AirPrint was introduced with the release of iOS 4.2 in 2010 to allow iOS devices the ability to print without having to worry about finding printer drivers. It’s a zero-config way to print from mobile devices (assuming you’re on the same Wi-Fi network as the printer, then it all just works) that has been adopted by every iteration (and modern printer) since its inception.
However, if you have that old crufty laser printer in your basement, chances are you can still make it work with AirPrint as long as it’s connected to a computer. In this tutorial, I’ll walk through how you can easily print in iOS 13 with or without an AirPrint-compatible printer.
SEE: Apple iOS 13: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
How to print with AirPrint
Printing in iOS is supported by most apps (including third-party apps) that have the ability to share a document or other data through the standard Share Sheet or PDF format. In this example, I will show it working inside of Safari to print a page on TechRepublic.
To get started, navigate to the website (or document inside of an app that you want to print), then tap on the Share icon. This will open the Share Sheet where you can see if a print option is available to you for the data you’re sharing (Figure A).
Tapping Print (Figure A) will open the Print view (Figure B), where you can configure which printer you wish to print from, which pages you wish to print if it’s a multi-page document, or select various options for the printer (such as duplexing or black and white or color, if supported). With a compatible printer selected and the options selected for your print job, tapping on Print will send the document to the printer.
How to configure an AirPrint server for non-compatible printers
As you can see in the previous section, AirPrint works as long as you’re on the same network, and the iOS device can see the printer. But what if you don’t have a compatible printer? Let’s explore setting up an AirPrint server for available wired printers connected to a computer.
There are a few pieces of software for your Mac (or Windows or Linux) computer that you can use for running an AirPrint server for your iOS devices. Here are some of the most popular options:
- Printopia ($19.99, available from Decisive Tactics)
- handyPrint (formerly “AirPrint Activator”; $5 minimum donation; available from Netputing)
Both of these apps can get the job done, but I prefer Printopia due to the frequency of updates and the additional support it provides, such as printing directly to Dropbox, the ability to scale photos, and the ability to set different paper tray options if your printer supports it.
There’s also a Printopia Pro version that supports enterprise features, such as the ability to work across subnets and various complex network configurations, unlimited printer support, and the ability to print to network drive storage.
After you download and install the Printopia application by dragging and dropping it into the Applications folder in Finder on a Mac, open it. When the application first opens, it will start up the AirPrint service, then show a list of printers available in the Printers tab (Figure C). Any already configured printers will be available in this list; if you need to add a printer, click + then Add Printer to display the standard macOS dialog for printer discovery.
Checking the box beside the printer in the Printers tab enables Printopia to use that printer as an AirPrint-compatible printer on your local network. It will be advertised as an AirPrint printer when printing from iOS devices as long as the printer remains connected to the computer and the computer remains turned on.
You can configure other printer options by clicking on a specific printer in the list and then clicking on Settings. Options like the ability to set paper size, print quality, etc., are all configurable for the printer via Printopia.
Whenever you are ready to print, just follow the guide in the previous section and print as you would with a compatible AirPrint printer. That was pretty easy, wasn’t it? And now you can get many more years of life out of that old laser printer.