This note looks at the options for printing from an iPad and focuses on using existing print resources rather than additional expenditure on new equipment.
Apple’s Ideal Print Solution for iPads
AirPrint is Apple’s way of printing from the iPad / iPhone. AirPrint allows direct printing from an iPad without any attached cables or additional software. [However, It is important to be aware that only AirPrint aware Apps on an iPad have the ability to print. These include the iWork suite, the Mail App and Safari.]
To use AirPrint you need an AirPrint enabled printer. Initially these were only available from HP but now other vendors have produced AirPrint enabled printers. Using an AirPrint enabled printer is the easiest, fastest, and often most expensive way of printing from an iPad.
In the Real World
Many sites have an installed base of printers which are working perfectly well and have many years of productive life left. To use these printers it is necessary to make them appear to an iPad as being AirPrint enabled. There are two ways of doing this.
A Software Solution
There are a number of programs that run on Windows PC’s or MAC’s that detect the printers on the network and make them appear to be AirPrint enabled. The print function on an iPad can then see these printers and print to them. One example of this is Printopia (costs about £10) that runs on virtually any MAC including old POWER PC machines. An equivalent program for the PC is FingerPrint. This solution requires a program permanently running on one machine on the network but does not involve any configuration on the iPad.
A Hardware Solution
An alternative solution is to add a hardware device onto the network that AirPrint enables existing printers. One example is the Lantronix xPrintServer which costs about £100. Using a hardware solution like this means there is no requirement to continually run software on a PC or MAC. Again, there is no configuration required on the iPad.