How to print from your iPad

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How to print from your iPad - How to print from your iPad

Among other things, iPad is a great way to save paper: it lets you carry around all kinds of digital documents that you might otherwise have had to print.

But from time to time you might still need to print out data that’s on your iPad — say, business documents you’ve created in Pages and Numbers or driving directions to give to someone who doesn’t pack silicon. Printing from iPad can be easy if your needs are modest, but even if you need complete print control, there’s, as the saying goes, an app for that.

(The following steps will work for any iPad, including iPad 2 and both Wi-Fi and 3G models.)

The basics

While you can add a USB port to your iPad using Apple’s iPad Camera Connection Kit, there’s no point in connecting a USB printer since iOS doesn’t know how to communicate with printers over USB. Some printers have built-in Wi-Fi (a natural fit for the iPad). For the rest, however, you need a computer or other proxy device that acts as a conduit for iPad print jobs: your iPad wirelessly connects to your Mac (or other device), which in turn connects to the printer.

But the communication channel is only part of the picture; You also need software that knows how to send data to the printer in the correct format. Starting with iOS 4.2, Apple built printing support into the iPad with a technology called AirPrint. Any app updated to take advantage of AirPrint can print wirelessly to a compatible printer with a few taps.

For reasons only Apple knows, the initial implementation of AirPrint only works with a handful of newer HP printers that support what HP calls ePrint. If you happen to have such a printer (HP has a list of them on their website) and it’s on the same local network as the iPad, your iPad can see it and print without any special configuration. (ePrint also gives your printer a private email address, so you can also email a document as an attachment, and it will print automatically.)

However, if you’re not lucky enough to have an HP ePrint-compatible printer, you can still use AirPrint with most printers. All you need is a bit of extra software running on your Mac.

Enable AirPrint

Two such applications are quite similar: Collobos Software’s FingerPrint ($8) and Ecamm Network’s Printopia ($10). Install one of these utilities on a Mac on your network, select the printers your iOS devices can use, and then you can print to those printers from your iPad as if they were HP ePrint printers. With these two tools, you can print from your iPad to any local or network printer; They also allow you to use the print command to send documents to your Dropbox or a folder on your Mac instead of a printer.

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