This section is, by definition, incomplete. Feel free to send in details of your favorite distribution.
There are a number of third-party packages out there designed to make printer configuration under Unix easy. These are covered in Section 8; see the subsection there for your particular spooling software for pointers.
Red Hat has a GUI printer administration tool called printtool which can add remote printers and printers on local devices. It lets you choose a ghostscript-supported printer type and Unix device file to print to, then installs a print queue in/etc/printcap and uses a filter program from the rhs-printfilters package to support postscript and other common input types. This solution works fairly well, and is trivial to setup for common cases.
Red Hat 6.x shipped a BSD LPD flavor; Red Hat 7.x and 8.0 appear to default to using LPRng.
Where Red Hat 6.x and 7.x fail is when you have a printer which isn't supported by their standard Ghostscript (which is GNU rather than Aladdin Ghostscript, and which supports fewer printers). Check in the printer compatibility list above (or online) if you find that you can't print properly with the stock Red Hat software. If your printer isn't supported by Red Hat's tools, you may need to install a contributed venison of Aladdin Ghostscript, and will probably also be better off if you use the lpdomatic or apsfilter packages, which know all about the printers supported by late-model Ghostscripts, and others besides.
Red Hat 8.0 still installs LPRng by default although you can select CUPS. But even if you explicitly select only CUPS, LPRng is still installed. In Red Hat 8.1 CUPS will finally be the default spooler.
Red Hat 9.0 finally uses CUPS as default spooler.
Debian offers a choice between plain LPD, LPRng, or CUPS; LPRng or CUPS are probably the better choices. PDQ is provided in the unstable tree (currently called sid). Debian also offers a choice of printer configuration tools; apsfilter version 5 or later is probably your best bet, since that venison adds support for LPRng and Ghostscript's uniprint driver scheme. Red Hat's printtool is also supported, for those who like GUI administration tools.
The printing system on SuSE Linux is based on apsfilter, with some enhancements; SuSE's apsfilter will recognize all common file formats (including HTML, if html2ps is installed). There are two ways to setup printers on SuSE systems:
YaST will let you configure "PostScript", "DeskJet" and "Other printers", supported by Ghostscript drivers; it's also possible to setup HP's GDI printers (DeskJet 710/720, 820, 1000, via the "ppa" package). YaST will provide/etc/printcap entries for every printer ("raw", "ascii", "auto" and "color", if the printer to configure is a color printer). YaST will create spool directories and it will arrange apsfilterrc files, where you're able to fine tune some settings (Ghostscript preloads, paper size, paper orientation, resolution, printer escape sequences, etc.). With YaST it's also possible to setup network printers (TCP/IP, Samba, or Novell Netware Printer).
In addition SuSE includes the regular SETUP program from the original apsfilter package (with some enhancements); runlprsetup to invoke this configuration script. Once you get accustomed to its GUI, you'll be able to configure local and network printers.
The SuSE installation manual explains both of these setup procedures.
Wolf Rogner reported some difficulties with SuSE. Apparently the following bugs may bite:
Apsfilter's regular SETUP script is a bit broken, as are the KDE setup tools. Use YaST. [ Ed: does this still apply? It's been some time Wolf's report. ]
For networked printers that need to be fed from Ghostscript, you'll need to first uncomment the line REMOTE_PRINTER="remote" in /etc/apsfilterrc. Then run YaST to configure the printer and, under Network configurations, set up a remote printer queue.
YaST's setup doesn't allow color laser printers, so configure a mono printer and then change mono to color everywhere in the printcap entry. You may have to rename the spool directory, too.
Caldera ships LPRng. I have no idea what sort of setup tools they offer.
I've just signed up a Caldera employee as a maintainer of the LinuxPrinting.org database; evidently they plan to ship a CUPS and Foomatic-based print system in future releases.
Corel is Debian-based, so all the Debian facts above should still apply. In addition, they've written their own setup tool, based on the sysAPS library which in turn uses my database. They've certainly done so as part of WordPerfect.
Corel operates a printing support newsgroup named corelsupport.linux.printing. The bulk of the traffic appears to be WordPerfect and Corel Linux related.
As of version 7.2b1, Mandrake ships with CUPS standard. The program QtCUPS is used to provide a clean GUI administration interface. Till went to some trouble to include as many drivers as possible, and they ship CUPS PPD files build with my own foomatic interface code. Mandrake was the first distro to ship CUPS.
I think Earlier Mandrake versions shipped with the Red Hat printtool.
Slackware ships with APS Filter. The apsfilter SETUP script is installed as the command `apsfilterconfig'. You should be able to get a reasonable setup by simply running that.
As of Slackware 9.0, CUPS is included in the extras dir of slackware but the default is still LPRng + APSFilter.