Tablets -- of both the Apple and Android varieties -- are evolving not just in terms of the technology that powers them, but in how we use them. Originally brought to market as high tech toys, tablets are in the middle of a great renaissance. People are no longer using them as enhancements to the wireless experience, but as convenient alternatives to comparably bulky laptops.
The Easiest Options
If you own an iPad, one easy option is to buy an AirPrint-enabled printer. This makes printing a snap, and a number of companies make affordable, highly productive models with built-in AirPrint support.
And Apple's is hardly the only solution. It hasn't escaped the notice of the companies that make printers that tablets have become very popular products. That's why they have developed apps in-house that allow iPad and Android tablet owners to make hard copies.
In this category is Brother iPrint&Scan, Canon Mobile Printing, Epson iPrint, HP ePrint, Lexmark Mobile Printing, and others. While the features of these vary greatly, they all have one thing in common: they are free. Of course, they are also useful only to those who own a printer that each app was designed to work with.
But if you're printer(s) can't use one of these and you want to stick with your existing setup, there are workarounds for both iPads and Android tablets which can turn your tablet into a printing machine. Here, we'll consider workarounds that include PrintCentral, Printopia, Presto, and Google Cloud Print.
Before You Do Anything...
Wireless printing from an iPad or Android tablet requires you to have one of two things: a printer that's connected to a wireless router, or a wired printer connected to a host computer that is itself connected to a wireless router. The latter scenario is one that's something of a pain to endure, simply because the host computer needs to remain powered up at all times in order to keep the USB printer available on your local WiFi network. But if you're running an old-school printer that isnt network-capable, this is a necessity for being able to print without having to physically connect your device.
Printing from an iPad
The good news is that there are supplemental apps you can install to either your iPad or your Mac that making wireless printing from your iPad easy. Here's a rundown on some of the best apps on the market today, and some instructions to help you make it all fly.
PrintCentral Pro by EuroSmartz
Adding on a free bonus program called WePrint (also offered by EuroSmartz) and installing it on your Mac or PC brings even more bang for your buck, giving you the option to print from your iPad to a WiFi printer remotely, through 3G or 4G. Imagine not even having to be in the house when you send something to print. Pretty nifty.
Setup for PrintCentral Pro is relatively simple, requiring a one-time connection between your tablet and your printer's USB port. Once that's done, hop on to your Mac and launch WePrint to find your server address. Then break out your iPad, launch the PrintCentral app, and run a test print by opening the app's Getting Started document. You can set the print destination by tapping Choose in the PrintCentral app and manually keying in your server address. The tablet app then automatically discovers all available printers connected to your server. After you select the desired printer, all that's left to do is tap the Print option and a test page should be sent via the ether to your printer.
Now that you've got all of the necessary presets entered, launching PrintCentral Pro on your iPad will enable you to print emails, web pages, contact lists, images, clipboard content, and a variety of document types including PDF, Word and Excel files.
PrintCentral Pro can also double as an email client which can handle numerous accounts, giving you a convenient central location from which to read and respond to messages. Recent improvements to past versions of PrintCentral includes iOS 7 support and a cloud server that lets you store content offline for later printing. The cloud app works with iCloud, CloudMe, Dropbox, Google Docs, Box.net, and WebDAV.
The $7.99 price may seem like a bit much, but isn't when compared with the time and money you would otherwise spend going to your local big box store and bringing home a brand new AirPrint printer
Printopia by ecamm
Printopia works by convincing your iOS device that it's sending to an AirPrint printer. Kind of sneaky, if we don't say so, and also pretty cool. Not quite as multifunctional as the aforementioned PrintCentral Pro, Printopia lacks the ability to let you deliver print jobs remotely, instead requiring that your iOS device (iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch) be connected to your WiFi router when the print command is sent.
You'll also need to have your Mac fired up and connected to your printer any time you want to print something, either through a USB cable or through a wireless router. If that's not a big issue for you, you're golden.
Once you've got Printopia installed on your Mac, you can print from virtually any iOS device with ease. What's really cool is that you can also configure print settings, like quality, colors, and even paper size. Printopia also lets you save files from your mobile directly into any folder on your computer, or save files straight to your Dropbox account, or into specific Mac apps like Evernote and iPhoto.
If you're not into paying the full $19.95 and want to test it out to see how you like it, Printopia offers a free seven-day trial that'll give you plenty of time to decide if it's worth the cost. System requirements are Mac OS X 10.5.8 or newer, and iOS 4.2 or newer for your mobile devices.
Printing from Either an iPad or an Android Tablet
There are definitely households and businesses with a mix of iOS and Android device, The following developers have created apps for those who need to make hard copies from devices made by Apple, Samsung, Google, etc.
Presto by Collobos
$1.95 per month/$21.95 per month
Built for the iPad or iPhone owner who's also a PC user (yes, those people really do exist), Presto Wireless Printing is the program that superseded the wireless printing solution formerly known as FingerPrint. Presto also works with Android, ingratiating itself all the more to individuals who aren't necessarily device-monogamous. In other words, it'll work with just about any mobile device you own.
