What Printer Should I Use?
Our customers often ask us questions about which printer we recommend. Sometimes, they also wonder whether we support their current printer. The good news is: ShipWorks supports both standard inkjet and/or laser printers as well as thermal printers.
Note: ShipWorks currently supports thermal printers that use either the “Eltron Programming Language (EPL)” or “Zebra Programming Language (ZPL)” printer languages. Many more modern printers only use ZPL. Eltron International was acquired by Zebra in 1998.
Many of our customers actually use both types of printers together. This is useful when printing packing slips and invoices to standard A-size paper while using a 4” x 6” thermal printer for shipping labels to prevent smeared delivery instructions.
Standard Printers (laser/inkjet)
ShipWorks can print to a standard inkjet or laser printer. This includes printing your packing slips, invoices and/or shipping labels. As long as your printer is installed in Windows correctly and you can print a Windows test page, you should be able to set up ShipWorks to print to your printer.
Inkjet and laser printers accept a couple of dominant printing languages: Printer Control Language (PCL) that is maintained and produced by Hewlett-Packard and PostScript, which is maintained and produced by Adobe. Both of these languages print letters as vectors rather than bitmap images, ensuring lossless print quality, no matter how large or small the symbols and characters may be.
This acceptance of common print languages ensures that ShipWorks is able to effectively support virtually all laser and inkjet printers without issue.
Here are a few reasons why using a standard laser or inkjet printer is a good thing:
As with everything, laser and inkjet printers have their advantages. These printers allow you to preview shipping labels directly in ShipWorks. When printing with a thermal printer using EPL or ZPL, you’re not going to have this feature, however. A few other benefits that come with using a standard printer include:
- If you are using your currently installed inkjet or laser printer, you don’t have to buy new equipment to make use of ShipWorks printing-oriented optimizations, such as batch printing.
- You can add color to your printed packing slips or invoices, such as a color logo, which can help immensely with brand recognition and customer retention.
- You don’t have to buy special paper—thermal printers require specific types of paper because they don’t use ink to print.
- You can adjust the size of the labels based on the package size and need.
- You can easily print both an invoice or packing slip and the shipping label to the same 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of paper using default ShipWorks templates.
Thermal Printers (EPL/ZPL):
Yes! ShipWorks supports thermal printers too. As long as your printer is installed in Windows correctly and you can print a Windows test page, you should be able to set up ShipWorks to print to your printer. Just be sure that your thermal printer can print EPL or ZPL file types, and prints to a 4″x6″ label at 203dpi.
Here are a few reasons why using a thermal printer is a good thing:
Thermal printers, like laser and inkjet printers, have unique strengths that set them apart and ensure customers keep coming back for more. We’ve aggregated a substantial list of benefits for thermal printers over the last few years. The following list highlights a few of the most commonly cited perks:
- It’s super fast. Typically, thermal printers print around three times faster than an inkjet or laser printer. That’s an average of roughly one label per second.
- You don’t have to purchase ink or toner because thermal printers use heat to print rather than pigment.
- Printing to a thermal printer is typically more cost-effective than printing to an inkjet or laser printer. There are no toner, ink, or other refill costs with thermal printers, other than paper.
- Labels never smear, because they aren’t printed with ink or toner.
- Thermal printers take up very little desk space. Most are only slightly wider than the labels they are intended to print—Some are directly integrated into other systems, such as a traditional cash register or more modern Point-of-Sale (PoS) systems.
- You don’t print have to print whole sheets of labels at a time. It’s easy to print single or small batches of labels
Many common Zebra thermal printers meet the ShipWorks requirements and other manufacturers may as well. (Note that older and/or used models will usually require a firmware update to be able to print the EPL/ZPL file types with a 4″ x 6″ 203dpi format. Be sure to confirm this capability prior to purchasing any used units).
It’s important to note that EPL/ZPL file types specify a Dots-per-Inch (DPI) measurement. This indicates that images are printed similarly to bitmap (.bmp) format.
Some commonly used thermal printers and formats (used in ShipWorks) include:
The printers listed below are all from Zebra Technologies, though many other thermal printers are supported. These happen to be some of the most common among our current customers. Other common thermal printing manufacturers include EPSON, Toshiba, and VIDEOJET.