March 17, 2012

How to Print from your iPad

With more people using an iPad as their main or sole computer, How do I print from my iPad? is becoming a more common question. For many folks, the simplest answer is:  Don't bother – just email your file from your iPad to your computer. You'll have the full power of your computer to adjust paper sizes, quality, quantity, etc.

But if that response feels like a cop-out here are three more direct methods.

Print to an AirPrint-enabled printer
Apple maintains a list of AirPrint-enabled printers to which you can print directly from your iPad. If you have one of these, you're all set:
As explained in Apple's knowledgebase article above, to print from your iPad:
  • Tap your app's action icon:
  • Tap the Print button
  • Configure the printer options and then tap Print
Note: If you are printing for the first time, or if the previously selected printer is not available, you will need to select the printer before the 3rd step.

Add a program to your computer to make it "look" like an AirPrint-enabled printer
This method has the added benefit that you can print to any printer, wireless or networked, that your computer can print to. This is the method I use.

a) Mac users's Printopia preference pane is the software I use. Once installed all the printers that you've configured on your Mac show up to your iPad as AirPrint-enabled printers. It offers the additional feature of allowing your iPad to print to your Mac's DropBox folder, or to a PDF file.
b) Windows users
Unfortunately Printopia is not available in a PC version, but there are other solutions for Windows, which I haven't personally tried. For example:
NOTE: You may find that your pre-existing WiFi infrastructure is sufficient. However, large, institutional WiFi networks are not normally designed with Apple's AirPlay protocol in mind, and as a result routinely block the Bonjour multicasts on which the AirPlay protocol depends. You may find then that by configuring your own WiFi hotspot for to be shared by your laptop and your iPad, you will ensure AirPlay will work between the two.

Install a specialized printing app onto your iPad 
It is possible to install an app on your iPad to directly print to a wireless-accessible printer. Joe Kissel identified some example apps in his June 2011 Macworld article, to which I've added a few more:
Caution: This is the method that I'm least keen on. I've not tried any of these apps and so can recommend one. And with this method, your sole source of support is the app vendor. By contrast, with Method 1, you have the possibility of support from Apple as well as from the printer vendor. And with Method 2, your Mac, on your iPad's behalf, is printing to printers that it can already print to, i.e. doing most of the "heavy lifting". So if you do go this Method 3 route, please read the App vendor's support page and the iTunes feedback carefully before buying to verify that your printer and network configuration are supported.

Note: Some iOS "printing" apps actually require a client program be installed on your PC, so they are actually a variant of Method 2, except they are not using iOS' built-in AirPrint client.