Amazing as tablets are, sometimes you need a good old-fashioned printout. Whether you need to turn in an essay at school or hang a flyer for a lost dog, being able to print directly from your tablet is far better than emailing yourself the file and trying to find a laptop.
That’s why we put together this list of apps and strategies for print from your tablet. We’re still likely years away from realizing the dream of the paperless office, so let’s make sure we can still get paper when we need it.
If you have an iPad and a relatively new printer, you may be in luck. Apple AirPrint allows Apple devices and compatible printers to work seamlessly together, so long as they’re on the same Wi-Fi network. (You can see if your printer is AirPrint-compatible by checking the list on Apple’s AirPrint support website.)
All you have to do is tap the Share or Settings icon in compatible apps, select the printer, choose the number of copies, and then tap print. Some printers may offer additional options; as you can see from the screenshot our HP printer can print double-sided.
You’re not out of luck if you don’t have an AirPrint printer, as there are other options.
Print n Share Pro
This app aims to be almost the only one you will ever need because the features go far beyond the ability to print from your tablet. It also acts as a document manager and reader (similar in some ways to GoodReader), a file transfer utility (to make it easier to copy files to your iPad from your computer without a cable), and an email app.
The Pro version features include the ability to convert your documents to PDF, print your calendar or save it as a PDF in order to easily share it with others, and save web pages as PDFs. While there is a cheaper version available, the Pro version is worth the extra cost.
$6.99, universal, free Lite version available to test printer compatibility
One of the most popular printing apps for the iPad, Printer Pro requires a free companion app on your computer in order to unleash its full potential. Works with email attachments, PDF, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Safari, and even Dropbox and Google Drive documents.
Obviously you need a compatible HP wireless printer in order to use this app, but once set up, it allows you to send photos and documents to your printer from anywhere you have Internet access, not just your home or office network. A companion HP All-in-One Printer Remote app allows you to scan paper documents into your phone as well.
For Android tablets, the main printing solution is Google Cloud Print (which also works with Chromebooks, iOS, Windows Surface, etc.) The free service allows you to add compatible Internet-ready printers to your Google account so that you can print from anywhere with an Internet connection, not just in the same home or office. You can also share your printer with others.
Getting started is as easy as downloading the official Google Cloud Print app to your tablet from the Google Play store and then following the instructions. It works with email messages, photos, PDFs, and documents. You can also check the print status for jobs you’ve already submitted.
A list of printers compatible with Cloud Print is available on Google’s website for this service. Google Cloud Print also allows you to add “classic” printers to the service as well so you might not be out of luck if your printer isn’t on that list. These printers don’t have to be physically connected to a desktop or laptop, but printing will only be available when you’re on the same network.
Other printing apps with more options include:
PrinterShare Mobile Print
Free for up to 20 pages, PrinterShare Premium Key purchase required
Prints PDFs, Microsoft Office documents, email attachments and PDFs, web pages, and documents from cloud services such as Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive. PrinterShare is a trial app that allows you to print test pages on nearby network printers in order to test compatibility or via Google Cloud Print, or up to 20 pages remotely over the Internet.
Free with ads, or pay $3.99 per year
Allows you to print photos and Microsoft Office documents, plus email attachments, and web pages. The service also works with Dropbox files and web pages as well as plain text. When first installed the app only works with JPEG photos, registration plus a free ad-supported account are required to unlock the full app.
If you have a Windows tablet, you have two main printing options. The first is simply to connect your device to the printer with a USB cable and print away. If that’s a little too old school for you, models like the Microsoft Surface Pro series also work with compatible wireless printers on the same network. You can check to make sure that your printer is compatible on Microsoft’s support website.
Install the printer by choosing Settings/Devices. It’ll be added automatically when Windows find it on the same network. To print, swipe left from the edge of the screen, choose Devices, select your printer, choose your desired options, and then tap Print.
Thankfully the built-in print support works well, as there are very few printing apps in the Windows Store, and most of those are offered by particular printer manufacturers such as Brother, Epson, HP, Kyocera, and Samsung. Still, as with the other mobile platforms, there are apps available for handling special-purpose printing.
If you have a Canon Pixma or Selphy printer, this app will allow you to print bordered and borderless photos directly from your Windows tablet. You can also use your Pixma printer as a scanner, sending the content to your tablet as either a JPEG or PDF file.
DC Envelope Printer
If you need to print envelopes, this is the app for you. The basic app simply prints envelopes, but if you want to unlock the full power of the app, including mailing lists, and adding company logos to envelopes, you’ll need to unlock those premium features with in-app purchases.
$1.99, free trial available
This app works in conjunction with printers you have already added to the Google Cloud Print service, allowing you to view the printer status as well as information about the last 50 print jobs you completed. It also includes the ability to control print options such as color or black and white printing, landscape or portrait orientation, and a variety of paper sizes on supported printers.