Similarly to Printopia, Presto doesn't need to be installed on your mobile device. It is instead installed on your PC, where it works with Apple AirPrint or Google Cloud Print.
Upon installation, the Presto wizard locates all printer devices found within your network. Before you can print, you'll first need to select the printer you want to designate for wireless printing on your desktop screen.
To print from your iPhone or iPad, access the item that you want to print and tap the center Action button. (This is the icon that looks like an arrow.) Choose Print from the action menu and your printer should kick to life.
To print from your Android device, you'll first need to connect Presto to your Google account. This is accomplished by selecting the Namespaces tab on the Presto control panel and clicking the plus button on the bottom of your Android screen. This brings up a new window with the option to select Google Cloud Print. Once you tap Google Cloud Print, you'll be required to key in your Google account sign-in information and accept the Presto app's request to manage your printers, upon which configuration with your Google account is done automatically. If you don't have the Google Cloud Print app installed on your Android device, you'll need to do that first. To run a test print from your Android, launch the Google Cloud Print app on your mobile device, choose the appropriate printer, and tap the Print option.
Presto charges a monthly subscription fee that breaks down into two basic choices: SOHO (small office/home office) and Enterprise. SOHO costs $1.95 per month, per installation. One installation is more than enough for the average user, however, since you can use it to print from an unlimited number of mobile devices. Enterprise is $21.95 per month, per installation, and it brings the added benefits of premium support and the ability to perform cross subnet printing from mobile devices.
Straight to the Source: The Google Cloud Print Solution
Considering that Presto charges consumer users a nominal monthly subscription fee for wireless printing through Google Cloud Print, it's interesting to find that you can entirely bypass the paid route by going straight to the source. Google Cloud Print can be successfully configured to do the very same thing, at no cost. Even better, it's not all that difficult to set up.
With Google Cloud Print, you can send print jobs from your mobile device to your home printer and have it all waiting for you when you get there. If you're not into wasting paper but you want to keep a printable version saved to memory indefinitely, Google Cloud Print also gives you the power to save those items to printable PDF format and store them in your Google Docs cloud account.
To make this happen, the first thing you'll need is an Android running 2.1 or later or an iOS running 3.0 or later. You'll also have to install Google Chrome and create a Google account. If you haven't done either yet and are reticent to take these final steps, remember that these days you need a Google account to have a YouTube account. If that's not enough to convince you, what is?
The next things you'll need are a dedicated desktop computer and a printer that's connected to that desktop by either cable or via wireless router. In order for remote printing to work, you will have to keep both fired up at all times -- but if that's not possible, you can always take the PDF route and do a mass print job the next time you log in to your desktop.
To connect your home printer to Google Cloud Print, access your Google settings from your Mac or desktop PC. You can do this by opening a Chrome browser window and clicking the dropdown Menu icon located in the top right corner. (This is the icon that looks like three short horizontal lines). In the dropdown, click Settings. At the Settings page, scroll all the way down to the bottom until you see the option to "Show advanced settings." Click this. Then, scroll down to the Google Cloud Print section and click "Sign in to Google Cloud Print." A new window will appear, requesting you to sign in with your Google account credentials. Once you've signed in, choose your desired printer from the list and click "Add printer(s)." This will officially associate your printer with your Google account for all print jobs.
Not all of the applications that you run will be capable of printing, and as you might imagine the widest compatibility with Cloud Print remains in the Android world. Depending on what app you're running, tapping Share or Print (or a combination of both, in that order) will enable you to remotely send print jobs to your Google connected printer. Google Docs for Mobile works well with Cloud Print on iOS and Android. Yet curiously enough there's no Cloud Print support for the Gmail for Mobile Android app. If you're using an Android device and want to print out a Gmail message in Cloud Print, you'll have to access it through a standard browser window. What's even stranger is that the iOS mobile Gmail app is capable of sending to Cloud Print from the app -- but we never promised you this would all make logical sense. Aside from this pesky peculiarity, there are a growing number of third party apps for Android devices that are functional with Google Cloud Print that won't cost you money
Here is Google's full, updated list of apps for both Android and iOS that currently work with Google Cloud Print. Note that at the present time, the only iOS application listed by Google is the aforementioned Print Central. Among the best listed for Android mobile devices is Cloud Print Beta, an app that gives you the ability to print SMS messages, contact lists, email attachments, and web pages, and that also lets you remotely manager your printer and share it with friends.
The growing number of options that iPad and Android tablet owners are being given with respect to wireless printing is a clear indication that tablets are evolving into highly functioning devices, no longer reserved just for leisure use. As the demand for more cross-functional operability continues to increase, both on the consumer level and at the business levels, you can expect to see a greater number of third-party applications begin to flood the market -- bringing even greater functionality to devices once written off as high-tech toys.
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