Jonathan is a certified teacher who has taught in the UK and in the US. He now works as a Digital Learning Consultant.
Ready to Print?
There are numerous ways to print from an iPad. While you are likely to just pick one from this list, it is worth knowing what your options are. So, here is a rundown of some of the most popular ways to get things printed on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch.
This is really just a workaround, but lots of people do it, so I will start with this method in case you haven't already thought of it. You can use email to facilitate printing on your iPad providing you also have a laptop or a desktop computer. Simply email the document, or website, to yourself so that you can print it later on another computer that is already connected to a printer. This could be a home or work printer.
How do you email your print jobs? Simply tap the Share arrow, and select Email in the app you are using. Once the email is sent, open the email on your desktop or laptop, and print from that device, instead of your iPad.
This is obviously not an ideal scenario, but it works in a pinch, or when you are not near any of your own devices. There are, however, more elegant solutions.
The native printing technology built-in to Pads is called AirPrint. It lets you connect directly to a printer over Wi-Fi without the need to download or install any printer drivers. However, it only works with AirPrint enabled printers. These days, there are a lot of those, and many, if not most, modern printers on sale today will already be compatible with AirPrint.
How do you know if your printer is an AirPrint printer? Apple has a handy list of AirPrint printer manufacturers on its website. To check and see if your printer is an AirPrint printer, simply find the manufacturer of your printer and then scan through the model numbers to see if it matches the ones listed by Apple. You can see the full list of AirPrint printers here. You can also check to see if your printer is still listed on the manufacturer's website. If it is, read through the description to see if it mentions compatibility with iPads or iOS devices.
To print to an AirPrint printer, all you need to do is tap the share button and select Print. From there you should be able to select your printer and tap Print to complete the task.
3. Wi-Fi Direct
A number of printer manufacturers now support a standard called Wi-Fi Direct. With Wi-Fi Direct, you can send a print job to a printer without your device being connected to the Internet. How does this work? The printer has its own ad hoc network. Once you connect your iOS device to the printer, you can print anything you want without a standard Wi-Fi connection. This is useful at schools or offices you visit where you may not have access to the network, or for times when your Internet connection is unavailable. Wi-Fi Direct is not available on all printers, but it could well be a useful feature to have if you are looking for a new printer.
This method of printing was brought to my attention recently by Kevin Tiller on Twitter. You can see one of his videos demonstrating Wi-Fi Direct below.
WiFi Direct Printing in Action!
If you don't have an AirPrint printer, but you do have a Mac, you may want to try Printopia. In essence, the way Printopia works is as a middleman between your iPad and your printer. With Printopia you can send a print job from your iPad to your Mac, and Printopia will send it on to any printer your Mac can print to.
It is none too dissimilar than the email workaround method we mentioned above, except that it automates the process of sending the print job to your printer once it gets to your computer. However, another neat feature that is included with Printopia is the ability to send a print job to any folder on your Mac as a PDF. With virtual printers like these enabled, you can send a file to your desktop, to Evernote, to Dropbox or anywhere else you want to store the file on your Mac.
How Printopia Works
5. iOS Printing Apps
Well, by now you are probably thinking there must be an app for that, right? Well, there is! Many of the big printer manufacturer's like Canon, Epson, Brother and HP make an app for the iPad that will let you connect to your printer and print over WiFi regardless of whether your printer is an AirPrint printer or not. However, they are only guaranteed to work with certain models, so make sure yours is listed in the app description before you try this out.
In addition, there are other apps like PrintCentral Pro or Printer Pro. They will print to most Wi-Fi printers or any printer attached to your Mac or PC. They will work with webpages, photos, documents, and more. They can even add additional functionality to your existing AirPrint printer by including options like a print preview or the ability to choose the number of pages you want to print.
6. The xPrintServer from Lantronix
If you have an expensive large format photo printer, or multiple printers that would simply cost too much to replace all at once, then you need the xPrintServer from Lantronix. This magical box connects to your home or business network and makes any printer on the network compatible with your iPad.
It comes in two versions, one for home and one for the office, but both are incredibly easy to setup and they instantly take the pain out of trying to print from an iPad. Once installed, you can continue to use your existing printer(s) as normal, except for the fact that you will now be able to print to it from an iOS device. Problem solved! It is an especially convenient solution for schools and businesses that have a number of existing network printers because you don't need to replace any of these printers when you add the xPrintServer. You simply add to their existing functionality.
How to Set Up the xPrintServer Home Edition
Stop and Think Before You Print!
So, how do you print from an iPad? There are a certainly a number of options to consider but ultimately it comes down to which one best meets your needs. Today, people print a lot less than they used to, and for good reason. The seemingly ubiquitous availability of mobile devices and an always on connection means that we have greater access to the materials we need in digital form than we ever have before. It's also better for our environment to embrace a paperless culture. So, instead of thinking about how to print, maybe we should be asking ourselves if we really need to print.
Quick Printing Poll
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: I'm going to buy a tablet to write some stories for my grandchildren. Can I get them printed off in a library? I don't have any other computer.
Answer: Probably. It depends on the printers they have there. Check with the library staff. If needed, you could email your file to the library and have them print it from one of their computers.
© 2014 Jonathan Wylie
Kaye on February 21, 2015:
We metioned the Lantronix in our Buyers Guide last year, it is sonihtemg that we have been looking at along with other solutions. I will do regular post to keep everyone up-to-date in regards to AirPrint and other wireless print solutions. We like to test everything first to ensure it will work and how well, so watch this space