29 November 2017

The initialization of the Printer object

Each time you press F5 to run a program the Printer object is reinitialized. As part of the initialization process the program obtains information about the current default printer to prepare the Printer object for use in your program. The same happens in the start-up process of a compiled stand-alone program. When there is no default printer, or a corrupt printer-driver, the Printer’s properties and methods are undefined. You may use one of the Printer‘s properties .DeviceName, .DriverName, or .Port to obtain information about the actual printer associated with the Printer object. For instance, to check for a valid initialization:

Dim fValidPrinter? = Len(Printer.DeviceName)

When the Printer object needs to be associated with the current default printer at all times, you can compare the device-name against the current default printer returned from App.PrinterName(0). Before the printing process actually starts check for a change and re-initialize the Printer object to the new default printer:

' Before printing
If Printer.DeviceName != App.PrinterName(0) ' change of default?
  SetPrinterByName App.PrinterName(0) ' Re-initialize to default 
EndIf
' Start printing

Note - Keeping track of the current default printer this way will not preserve any changes you made to the Printer object.

Available printers and their info
The App object provides properties that enables you to gather information about all the available printers on the system. For instance, to find a printer that has the Orientation set to portrait, starting with the first non-default printer:

' Iterate over available printers
Local i%, PrtName$
For i = 1 To App.PrinterCount    ' index = 1
  PrtName =  App.PrinterName(i)
  Debug PrtName : Debug " Info: "; App.PrinterInfo(PrtName, "")
  If App.PrinterInfo(PrtName, "Orientation") == 1
    Debug " > Printer in portrait mode"
  EndIf
  Debug
Next

The current default printer is returned by the App property PrinterName(0), with the index = 0. To retrieve all printer devices iterate over App.PrinterName(i) starting with index 1.

The PrinterInfo property retrieves detailed information of the available printers. PrinterInfo is a small wrapper for the GetPrinter() API using the PRINTER_INFO_2 structure to retrieve the information (see SDK). All member names of PRINTER_INFO_2 structure can be passed as an argument to PrinterInfo(PrinterName, membername$), which returns a Variant with the member’s value. Depending on the member-name, must be one of the below, the Variant contains a string or a Long.

'Server','Printer','Share','Port','Driver','Comment','Location',
'Port','SepFile','PrintProcessor','Datatype','Parameters',
'Attributes','Priority','DefaultPriority','StartTime',
'UntilTime','Status','cJobs','AveragePPM'

In addition, PrinterInfo returns a few DEVMODE settings;

'Copies','Orientation','Duplex','Color',
'PaperLength','PaperWidth','Quality','PaperBin','PaperSize'

Finally, in case you pass an empty string - PrinterInfo(PrinterName,””) – it returns one string combining the settings of 'Server', 'Printer', 'Share', 'Port', 'Driver', 'Comment', 'Location', 'Port', 'SepFile', 'PrintProcessor', 'Datatype', and 'Parameters' as key/value pairs.

Printer Object initializing
By default the Printer object is initialized for the default printer. Using the Printer object lets you retrieve or set the settings of the default printer. Any printer output is based on the Printer object’s settings. To change the printer associated with the Printer object GB provides four commands:

Set Printer = cd                ' assign a CommDlg Object
SetPrinterByName "PrinterName"  ' specify a device name
SetPrinterHDC hdc               ' based on a printer device context
SetPrinterHDNHDM hDevName%, hDevMode% ' pass memory handles

The SetPrinterHDNHDM is at the heart of all printer changing commands. The other commands act basically all the same: they retrieve the the DEVMODE and DEVNAME structures from the input parameter and then call SetPrinterHDNHDM. The DEVMODE and DEVNAME structures provide all the information needed to properly initialize the Printer object. The CommDlg object, for instance, holds a DEVMODE and DEVNAME structure after having invoked the ShowPrint dialog box.

The Printer’s default initialization at start up requires these structures as well, and they are obtained by calling the PrintDlg() common dialog API. The PrintDlg() API function only requires two flags:

  • The PD_RETURNDEFAULT flag is used to retrieve information about the default printer without displaying the Print dialog box.
  • The PD_NOWARNING flag prevents the warning message from being displayed when there is no default printer.

At start-up the PrintDlg() is asked to return information about the current default printer without displaying the dialog box and without displaying a warning if the printer is missing. The existence of the PD_NOWARNING flag suggests it is possible (maybe there are no printers at all).
PrintDlg() may also fail because of a corrupted printer driver, or some other reason causing a delay in execution. It isn’t guaranteed that the PrintDlg() will always succeed. Consequently, it isn’t guaranteed that the Printer object is always properly initialized. When PrintDlg() fails GB initializes the Printer object’s private data to zero. This way the global Printer object is at least ‘not Nothing’, but its behavior is undefined because of the lack of actual device information.

Note - The SetPrinterHDNHDM command is useful when combining API functions and the Printer object. It takes 2 handles (hence HDN and HDM) to unlocked global-memory containing the DEVNAME and DEVMODE structures respectively. The hDevName and hDevMode arguments are handles to moveable global-memory objects allocated using GlobalAlloc(GMEM_MOVEABLE, sizeof(DEVMODE/DEVNAME)). They must be unlocked before passing to SetPrinterHDNHDM.

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