There are two kinds of printing:
Java’s usual idea of printing is essentially building a virtual screen display and taking a snapshot of it. You build it page by page the same way you build a screen. You don’t emit characters in a stream with embedded control chars the way you did in DOS (Disk Operating System) days.
For the rest of this discussion, I will be mostly referring to the second type printing. Within that, there are three different APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to choose from.
Programmers were not happy with the AWT (Advanced Windowing Toolkit) print interface and Sun has made been several attempts to replace the API (Application Programming Interface). This has mainly lead to confusion. The key is to get clear on just which printing API you are using and stick to it.
The Java 1.0 JDK (Java Development Kit) does not support printing.Java version 1.1 does, via java.awt.PrintJob. You print using the same techniques you use for drawing on the screen. It is much like drawing a high-res screen the size of a sheet of paper. Components now have a print method to print themselves which is usually the same as the one to draw them on the screen. To handle text you use Canvases and drawString, or TextFields. To get properly aligned text without borders, consider the KL-Group components or Swing.
In Java version 1.1 unsigned Applets could not print. In more recent versions, they can, though the user has to give an ok.
For printing on old JVMs (Java Virtual Machines):
In W95 W98 Me NT, the print job properties are ignored. They are system dependent. But here is how Sun implements them:
Java version 1.2 or later PrinterJob is similar to PrintJob. It pops up a platform specific dialog box that the end user fills into select options.
I don’t know how you go about setting attributes that the end user would otherwise have to select in the dialog.
Dot matrix printing is especially slow. To be quick, you must send text intermixed with printer-specific formatting commands. You can do that with RTextPrinter (not part of standard Java). The following hunk of code presumes you have already, through some other process, created a file file.ps full of PostScript printer commands and you want to get it printed on a printer that can print five double-sided copies on size A4 paper.Of course you can always emit your printer codes to a file, then exec a copy to LPTn: command or whatever your specific platform requires. For a network-capable printer you can talk directly to it via a TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) socket.
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