Since the announcement and subsequent release of the iPad earlier this year, Apple has been pilloried for the lack of an easy way to print documents directly from the device. Many people, yours truly included, resorted to emailing files into Dropbox, remote controlling another machine (using VNC for example) and printing from there. It works, but it was one hell of a pain in the rear.
Fast forward a few months and we have AirPrint. Now, or should I say, in November all iPad users will be able to print, wirelessly, straight from Apple’s tablet. There are however a couple of caveats. You knew there would be!
First off, you’ll be needing an AirPrint enabled printer. Currently the only ones with this badge are from HP and have the ePrint moniker. More manufacturers will come on board over time, and I’d expect us to learn more the close we get to iOS 4.2’s release.
With this configuration printing will be a cinch. Simply tapping a button (which button that is can depend on the app in question) you’ll be presented with a list of available printers that your iPad has found over WiFI. From here it’s a case of selecting how many copies you need and hitting print. If you printer’s anything like mine you’ll hear it spin up from 2 cities away, and you’re done. Nice and simple.
The second option is to use a shared printer. This works the same as any other shared printer, in that the machine it is connected to needs to be on the network and powered on. Once your printer is shared the iPad will see it as normal, and printing is, for all intents and purposes identical to method number one.
Now, being the inquisitive kinda guy that I am, I bravely (some may say foolishly) installed the 4.2 beta onto my iPad. I obviously wanted to get access to multi-tasking ala my iPhone 4, but AirPrint was also something that tickled my fancy.
If you’re going to try this at home kids, remember you’ll need the latest Snow Leopard beta too – that’ll be 10.6.5 for those not keeping track.
Once all installed, simply sharing the printer on the network made it pop up just where I expected it on my iPad. The apps I have that seem to tie into the AirPrint API are currently limited to Apple software – namely Safari, Mail and Photos.
Stabbing the print button resulted in much whirring, clattering and banging from my Kodak all-in-one, which is, unusually, a good thing.
So there we have it. AirPrint is coming to an iPad near you around November time according to our friends at 1 Infinite Loop. From what I’ve seen, and considering this is still beta 1, we’re in for a treat. Couple this with AirPlay and the obvious inclusion of multi-tasking, it’s like the iPad’s being released all over again!