The ability to print is a useful tool for any device owner, and the good news is that nowadays you can print from any smart device, as well as from desktop computers. The only caveat, for mobile devices, is that they should ideally be up to years old.
Printers can be connected to a device in one of two ways.
Firstly by a wired connection, usually using a special USB cable. I say special simply because the connector that goes into the printer is usually a different shape to normal connectors. Older printers, such as dot matrix, use a parallel cable. Whilst some dot matrix printers will work with modern computer systems, you may find it difficult to find an adapter to convert from parallel to USB format.
The second option is to use a wireless connection, either Wi-Fi which is more common, or Bluetooth.
Siting the printer is a consideration, mainly you need to ensure that any fan grills have at least a couple of inches space away from other items to allow for cooling. Additionally, you will need space for the paper tray, plus room to insert and replace the ink.
Choosing a printer isn’t as easy as it may seem.
There are a number of questions that you will need to ask yourself.
- How much printing are you actually going to do? Four or five pages a day would probably justify an inkjet. Much more, or a family printing then you might be best considering a laser printer. With printers, probably your biggest expenditure will be on ink. A half decent inkjet may set you back £65, but replacement ink may well be £40 or more for two cartridges, even more if you go for XL ink cartridges.
- The majority of ink jet printers require cartridges, which are generally are not refillable. Yes, you can buy “compatible” cartridges, which may be cheaper and do a reasonable job for documents but may not do so good on photos. There is also an issue that some manufacturers have computer chips in both the printer and the cartridge and if the printer detects there is no chip in the cartridge it may refuse to print. An alternative to cartridge printers is to choose one with ink tanks. With these you purchase ink bottles and top up as required. However, these printers do tend to be more expensive.
- Printer paper is another consideration. If all you are going to do is print documents, then any 80gsm paper you can get in the supermarket. However, if photo printing is your thing, then your selection should narrow. Whilst using any picture paper will produce a reasonable result, if you want good results your choice of paper and ink should revolve around the manufacturer of the printer – These companies invest huge sums of money researching the correct combinations of ink content and paper type to give you the best results. Always be aware of the maximum and minimum paper weights your printer can cope with (from the manufacturers’ website) because if you put paper to heavy or light in your printer there is a high risk of paper getting jammed, and damaging your printer.
- Printer capabilities – Many printers today are described as multifunctional, this means they can print, copy and scan. These will meet many of users common needs. Two-sided (otherwise known as duplex) is another useful feature to consider. If photo printing is something that you will be doing, then you may wish to consider a printer that is designed for this (be aware though that some photo printers are compact and therefore are of no use as a document printer).
- Finally, look online for reviews, or if buying on sites like Amazon buyers reviews.
Connecting to a Printer using a cable
When connecting to a computer, using a cable, you generally have two options. First, providing the printer is relatively new, just connect the printer to your computer and the computer’s operating system should detect it and install basic drivers (a device driver is a computer program that operates or controls a particular type of device that is attached to a computer) and the printer should work. But just with basic drivers, it’s possible that you will not get all the capabilities of the printer.
Secondly use software provided by the printer’s manufacturer. Generally, this involves installing software from a disc, or downloaded from the manufacturer’s website. Once installed, you will be prompted to turn on your printer (making sure that the ink cartridges and paper are installed) and connect the USB cable. The software will carry on installing then you are good to go. You will find in the printer’s box instructions for your particular model and operating system. Installing the manufacturer’s software will give you all the available features of your printer.
Connecting to a mobile device
Once the domain of desktop computers, it is now possible, with a compatible printer, to print from virtually anywhere in the world to the printer in your home.
- The printer must have Wi-Fi and is connected to a router
- The printer must be enabled to use the Google Cloud Print Service, or the Apple AirPrint Service
- Many printer manufacturers produce apps to allow mobile printing, though these tend to mainly be for printing in the home and both devices must be connected to the same Wi-Fi network.
- The device you are printing from must-have either a connection to Wi-Fi or a data connection (e.g. from a SIM card).
Google Cloud Print – Android
Note – On the 31st December 2020, Google are turning off Cloud Print. Going forward, you may need to use printing on a Wi-Fi network or a cloud print app.
This service uploads the item you are printing, to the Google Print Servers, which passes it onto your printer. Once the item complete printing it is deleted from the Google servers, with the contents not being retained.
The first step with Cloud Print is to ensure that it is installed on your android device.
Open your device’s setting app, at the top type printing. If the printing menu item doesn’t appear you need to download, and install, the Cloud Print app from the Google Store.
When you are in an application you want to print from, you will have two options which one is available to you is determined by what is in the app’s Options menu (three dots on top of each other).
- If you see Share tap on it and at the bottom of the screen you will see several icons. Select Chrome Print and a new screen will appear. At the top of this screen you will see a printer name (e.g. Canon iP8700 Series), if this is the printer you want to use then fine. However, if you have multiple cloud compatible printers then use the drop-down arrow to choose the one you want. You will also see other print options such as orientation and number of copies – Note that Two-sided printing is only available on compatible printers (sometimes called duplex printing).
