draw two hairline borders around each page
  • -o page-border=double-thick
    draw two 1pt borders around each page
  • -o page-border=none
    do not draw a border (default)
  • -o page-border=single
    draw one hairline border around each page
  • -o page-border=single-thick
    draw one 1pt border around each page

The -o number-up-layout=value option chooses the layout of the pages on each output page:

  • -o number-up-layout=btlr
    Bottom to top, left to right
  • -o number-up-layout=btrl
    Bottom to top, right to left
  • -o number-up-layout=lrbt
    Left to right, bottom to top
  • -o number-up-layout=lrtb
    Left to right, top to bottom (default)
  • -o number-up-layout=rlbt
    Right to left, bottom to top
  • -o number-up-layout=rltb
    Right to left, top to bottom
  • -o number-up-layout=tblr
    Top to bottom, left to right
  • -o number-up-layout=tbrl
    Top to bottom, right to left

Scaling to Fit

The -o fitplot option specifies that the document should be scaled to fit on the page:

lp -o fitplot filename
lpr -o fitplot filename

The default is to use the size specified in the file.

Note:This feature depends upon an accurate size in the print file. If no size is given in the file, the page may be scaled incorrectly!

Printing in Reverse Order

The -o outputorder=reverse option will print the pages in reverse order:

lp -o outputorder=reverse filename
lpr -o outputorder=reverse filename

Similarly, the -o outputorder=normal option will print starting with page 1:

lp -o outputorder=normal filename
lpr -o outputorder=normal filename

The default is -o outputorder=normal for printers that print face down and -o outputorder=reverse for printers that print face up.

Printing Mirrored Pages

The -o mirror option flips each page along the vertical access to produce a mirrored image:

lp -o mirror filename
lpr -o mirror filename

This is typically used when printing on T-shirt transfer media or sometimes on transparencies.

Raw or Unfiltered Output

The -o raw option allows you to send files directly to a printer without filtering. This is sometimes required when printing from applications that provide their own “printer drivers” for your printer:

lp -o raw filename
lpr -o raw filename

The -l option can also be used with the lpr command to send files directly to a printer:

lpr -l filename

Text Options

CUPS supports several options that are only used when printing plain text files. These options have absolutely no effect on PostScript, PDF, HP-GL/2, or image files.

Setting the Number of Characters Per Inch

The -o cpi=value option sets the number of characters per inch:

lp -o cpi=10 filename
lp -o cpi=12 filename
lpr -o cpi=17 filename

The default characters per inch is 10.

Setting the Number of Lines Per Inch

The -o lpi=value option sets the number of lines per inch:

lp -o lpi=6 filename
lpr -o lpi=8 filename

The default lines per inch is 6.

Setting the Number of Columns

The -o columns=value option sets the number of text columns:

lp -o columns=2 filename
lpr -o columns=3 filename

The default number of columns is 1.

Setting the Page Margins

Normally the page margins are set to the hard limits of the printer. Use the -o page-left=value, -o page-right=value, -o page-top=value, and -o page-bottom=value options to adjust the page margins:

lp -o page-left=value filename
lp -o page-right=value filename
lp -o page-top=value filename
lp -o page-bottom=value filename
lpr -o page-left=value -o page-right=value -o page-top=value -o page-bottom=value filename

The value argument is the margin in points; each point is 1/72 inch or 0.35mm.

Pretty Printing

The -o prettyprint option puts a header at the top of each page with the page number, job title (usually the filename), and the date. Also, C and C++ keywords are highlighted, and comment lines are italicized:

lp -o prettyprint filename
lpr -o prettyprint filename

Turning Off Text Wrapping

The -o nowrap option disables wrapping of long lines:

lp -o nowrap filename
lpr -o nowrap filename

Image Options

CUPS supports several options that are only used when printing image files. These options have absolutely no effect on PostScript, PDF, HP-GL/2, or text files.

Positioning Images

The -o position=name option specifies the position of the image on the page:

  • “center” – Center the image on the page (default)
  • “top” – Print the image centered at the top of the page
  • “left” – Print the image centered on the left of page
  • “right” – Print the image centered on the right of the page
  • “top-left” – Print the image at the top left corner of the page
  • “top-right” – Print the image at the top right corner of the page
  • “bottom” – Print the image centered at the bottom of the page
  • “bottom-left” – Print the image at the bottom left corner of the page
  • “bottom-right” – Print the image at the bottom right corner of the page

Scaling Images

The -o scaling=percent, -o ppi=value, and -o natural-scaling=percent options change the size of a printed image:

lp -o scaling=percent filename
lp -o ppi=value filename
lpr -o natural-scaling=percent filename

The scaling=percent value is a number from 1 to 800 specifying the size in relation to the page (not the image.) A scaling of 100 percent will fill the page as completely as the image aspect ratio allows. A scaling of 200 percent will print on up to 4 pages.

The ppi=value value is a number from 1 to 1200 specifying the resolution of the image in pixels per inch. An image that is 3000×2400 pixels will print 10×8 inches at 300 pixels per inch, for example. If the specified resolution makes the image larger than the page, multiple pages will be printed to satisfy the request.

The natural-scaling=percent value is a number from 1 to 800 specifying the size in relation to the natural image size. A scaling of 100 percent will print the image at its natural size, while a scaling of 50 percent will print the image at half its natural size. If the specified scaling makes the image larger than the page, multiple pages will be printed to satisfy the request.

Adjusting Image Hue (Tint)

The -o hue=value option will adjust the hue of the printed image, much like the tint control on your television:

lp -o hue=value filename
lpr -o hue=value filename

The value argument is a number from -360 to 360 and represents the color hue rotation. The following table summarizes the change you’ll see with different colors:

Original hue=-45 hue=45
Red Purple Yellow-orange
Green Yellow-green Blue-green
Yellow Orange Green-yellow
Blue Sky-blue Purple
Magenta Indigo Crimson
Cyan Blue-green Light-navy-blue

The default hue adjustment is 0.

Adjusting Image Saturation (Color)

The -o saturation=percent option adjusts the saturation of the colors in an image, much like the color control on your television:

lp -o saturation=percent filename
lpr -o saturation=percent filename

The “percent” argument specifies the color saturation from 0 to 200. A color saturation of 0 produces a black-and-white print, while a value of 200 will make the colors extremely intense.

The default saturation is 100.

HP-GL/2 Options

CUPS supports several options that are only used when printing HP-GL/2 files. These options have absolutely no effect on PostScript, PDF, image, or text files.

Printing in Black

The -o blackplot option specifies that all pens should plot in black:

lp -o blackplot filename
lpr -o blackplot filename

The default is to use the colors defined in the plot file or the standard pen colors defined in the HP-GL/2 reference manual from Hewlett Packard.

Setting the Default Pen Width

The -o penwidth=value option specifies the default pen width for HP-GL/2 files:

lp -o penwidth=value filename
lpr -o penwidth=value filename

The pen width value specifies the pen width in micrometers. The default value of 1000 produces lines that are 1 millimeter in width. Specifying a pen width of 0 produces lines that are exactly 1 pixel wide.

Note: This option is ignored when the pen widths are set in the plot files.

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