Printing from iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch

Last summer I convinced my dad to buy an iPad and he loves it! When I was visiting him at Thanksgiving, we were comparing notes on apps and reviewing the newly released IOS 4.0.  The one big flaw, at least from our perspective, was the limitation on printing.  We found an app that solves this problem quite well.  My dad has been kind enough to write a blog post for me to share this information with you.  Thanks dad!

Printing from iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch

By Thomas R. Cuthbert, Jr., Ph.D.

Steve Jobs introduced the Apple iPad January 27, 2010; apparently the only way to print files was by emailing to a computer with its attached printer. Then in September 2010 Apple announced that AirPrint Wi-Fi wireless printing and multitasking capabilities would be a part of the November 2010 release of the free iOS4.2 software update for the iPad, iPhone (except 3G), and iPod Touch [1]. This article reviews the various ways the AirPrint feature has been adapted to make printing from those devices more efficient.

 Cloud web-based file hosting system Dropbox [2] was launched in 2008 to enable any Internet user to store and share files and folders and incidentally to print from an iPad. Although Dropbox requires a second step to print from a computer to an attached printer, it will have another role later in this article. The cloud-based approach is also used in the new HP Photosmart eStation e-All-in-One, which includes its email address so mail can be routed to it through ePrint, another cloud-based printing system. This HP printer has an exclusive arrangement with the AirPrint feature on Apple’s hand-held devices when they are all are connected to the same Wi-Fi network [3]. The 2-GB Dropbox is free, but the eStation is $400 and has received a qualified review [4].

 I have had a brief but very satisfactory hands-on experience with the $9.99 Printopia Mac PC app; it is not an iOS app for hand-held devices, but a Mac PC preference pane functioning as a print server [5]. When downloaded to your Mac, you will see it in Apple/SystemPreferences/Other with an expanded options window:

Printopia lists all printers connected to your Mac PC by both its USB ports and its local Wi-Fi network. Then you can choose which can be accessed from your hand-held devices, including Dropbox and Send to Mac choices. The latter sends the print job as a PDF or image file to your Mac’s Document/ Printopia folder. When Dropbox is installed on your Mac PC, a blue icon appears on the Menu Bar shown to the right. Click the icon to open the Dropbox folder, access the website, get help, and change preferences.

The iPad apps Mail, Photo, Safari, iBooks, and third-party apps with built-in printing will display a Print Option when the Arrow icon (or other path to print) is tapped as in the figure on the left below. When the Print button is tapped the Printer Options box appears as shown on the right. When your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch is connected to the same Wi-Fi network as your running Mac, you can choose a printer other than that shown (Send to Dropbox is shown here).

If the Mac PC is not powered on or is set to sleep, it also may show “Select printer.” Then pressing the printer button will show a full screen saying “Looking for printers...” and then “No printers found.” Otherwise, a tap on the Printer button enables selection from a scrolling list of printers made available from the Preferences Pane on the preceding page. (Send to Mac has been selected as an example).

The Printopia app has worked well for me if my iMac Apple/SystemPreferences/Energy Saver has Wake for Ethernet ON and Put the Hard Disk to Sleep When Possible OFF.

Also, I found another app, FingerPrint [6], that appears similar to Printopia, but I have not tried it.