CUPS-PDF | Print to PDF from any Application

I’m sure this isn’t new to anyone, certainly not to me but after using another operating system for a bit I was really annoyed and wanted to just highlight what a wonderful thing this “printer” is for openSUSE and any other Linux distribution, for that matter. Sometimes, I think it is good to reflect on the the great things we take for granted here in Linux land.


For openSUSE, you can simply type this in terminal

sudo zypper install cups-pdf

or if you prefer the point-and-click method navigate here and be sure to choose the correct version of openSUSE:

That is all there is to it. According to Zypper, this takes up all of 221.9 KiB of drive space so this is pretty insignificant and for outdated for the benefits this provides.


There are a couple of reasons why the print to PDF as a kind of pseudo or virtual printer is a great feature to have:

Number 1

I have historically, while not thinking clearly, printed something I shouldn’t have because I just CTRL+P with a rapid strike of the enter key to print something. Immediately following, I would see an error in document. It could have been anything from a typo to a formatting error and I would have wasted time because the cancel button never actually cancels the print. The printer goes through this process where it thinks about cancelling the print for several minutes. Basically, it gives you that spinning circle thing until you forcibly shut the thing down. All the while you are thinking about how you should have just let the printer do its thing and you could have just used the wasted paper for something else.

Number 2

Some online training sites don’t let you export that certificate directly as a PDF so your option really comes down to printing it to the printer because for whatever reason, the Firefox print dialog wouldn’t pop up, it would be some sort of oddball thing that only provided actual printers.

Number 3

I am an old man, largely, stuck in my ways. There are certain, old, applications I enjoy using and at the same time need the print to pdf option. This gives me that option, system wide, that I can use whenever necessary.


CUPS-PDF provides a printer for the system that generates a PDF to the user’s specified location. In the case of openSUSE, both Leap and Tumbleweed, perhaps other distributions it will dump them here:


Rather than change the configuration file for the cups-pdf printer, I went the easy way and made a link to that location of pdf output to my home folder

ln -s /var/spool/cups-pdf/USER ~/cups-pdf

You can of course do this graphically as well, if that is what you prefer. In that case, using your favorite file manager (like Dolphin), navigate to the aforementioned location, drag and drop, using the “Link Here” option.


It’s pretty simple, really, after installing the “virtual printer” it makes itself available to the system.

What is great about this is, when running old Windows applications through Wine or Crossover Linux that don’t have access to the Plasma print-to-file, I can just print to this virtual device called CUPS-PDF.

This very nicely leverages the very basic capabilities provided by my Linux desktop environment for some of those older and obscure applications I still enjoy using. Truly, a wonderful piece of open source software that is perhaps often overlooked by all the new and shiny things created today.

Final Thoughts

This isn’t any great, new feature in Linux but one that has been there and working for me day after day for nearly 20 years in some form. It is such a simple thing, uses very few resources and adds some valuable functionality. The great thing is, this is just a built-in feature to openSUSE and other Linux distributions that don’t require adding some obscure application.

This is yet another reason why I love using Linux and open source software. It allows me the freedom to work how I want to work, capture and archive things the way I see fit and just be happy in my little digital world.


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