Printing anything can be a very messy affair. Even trying to get something from your desktop PC to a printer designed for it usually involves some sort of driver software(s) and a complicated installation process, plus unspeakably difficult or hideously designed dialogues to customise the look of an image before it gets processed.
And heaven forbid an occasional visitor pops in for a quick chat and suddenly needs to print something, and you’ve got to go through the rigmarole of getting them set up before they can even try. In short, printing can be a colossal pain in the you-know-what.
But that doesn’t have to be the case, because you can now print directly from your smartphone or tablet without any need for drivers or bloated software. Here’s how to go about it.
Do it with apps
Epson, Brother and Samsung all have Android and iOS apps for their own printers that let you print, scan and sometimes even fax right from your phone or tablet. Using them is as simple as downloading them from the app store, connecting to the same network the printer is on and choosing the document or photo you’d like to print. Most of the apps also let you save files to online storage services like Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive and iCloud and also print documents stored there. They’re easy to use, nicely-designed and not too big.
Do it over email
Epson and HP let you print without even being in the same room as your printer, and doing it is as simple as sending an email. Or rather, doing it is exactly like sending an email: thanks to HP’s ePrint and Epson’s Email Print technologies, all you have to do is compose an email to your printer once you’ve set it up with its own address, attach the files you want printed and hit Send. Even if you’re on the other side of the world, as long as your printer is connected to the internet your attachments will print and best of all, it works with any piece of technology that can send an email.
For a bit of fun, we heartily recommend setting up an ePrint/Email Print printer and handing out the address on the internet just to see what strangers send you. Just be sure to keep any kids away when the prints start rolling in – we learned that the hard way.
Do it with dedicated services
Apple’s AirPrint is built right into its latest operating systems and lets you print anything you see on your Mac, iPad, iPhone and iPod touch’s screen directly to your AirPrint-compatible printer, provided both devices are attached to the same network. Simply go to whatever content you’d like to print, tap the actions icon and choose the name of the printer you’d like to print on, and you’re done.
Google’s Cloud Print service goes one step further and lets you print to any printer you’ve attached to your Google account, from your PC, Android phone/tablet or any device that can run the Chrome browser. You have to jump through a few hoops to set up Cloud Print, but once it’s done and the printer you’ve selected remains connected to the internet, you can print from anywhere there is connectivity. Cloud Print is a plugin built into Android 4.4, but is a standalone app for previous versions which you can get here.
Do it without printer drivers
If you follow these simple tips, you’ll never have to wrestle with a printer installation on PC or Mac again. Unless you like that sort of thing, of course. The only thing to keep in mind when printing this way is that you don’t have as much control over the final print as you do when printing from a PC or Mac, where you can fiddle with driver settings to get the best print possible. Some trial and error should solve any problems you might encounter with your final prints, just keep in mind that your mileage will vary when it comes to mobile print quality.