- If you see print, tap on that and then at the top of this screen you will see a printer name (e.g. Canon iP8700 Series), if this is the printer you want to use then fine. However, if you have multiple cloud compatible printers then use the drop-down arrow to choose the one you want. You will also see other print options such as orientation and number of copies – Note that Two-sided printing is only available on compatible printers (sometimes called duplex printing).
If your printer doesn’t support Cloud Print but is Wi-Fi enabled then there will usually be an app in the Google Play Store, from your printer’s manufacturer that will enable you to print from your Android device. However, there are limitations where you can print from, usually only when your Android device is connected to the same Wi-Fi network as your printer.
Apple AirPrint Service – Apple
Apple AirPrint only works if both your device and printer are connected to the same Wi-Fi network.
The printer you are sending the print too must be able to use the AirPrint Service.
In the app you are printing from, look at the top of the page and you should see a box with an arrow pointing up (called the share button).
Tap on that and at the bottom of the screen that come up you will see some icons, scroll to the right and look out for an icon that looks like a printer or the word print. Tap on this and select “Select Printer”.
If Select Printer is not available or the print option is not there then possibly your printer is not AirPrint enabled, or the app doesn’t support printing.
In this scenario the only option is to copy the screen contents and paste them into a document (e.g. Microsoft Word or Apples Pages), then print from there.
If a printer is available, then look for options such as number of pages you want to print then tap print.
If you are not at home and have a connection to the internet, then it is possible to use the Google Cloud Print service from Apple devices.
There are two ways to use Cloud Print on iOS
- There is an app available on the Apple App store called PrintCentral Pro – Note that there is a charge for this app.
- A free alternative is to use Google apps on your device (such as Chrome, Gmail or one of their office apps) as described above.
Third-Party apps -Either Apple or Android
If your printer is Wi-Fi enabled but is not compatible with either Apple AirPrint or Google Cloud service, then it might be possible to still print from your mobile device if the manufacturer has produced a suitable app.
Mostly these apps only work when both your device and your printer are connected to the same Wi-Fi network. In some cases, it may also be possible to print from outside the Wi-Fi network the printer is connected to.
As an example, I’m going to describe using the HP Printer app (this app will only work with HP printers).
- Download the HP Smart App from the Google Play Store or the Apple App store
- Ensure you are connected to the same Wi-Fi network as your printer
- On newer versions of iOS, you may need to allow Bluetooth (Bluetooth is a wireless technology used for exchanging data between fixed and mobile devices over a short distance, approximately 10 metres) allow location.
- Add your printer to the app – In the app you will see a plus sign within a circle. Tap on it, your printer should be automatically detected. If it’s not tap once on Add Printer (it’s a good idea to be in the same room as the printer during initial setup).
- When your printer appears on the screen tap on it. Then select your network (an icon will be on the screen with your network name), then enter your Wi-Fi password (found on your router) and tap continue.
- You should see an on-screen display showing the progress of setup and then there will be a pop-up saying join Wi-Fi network. Tap join. You should then see a green tick against the Wi-Fi symbol – Click continue.
- Follow all prompts until you see the word “Done” (or similar) – You are good to go
Printing using the HP app follows the procedures mentioned above for Google Cloud Print and Apple AirPrint
The HP app also allows for scanning and copying using the camera on the rear of your device. Before you start, ensure that the document being scanned\copied is in focus and all edges of it are visible (some apps guide you) – Usually a green border appears when you are in focus. You may well have to move your device up and down as appropriate to get into focus.
The HP app also allows you to scan documents that can be stored, emailed or printed later.
To use it on Android –
- Open the HP Smart app and tap on the Camera Scan tile (or the camera icon).
- Place the document to be scanned, as flat as possible, on a flat solid surface that contrasts with the colour of the document (For example, place a light-coloured document on a dark surface, or a dark-coloured surface)
- Select Auto Mode – Hold your device steady over the item you want to scan, and then tap the Capture icon to scan the item. When the print preview screen displays, tap the Add Pages icon to add additional pages to the scan job.
The steps for Apple devices is very similar, except the step in using Auto mode. On iOS if you have multiple pages then after the first page is scanned move quickly to capture the subsequent pages. When you are finished just tap on the round page count icon on the top right of the screen.
It’s also possible to copy documents using the app.
- Tap the copy icon (if it’s not visible tap personalise, scroll down and select copy)
- Place the document for scanning as you did for scanning, tap the object size button, preferably using auto if available. It’s also a good idea to tap the flash icon to have that enabled.
- Select Auto
- Android Once a document or photo is automatically scanned, quickly move the camera over your next item, or tap the Right arrow to end the copy job.
- iOS Once a document or photo is automatically scanned, quickly move the camera over your next item, or tap the round page count icon in the top-right corner of the app screen to end the copy job.
- To print just tap Start Black or Start Colour
Other manufacturers apps will have similar options that work in much the same way.
An alternative to using any form of Cloud Print service is too just save the document you want to print until you are back in range of your home printer using storage e.g. OneDrive, Google Cloud or iCloud. It’s also possible to store on your device.