Two Windows 2000 features, printer location tracking and Web-based printing, make locating and connecting to printers much easier than with Windows NT. Printer location tracking helps you locate a printer, and Web-based printing lets you connect to and print from a printer using a Web browser.

Printer Location Tracking
Printer location tracking is a feature that stores printer location information in Active Directory (AD) so that you can quickly and easily locate a printer in your vicinity. With printer location tracking enabled, you can click Start\Search\For Printers, and the search results will display printers that are at your location. When you perform the search, the system determines your location by obtaining your Win2K machine's IP address before searching AD to find nearby printers. You can also click Browse and search for printers at other locations.

To enable printer location tracking, use Active Directory Sites and Services to specify a location for each of the subnets associated with your sites (printer location tracking doesn't work if you don't have more than one subnet or site). Right-click a subnet, choose Properties, and select the Location tab. Enter a location name that will make sense to your users, as Figure 1 shows. Next, open the appropriate Group Policy Object (GPO), navigate to Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Printers, and enable Pre-populate printer search location text, as Figure 2 shows. Finally, modify all your printers' location properties to match the location text that you associated with the subnets in AD Sites and Services, as Figure 3 shows.

Web-Based Printing
Web-based printing lets you use the Internet Print Protocol (IPP) to connect to a shared printer by entering a URL (e.g., http://ip_address/printers) instead of the Universal Naming Convention (UNC) path (e.g., \\server_name\shared_printer_name). With Web-based printing, you can connect to and print from printers when you're not connected to the corporate LAN—for example, when you're working offsite. With this capability, you don't have to go into work early to finish that large print job before the Monday morning meeting; you can submit the job from home and collect it when you arrive.

Setting up Web-based printing is straightforward. Simply use the Add Printer wizard to share the printer on a Win2K server running Microsoft IIS. Of course, to connect to the Web-based printer remotely, you must have an Internet connection and a valid IP address. With that in place, launch a Web browser and type http://<ip_address>/printers, where ip_address is the server's IP address, to display a listing of all the shared printers on that machine. When you click the print device you want to connect to, the system automatically installs the appropriate printer driver on your client machine, transferring the necessary files across the Internet using HTTP. You can also run the Add Printers wizard from a client machine. To specify that you want to add a network printer, click Connect to a printer on the Internet or on your intranet, and to specify the printer to connect to, type http//<server_name>/printers/<share_name>/.printer. You can substitute the server's IP address for the server name if name resolution isn’t possible.

IPP also lets you perform limited printer administration from a Web browser. You can check on the status of a printer, and you can pause, resume, and cancel documents that you or your users have submitted. You might also find Web-based printing useful for your intranet. For example, you can develop a Printers Web site that lists printers with a description of each, including its location. When users click a specific printer, the system can redirect them to that particular print server.