What you’re experiencing is sort of the dirty little secret of Linux: lack of hardware support.
Along with getting used to the different user interface, and perhaps not finding a specific needed application, I would wager that driver (hardware) issues are high on the list of things that prevent people from actually switching to Linux.
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To be fair, Linux is actually an amazingly good operating system, but it simply is not as complete as Windows.
The problem here is that drivers need to be written or at least heavily modified for Linux specifically. That means either someone in the Linux open source community needs to write one, or the hardware vendor needs to do it.
The good news is that there are a ton of drivers and support already out there. Many things will in fact just work. It’s pretty cool.
Every time I install Linux on one of my machines, I’m fairly impressed by how much of the hardware it simply recognizes and works with; from video cards, to hard disk drives, to random hardware that I’ve got in my machine.
But of course, it won’t do everything. There just aren’t as many drivers written for Linux as there are for Windows.
It’s further complicated by the different distributions. Some drivers will work with many distributions; some don’t. There are so many distributions that you might not find your distribution listed in those supported, even though it might actually work.
The hardware vendors for example, particularly when it comes to printers I would assume, just don’t see Linux as a marketplace that’s big enough to justify their expense. And don’t kid yourself: drivers cost the hardware vendors money to write. They’re going to focus on those markets that are selling or using the printers more often: Windows, and to a lesser degree, Apple.
Steps to try
So, what to do? Well, first, give it a try. Seriously. You might be very nicely surprised that the drivers you need may already be included or be available for your distribution.
Second, try the vendor’s website. I know you said you’re mostly seeing Windows drivers, but do poke around. Sometimes they’re hidden off in a corner. Sometimes those drivers aren’t placed in the box with the printer, but they are made available as a download.
Third, visit the product support forum for that particular Linux distribution and ask if anyone there knows. You’ll probably get the most knowledgeable response from those types of Linux forums, perhaps even with information about different drivers that somebody may have found to work.
Finally, you could give the printer manufacturer’s support site a try. Chances are they’re going to very quickly brush you off, because like I said, it’s such a small market from the manufacturer’s point of view. Every once in a while you can get lucky that a manufacturer will not only have a driver available, but will actually have someone on their support staff that is interested in getting that driver out there and supporting Linux.