Student Printing at MIT

Athena public printing changes - hold and release

The recent Tech article by Divya Srinivasan "Athena printing changes coming", and its companion piece "Other Athena changes on the horizon", provide an excellent overview of changes recommended by the Athena Working Group (DUE, Spring 2010).

Answers to frequently asked questions

Below are answers to common questions heard so far. Links will take you to pages in the Hermes IT knowledge base. These provide more details, additional information, changes, and corrections to what was in the article and working group report.

More will be added as questions come in.

Please get in touch!

If you are an MIT student or member of the MIT community and would like to provide input on how you'd like to see student printing change at MIT, have a question about proposed changes, or would like to participate in design and implementation, please contact us! The easiest way to so is via email to:

Older information on this page

Printing Projects Spring 2010

1. "lerman"

We’re piloting a hold-and-release student printer on the first floor of the Stratton Student Center. The pilot is scheduled to run through the beginning of summer 2010. This pilot project is sponsored by the Undergraduate Association and by Information Services & Technology. The printer is deployed and maintained by Enterprise Services (CopyTech).

How to use it

1. Send your job to the printer from Athena, from your Mac, or your PC. The printer's name is:


2. Release your job from the touch-screen control panel mounted next to the printer

Unlike normal cluster printers, this printer will not just spit out your print job as soon as it is sent (or when it becomes the next job in the queue). Instead, it will wait for you to go to the printer and release the job using the touch-screen control panel. This allows you to check the printer for errors, and confirm that you really want to print the job. Once you release it, the job will begin printing in a few seconds.

3. Problems?

Please report problems with the printer or touch-screen control panel to CopyTech at (ICP stands for Institute Copier Program.)


Things we hope to learn from this pilot:

Will it stick around?

That depends largely on your feedback! Please let us know what works, what doesn’t, and if a printer at this location is useful. You can use the form below or send us email from your email program at

2. Athena Header Page Notebooks

Coming soon for the UA sustainability group!

3. Print Smarter signes

This page and the "Print Smarter" signs in the Athena clusters are a joint project by the student group SAVE (Share A Vital Earth) and Information Services & Technology. For more information about this page and the signs, please email save-ist-printing at

General Printing Resources

Print Double-Sided on Athena

From common programs

You can easily print double-sided directly from the File > Print menu of these common programs:

Adobe ReaderIn the command line, type: lpr -Pprintername2
OpenOffice/StarOfficeIn "Properties" select "long edge"
PDF ViewerPick "Generic Postscript", click "Configure", then "Duplex"
Mozilla FirefoxSelect "Postscript/duplex" from the drop-down menu
MATLABSelect the "duplex" option in the "appearance" tab
From the command line

You can also always print a document to a Postscript .ps file and the print the file from the command line. Both of the below commands will print the document in duplex (double-sided) mode on printers capable of doing so, and are basically equivalent. The second command is more general-purpose and may work in other Unix-based environments, not just on Athena. is the name of the Postscript file you are trying to print. Both commands are typed at the Athena command prompt (usually athena%).

lpr -Pprintername2
lpr -Zduplex -Pprintername

For more information
  1. Stock Answer: How to print two-sided documents
  2. Printing from Athena (AC-18)
  3. Printing from Athena (AC-18)/Printing Two-Sided Documents
  4. IS&T Topic Page: Printing at MIT

Eliminate Header Pages on Athena

To not print a header page

To not print a header page for a specific job add -h to the command line. The below command is typed at the Athena command prompt (usually athena%).

lpr -Pprintername2 -h

Custom header pages

Often header pages are useful for keeping print jobs separate on busy printers, and can be re-used as note paper. However, you might want to pick a specific design for your header page, such as graph paper or music staff paper. The below commands demonstrate how to pick specific header page designs if you do need to print header pages. The first command prints polar coordinate graph paper. The second command prints a sheet of music staff paper:

lpr -Zbanner=polar -Pprintername2
lpr -Zbanner=staff -Pprintername2

Make It The Default

Customize your account to make it the default

You can change your default to always print double-sided and without a header page. Enter the following command at your Athena command prompt (usually athena%):

echo setenv LPROPT -hZduplex >> ~/.environment

What does this do? It adds the line setenv LPROPT -hZduplex to the configuration file .environment in your Athena home directory.

But what exactly does it do? The echo command just repeats what follows after it, and the >> portion of the command line tells Unix to append what comes before it to the file you specify immediately following the two greater-than signs, in this case the file .environment. The ~ character tells Unix to substitute the location of your home directory, and the / character is simply used to separate folder and file names as you type them on the command line.

Note: If you get an error message like this: /afs/ No such file or directory. it means that you do not have a .environment file. Use these commands instead. The touch command creates the file if it does not already exist.

touch ~/.environment
echo setenv LPROPT -hZduplex >> ~/.environment

For more information
  1. Working with Configuration Files or "Dotfiles" (AC-16)
  2. Stock Answer: Information about UNIX and customizing dotfiles
  3. Stock Answer: Disabling the header/cover page

Manage Your Print Queue

Commands to manage your print queue

Run these commands from the Athena command prompt (usually athena%) after you have submitted print jobs or to find out about printer locations and status.

cview printersDisplays locations and printer queue summaries for all available printers.
lpr -Pprintername
Checks your default printer's queue. You will see your own jobs listed, as well as jobs from other users. The optional -Pprintername argument shows the queue of a specific printer.
lprm -Pprintername
Cancels all of your print jobs on the default printer. The optional -Pprintername argument cancels all of your print jobs on a specific printer.

Printers In This Athena Cluster

You can use the Athena command cview printers from any Athena machine to view a list of all public printers, their locations and names, their general status (up or down), and the number of jobs queued on each printer. You run this command from the Athena command prompt (usually athena%)

Download the PDF of the poster

PDF print-smarter.pdf (513KB)