AirPrint was introduced in iOS 4.2.1 in November 2010, and it was the first of its kind, giving users the ability to wirelessly print to any AirPrint-capable printer without first having to install messy drivers onto their devices. More than three years have past, and many modern printers are “AirPrint compatible,” but if you have an older or non-compatible printer and you try printing with iOS, you’ll get a message that no AirPrint printer was found on your network. Fortunately, there’s a software-based solution that can help you print to any printer on your network from iOS with ease.

What you’ll need

Here’s the short list of requirements:

  • Mac
  • Printopia from Ecamm ($19.95 USD; free trial available)
  • Wired or wireless printer
  • iOS device and apps capable of printing

For this to work, we’ll be using a piece of software called Printopia. This software will allow your iOS devices to see and talk with the available wired and wireless printers connected to your local network and local machine. Printopia also provides additional functionality, such as the ability to share your printed content via your Mac, Dropbox, and even Evernote instead of printing onto physical paper.

What about Windows users?

If you use Windows, then you can download and use a piece of software from Collobos called Presto. It does essentially the same thing as Printopia (without Dropbox and Evernote support), but it requires a subscription fee to use the software.

Setting up Printopia

The first step towards printing to any printer on your local network is to install the Printopia software onto your Mac. To do this, download the installer from the Ecamm web site (there is a free trial that you can use).

Once it’s downloaded, unzip the download, open the folder, and double-click the Install Printopia file. This will install the Printopia application as a System Preference Pane. You can always get back to it by going to Apple menu | System Preferences… | Printopia.

After you install Printopia, the service will startup, and you’ll see Sharing for the status message (Figure A). All of your available printers will appear in the devices list. Unchecking the devices or applications that interact with Printopia will disable them and keep them from appearing on the iOS printer list. If you have Dropbox or Evernote installed on your system, they’ll appear in the devices list as well. However, in this tutorial, we’ll simply focus on using the printer functionality of Printopia.

Figure A



The Status is set to Sharing.

You can disable printing at any time by sliding the switch in the Printopia preferences to OFF. As long as your computer remains on, the Printopia service is turned ON. If your iOS device and Mac are connected to the same network, then you’ll be able to print using the available Printopia devices from within iOS.

Printing from iOS

With Printopia on your Mac configured, you can now begin printing from your iOS devices, through your Mac, to your wired and wireless printers using any iOS application that has printing capabilities. For this tutorial, we’ll be using Pages from Apple.

To start, find the document you wish to print and tap Tools | Share and Print | Print. Once here, tap the Printer Options. You’ll see the Printers that are being shared from your Mac and the other services that you’ve set up through Printopia (Figure B).

Figure B



The Printer Options.

Once the printer has been selected, set the number of copies you wish to print, then tap the Print button (Figure C).

Figure C



Tap the Print button.

Once a printer job has been queued, iOS will display a new application in the Multitasking view called Print Center (Figure D). Opening this application will show the current jobs that have been queued, and it will give you the option to Cancel Printing should you mistakenly print a wrong page.

Figure D



The Print Center summary.

Do you currently use applications on your iOS devices that could benefit from being able to occasionally print? What current solutions do you use, if any? Let us know in the comments below.