Tech Savvy: Print from anywhere? No problem!
Hey there, Tech Savvy fans! This week I wanted to briefly share with you something that I had touched on before but have recently started using more — cloud printing.
While it’s nothing cutting edge new, there have been some changes recently that have enabled more people to begin using it. It used to be that you could print, without having to attach your computer to the printer itself, as long as your computer and printer shared the same network. Then with advances in wireless products you could print just by being on the same wireless network, i.e. home or work. One area that continued to struggle with remote access printing was mobile. There were some applications that allowed you to save and transfer to a computer to print and some photo printers and cameras built in a service that could communicate directly to a printer, but for regular use of day-to-day items like invoices, orders or just an email with directions, you were out
of luck. You could use a Remote Desktop app to print things from your computer itself but it still didn’t solve the problem of printing items from your device itself.
Apps and devices began to make that easier. Developers made apps that would connect to networks and certain devices and you could print directly from a mobile device. Oftentimes, though, you still needed to be on the same wireless network in order to print so it didn’t really free you, it just gave you more options of which device you could print with.
One alternative, which has actually been around for a while, is portable printers. Instead of forcing you to be by the printer, some manufacturers brought the printer to you. They typically have USB ports and some of the newer ones have Bluetooth capabilities. That allowed you to connect them, not only to laptops but also to mobile devices that had Bluetooth capability. Businesses that did a lot of work from their car found these useful. They would be able to print an order or invoice at the job site and leave a copy with the customer. In the days before the likes of Square and emailed receipts, this was the only alternative to handwritten forms. Retail sales, pest control businesses and others used this very effectively. The printers themselves were pretty dependable, often running on rechargeable batteries they would last a full day’s work. The majority of these printers used thermal paper instead of ink. This kept the printer clean to use and you never had to worry about running out of ink or toner. Thermal paper uses heat to transfer the information onto special paper. There are options of either black and white only or color too. The downside to thermal paper, historically, has been that thermal paper degenerates over time, more rapidly than ink on paper. It also is sensitive to heat (obviously) so you can’t leave it next to furnaces or sometimes even in hot cars. It was a better solution but sometimes it didn’t work for everyone — those who wanted photo quality were out of luck.
Recently a new option was made available. Thanks to all-things-awesome powerhouse, Google, there is a way you can take advantage of your mobile printing and you don’t even need a new printer to do it.
Google’s Cloud Print, still in beta, is the latest service from the Internet giant and it is a really neat feature. Basically how it works is you use the Chrome Internet Browser to add your printer, add an app for your mobile device, and you are all set. They actually have two options, including one for Google Cloud Print ready printers. There are a number of models or you can use a printer that is simply attached to your computer. There are three catches that I’ve found, so far. One, you need to have your computer be able to access the internet. Two, you need to have your computer on. And three, you need to have the Chrome Browser open (I know because I just tested all of those). Now, the easy solution is to set up a computer that is like a workstation, and just leave that on when you are planning on sending material to be printed. This works great in an office setting as there are usually computers on during business hours and they are usually attached to printers.
The Cloud Print service will recognize any printers you have installed on your computer. In my case there is the printer that is in my office and the copier/printer that is on our network. This is great if you are printing multiple types of material — you can send photos to your photo quality printer and recipes to your standard inkjet. You can also use a combination of Cloud ready printers and standard ones and you access them through your print options.
For mobile devices you have some options. You can use the Chrome Browser, for Android or iOS, to print web material or you can download a standalone app to print pictures from your camera roll or other files on your device. For Android there are multiple apps available, some are free and some are paid for. I tried an app called Cloud Print (obvious, right?) for my Android phone and it worked. There is only one app for iOS that I could find that Google listed as compatible — PrintCentral Pro and it was $7.99. There are other numerous apps for Mac and PC and you can use Google’s search at m.google.com from any mobile device.
It may not be the perfect solution for everyone but what I love about this function, and ultimately what Google is doing, is that it is one more thing that can be integrated into our smart devices. Using the Cloud is going to be more the norm in the near future and having the ability to use services like this will keep memory free on our devices, give us more options on the go and give us greater freedom than we have ever had from the traditional workstation.
Check it out at www.google.com/cloudprint, there are cool things happening!