Printing in iOS With Your Old Printer

The fea­ture that I (and I’m sure, many) was most look­ing for­ward to in iOS 4.2 was print­ing. Apple adver­tised this as one of the main fea­tures and, hav­ing used Bon­jour to con­fig­ure many a print­er in the past, I looked for­ward to actu­al­ly being able to use it. Bon­jour is Apple’s near­ly-zero con­fig­u­ra­tion util­i­ty for shar­ing resources (most­ly print­ers) among com­put­ers on a net­work. It is one of the best exam­ples of Apple’s it just works mot­to. If you’ve nev­er tried to con­fig­ure a print­er on a net­work then you can’t real­ly appre­ci­ate the spe­cial lev­el of Hell from which this lit­tle tech­nol­o­gy saves you.

Not hav­ing any print­ers makes my iPhone sad.

So, despite this, I was upset that Apple had all but canned print­ing in the final release of iOS 4.2. Oh, sure it works with a hand­ful of new HP print­ers. How­ev­er, I was­n’t real­ly inter­est­ed in pur­chas­ing a fan­cy new print­er when I have an old HP that works just fine, thank you very much. I am hold­ing out hope that this is a mat­ter of not releas­ing the fea­ture until it real­ly does just work. Regard­less, it seems like a half-baked way to put a fea­ture out there. I had even told friends that they should con­sid­er buy­ing an iPad because print­ing would becom­ing soon. I’m not look­ing for­ward to explain­ing the rest of the sto­ry to them (as they are not real­ly techies and are like­ly to sim­ply blame me).

For­tu­nate­ly, there are a cou­ple of nice mac util­i­ties that can at last bridge the gap for our house­hold (an OS X com­put­er which is on and shares a print­er): Fin­ger­print by Col­lo­bos and Print­opia by Ecamm Net­work. I down­loaded a copy of Fin­ger­print (free sev­en day tri­al which allows you to ensure it works with your net­work & print­er). Open the appli­ca­tion, select my shared print­er, and then print from my iPhone 4.

That’s it.

The Fin­ger­print util­i­ty win­dow. Not real­ly much else to show here, actually.

Zero con­fig­u­ra­tion. It sim­ply uses Bon­jour to tell my iPhone that there is a print­er avail­able. I select that print­er and set the num­ber of copies I want. All oth­er set­tings are just the default for the print­er (so, no grayscale print­er, for exam­ple). I can also save to my desk­top or Drop­Box fold­er in .PDF file for­mat, which is great for sav­ing and shar­ing things which I don’t real­ly need tp keep a hard copy. Fin­ger­print even includes the capa­bil­i­ty send it your print job to iPho­to, which is a nice touch. In fact, that is how I trans­ferred all the iPhone screen­shots for this post.

Note: Appar­ent­ly, Print­opia does all these things as well (minus the iPho­to bit) for a cou­ple of dol­lars more, so I chose Fin­ger­print. How­ev­er, Print­opia is nice in that it is added to the Sys­tem Pref­er­ences pan­el instead of being a sep­a­rate application.

The print­er options screen and print­er selec­tion screen once Fin­ger­print is run­ning on any machine on the same network.

Fin­ger­print is $7.99, which is a lot cheap­er than a new print­er and eas­i­ly worth it for our house­hold to have this fea­ture. The appli­ca­tion has in-app pur­chas­ing and licens­ing if you decide to pur­chase and they accept cred­it card or PayPal.

We still do print things from time-to-time and hav­ing that abil­i­ty on our iPhones (and iPad, some­day… right, dear?) is awe­some. Because Apple may nev­er release this for just any old print­er. They real­ly aren’t known for sup­port­ing lega­cy hard­ware, after all.

Here’s a video of how sim­ple print­ing in iOS is, once it works:

Print­ing in iOS 4.2 using Fin­ger­Print from Jason Cole­man on Vimeo.

Categorized as Apple, Geek

By Jason Coleman

Structural engineer and technical content manager Bentley Systems by day. Geeky father and husband all the rest of time.

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