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Mobile printing: A guide for the BYOD world

Christopher Null | Sept. 17, 2013
You may print less from your smartphone or tablet, but when you need to, there's help from printer vendors and third parties.

Using third-party tools to print

Your best bet is to use one of the above tools to print directly to your printer. Manufacturers' own apps will have the most features and, generally, fewer bumps along the road.

But what if an app doesn't exist for your printer, or you can't get it to work with your device? It's time for plan B: third-party printing tools. There are two big ones to consider, plus a smattering of smaller indies.

Apple AirPrint: This Apple-provided app is so well-supported it's worth a look even if your manufacturer offers a printing app on its own. Just about every major and minor printer manufacturer is supported by AirPrint, though you'll want to make sure the specific model you own is on the list. If it is, and if you use an iOS or MacOS device, give AirPrint a spin: When you're on the same Wi-Fi network, you'll be able to print just about anything your device can display.

Google Cloud Print: Google Cloud Print takes a slightly different approach, making your existing printers accessible via the Web. But there's a catch: The printer needs Internet access through an attached, powered-on computer, or a short list of natively supported, "Cloud Ready" printers can connect to the Internet on their own. If you use the Chrome browser, setup is easy: Just visit the Cloud Print page and install the add-on for the browser. Then register your local printers on the Chrome service, which replaces the typical Print dialog with a new one for printing from anywhere. It's especially useful if you use Google Docs or have an Android device (or both). A new addition lets you extend Google Cloud Print to work with standard Windows apps (like Microsoft Office). It's not as reliable as printing through the standard Windows printing system, but it's a credible option in a pinch.

Other Apps:  A few upstarts also aim to print from mobile devices. These are generally paid apps, while just about everything else mentioned in this story is free. Check these out:

Print n Share ($10, iOS) is like AirPrint but for "all" printers, not just compatible ones.

Presto ($2/month for SOHO users, iOS, Android, Chrome) is more of a system for managing multiple printers in the office and extending support to mobile devices.

PrinterShare ($13 premium, iOS, Android, Windows) is a full-fledged "print to anything" app, with remote printing support thrown in as well. It's free to test.

Users of GoToMyPC ($10/month) and LogMeIn Pro ($70/year) can do more than just take remote control of a faraway PC. They can also print through it as if they were sitting at the keyboard, but using the data on their mobile device. If you have the patience to use Windows' built-in Remote Desktop system, you can print remotely this way, too. it's handy in a pinch.

 

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