Setup Secrets for Canon Printers

I finally decided to abandon my 5 year old Canon inkjet printer (and my even older separate Canon flatbed scanner) and move up to an All-in-One (AIO) model. For me, this meant getting a model without a fax capability. I never fax and didn’t want to waste money on unneeded hardware that would unnecessarily complicate the machine.

Instead, I wanted the absolute best combination of photo printer and scanner/copier that I could find. I settled on the new Canon MP990. So far, I’ve been very happy with it. It’s fast, photos are sharp and accurate, and scanning quality appears excellent. Perhaps my biggest surprise was to discover how much Canon’s application software has improved since my prior printer and scanner purchases. For example, Canon’s MP Navigator EX scanner software includes an OCR feature. In my brief testing, it converted a page of plain text into an editable TextEdit document with amazing speed and accuracy. The more I explore what this AIO can do, the more cool features I uncover.

In my decision making, there was one more significant advantage of the Canon MP990 over many other models I considered: I could connect the MP990 via Ethernet (in addition to USB or Wi-Fi). This meant I could share the MP990 to all the Macs on my local network via the Ethernet port on my AirPort Extreme Base Station. A critical point here is that both the printer and scanner components of the MP990 can be accessed from my Mac via this Ethernet setup. If I instead connected the MP990 to the USB port on the AirPort Extreme, I would only be able to access to the printer (because the AirPort Extreme does not support scanning over USB).

Is the MP990 the absolute best printer/scanner combo I could have gotten? I don’t know. I didn’t do side-by-side comparisons with all its competitors. I’ll leave that to others. This column is not meant as a review anyway. Rather, I want to alert you to a few setup problems you may have if you too decide to buy this, or a similar recent, Canon AIO.

Are you running Snow Leopard? If you a running Mac OS X 10.6.x, you’ll have a bit of work to do before you can use the printer. First, be sure to install the latest Canon Printer Drivers Update for 10.6, available from Apple. But that’s not enough. Even with the update installed, when you launch the Canon Setup application (from the included CD), you will be greeted with this message:

Canon Snow Leopard message

If you click the “Check Latest Info” button, as advised, you are taken to a Web page from which you are supposed to get the needed drivers. Unfortunately, the page doesn’t yet list the MP990 (it only goes as high as the MP980, at least as of today). Don’t despair. There is another page from which you can get the firmware updates for the MP990.

After installing these drivers, and assuming you have already properly set up and connected the printer to your Mac or network (via the instructions included with the MP990), you can now add the MP990 to your Mac’s printer list via typical methods — such as by accessing Add Printer from the Print & Fax System Preferences pane.

But wait. You’re not quite done. The Setup application didn’t tell you this — but you still don’t have any of the included Canon utility and application software. To get these, go back to the Canon CD and run Setup again. This time, when the above dialog appears, ignore the warning and click OK. Next, select Custom Install. From the window that appears, select to install everything but the MP drivers. Now you’re really done.

Can’t use scanner over network (Ethernet)? Having finished all of the above, I still was unable to access the MP990’s scanner from my Mac. Printing worked fine over Ethernet, but not scanning. The scanner hardware was working; I could scan-to-print from the MP990 itself. But I could not get any software on my Mac (such as Mac OS X 10.6’s Image Capture or Canon’s MP Navigator EX) to recognize the scanner. I suspect I would have had a similar problem with a Wi-Fi connection, but I did not confirm this.

It turns out that what I needed to know is contained in the the MP990 On-screen Manual (which gets installed to your Mac from the CD). The critical section is “Advanced Guide > Scanning > Canon IJ Network Scanner Selector Screens > Canon IJ Network Scanner Selector Menu and Setting Screen.” This is not an immediately obvious place to go and is not easy to find. To save you the trouble, here are the key steps you need to do:

1. In your Mac’s menu bar, locate an icon that looks like a scanner with an arrow pointing to the right. Click it. Select “Open Settings…” from the menu that drops down. This launches Canon IJ Network Scanner Selector.

The Scanner Selector software is tucked away in the  /Library/Printers/Canon folder, which is why you won’t find it by looking in your Applications folder or via a typical Spotlight search.

2. From the Scanner Selector’s settings, shift the enabled radio button from “Do Not Use” to the item that has the name of your printer.

Over at the MP990’s LCD screen (Canon calls it the Operation-Panel), the scanner settings should now include a network option (in addition to the USB option that is there by default). If the network option is not already enabled, manually select it now.

You can now scan over your Ethernet network.

3. Even after completing all of the above, you probably still won’t be able to access the scanner from the MP Navigator EX application. To get this working, you need to launch the application and click the Preferences button in the lower right of Navigator’s main window (ignore the Preferences command in MP Navigator EX menu; it will be unselectable!). Now, from the Product Name menu in Preferences, select the networked version of your MP990.

Done at last. Or maybe not. You may still have work to do, such as to set up the scanner driver to work from within Photoshop (if you own the Adobe software).

Canon could certainly have made it easier for you to figure all of this out. The good news is that, once you’re done with these setup hassles, you’ll have a great feature-packed printer and scanner. Enjoy.