I know this is totally a first-world problem, but I often find myself standing there, reading an email on my iPhone, and thinking “Gee, it would be nice if I could print this out so I’d have a copy on paper.” Sure, I could fire up the computer and print the email from there, but that seems so 2010. Is there some easy way to make printing directly from my phone possible?
Yes, if this is your biggest problem, then we’re not really feeling too sorry for you. And yes, you can absolutely make this happen—the difficulty in solving the problem varies, depending on the vintage of your printer, and what operating system you’re running on your phone and on your computer. First of all, note that Apple created a technology specifically to handle this problem back in iOS 4.2.1 (we’re currently on iOS 8.3 or later), and they called the technology AirPrint. Get it? “Printing through the air?”
In order to use AirPrint, you must satisfy a number of simple requirements. Only a small subset of available printers support AirPrint natively (that is, without some help from a computer attached to it), and your iOS device must be connected to the same wireless network as your printer. For complete instructions and a list of supported printers, check out this support page: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201311.
If you are in the market for a new printer, and you’d like to use this technology, make sure that the printer explicitly supports AirPrint before you purchase it. If you want to know if your existing printer supports AirPrint, check out the list on the linked support page. If you want to use AirPrint, but you don’t have one of the special printers, don’t despair: There are ways to get AirPrint functionality even if you have an unsupported printer.
If you can’t get AirPrint to work directly with the printer, and you’re a Mac user, check out the excellent application, Printopia (https://www.decisivetactics.com/products/printopia/). This is how Ken prints from his iOS devices at home, and it works with any printer. It does require a Mac to be up and running whenever you want to print, but that’s not a difficult requirement. This is an excellent product, and offers extra capabilities that AirPrint alone doesn’t offer. Ken highly recommends it! Printopia isn’t the only solution: Do a quick only search for AirPrint, and you’ll find other options as well.
If you want to use AirPrint and your printer doesn’t support it, and you’re a Windows user, you also have options. No Windows solution supports AirPrint as well as Printopia on the Mac, but you’ll find somewhat technical instructions on this Web site for setting up a means of using AirPrint on Windows: http://www.airprintactivation.com. This solution has some strict requirements: You must have iTunes and Bonjour services installed on your PC; the printer must be set up as a shared printer on your PC; and you must have full administrator rights on your PC. Certainly, people have had success with this technique; Ken failed when he tried. If it’s something that’s important to you, however, and you have the urge to tinker with your PC and your network, you can certainly give it a try! (Back up first.)