Broadly speaking there are three types of networked printers. The first is a dedicated printer attached to the network via an Ethernet cable. These are usually but not always laser printers found in corporate environments.

The second type is a Wi-Fi printer, such as an inkjet printer often found in a home although Wi-Fi printers are increasingly found in workplaces.

The third is a printer attached to a computer and shared, via either a Windows, Mac or Unix computer.

Whatever the case, Mac OS X makes it easy to connect to a shared printer.

Before following any steps below, install drivers for the printer on your Mac as if you were connecting to it directly via USB. Often you’ll have to visit the manufacturer’s website to download these drivers, where they might be identified as “CUPS”. Some driver installer software might attempt to detect a connected printer. Let it do so, even though it will fail, because this may be necessary to complete installation of the drivers.

Perhaps it goes without saying that any Wi-Fi printers should be already configured to connect to the same network as your Mac.

How to add and print to a network printer: Connecting to network printers

Open System Preferences, which you’ll find in the Applications list of Finder, then click the Printers & Scanners icon. In the window that appears, click the small plus icon at the bottom left, then select Add Printer or Scanner.

A new window will appear showing network printers nearby. Select the printer and look at the bottom of the window in the Use dropdown list. With luck the driver will automatically have been selected, and you’ll know because the make and model of the printer will be listed. If you see Other shown there then you should click the list and manually select the printer make and model from the list.

If the printer doesn’t appear in the list of nearby network devices, and it’s shared via a Windows computer, click the Windows icon. Then select the Windows workgroup, followed by the computer name. Depending on how the printer is setup on the Windows computer you may need to enter a Windows login username and password. To avoid being prompted in future when you use the printer, put a tick in Remember This Password In My Keychain.

If the printer doesn’t appear in the list, you may need to manually add it by specifying a hostname or IP address, and perhaps a queue name too. Speak to your IT professional for these details, then click the IP icon in the Add dialog box. Then type the details as specified.

How to add and print to a network printer: Printing a test page

Just because the printer is added within System Preferences, don’t assume that it’s going to work! Print a test page by opening TextEdit, typing a few words, then clicking File > Print. Alternatively, some printer drivers come with their own testing and monitoring software that includes the ability to print a test page. To access the software, again open the Printers & Scanners component of System Preferences, select the new printer, then click the Options & Supplies button. Then click the Utility tab, and select Open Printer Utility.