Our favorite AirPrint enabler
In the corner of my office, on top of my filing cabinet, sits a cheap, reliable printer.
Alas, my trusty Brother laser jet doesn’t support AirPrint. This means even though my iPhone and iPad have the option of printing, they can’t “see” my printer and therefore can’t print to it.
But! There is a solution that doesn’t requiring buying a new printer (though it might be worth it for the toner). There are some 3rd-party applications that you can install on your Mac to enable printing from your iPhone or iPad. These apps work by sharing the printers your Mac has access to and allowing iOS to see those printers as being AirPrint enabled. Thus bridging the gap between your iPhone and iPad and the printer.
There are a few decent apps that give you this functionality (and some include more features than other). Of the options out there, Printopia is my favorite.
Printopia (my favorite)
Of the apps I tried, Printopia is clearly the best AirPrint enabler out there.
There are several reasons.
The premier feature of Printopia is, obviously, that it allows me to print to my home printers. With Printopia running on my Mac, my iPhone and iPad can see my laser printer and print to it so long as my iOS device and my Mac are on the same wireless network. Tip: To print from iOS Mail, hit the “Reply” button and you’ll see the option for printing.
Additionally, Printopia can “Print” to any folder on my Mac. Printing to a folder is just like the “Save as PDF…” options in your Mac’s print dialog box. Using Printopia to print to a folder means that whatever it is you’re printing gets saved as a PDF to that folder on your Mac. You can save it to a standard folder, a Dropbox folder, or send the file to an application (such as iPhoto, Yojimbo, Evernote, etc.)
For example, if I’m triaging email from my iPad and a receipt comes in, I can save it to the “Receipts” folder on my Mac. And, with an app like Hazel, I can set up all sorts of nerdy actions to process the files I print to my Mac.
In addition to printing to a folder, Printopia also allows me to “print” directly to an application, such as PDFpen. This is like taking a document on my phone and opening it in an application that’s on my Mac.
Though I mostly use Printopia for printing out documents, it’s helpful to have these additional features available when I do want to use them.
Presto (for Windows users)
What was originally called Fingerprint has now been updated to Presto. Fingerprint was the first app I came across that could solve my AirPrint conundrum. I discovered Fingerprint when helping a friend set up AirPrint for his Windows-equipped office — we were searching for AirPrint enablers that worked on Windows.
Fingerprint used to have both a Mac and a Windows version, but now it is Windows only. If your home or office PC is a Windows machine, this may be the solution for you. Presto costs $1.95/month and not only does it allow you to print to your printers, but it also lets you to configure folders that you can print to on your computer.
But there was one critical deal breaker for me: Fingerprint runs in the Menu Bar. I am ardent about having as few icons in my Menu Bar as possible, and therefore I kept searching for alternatives.
handyPrint (less features, less money)
If all you want to do is print, then handyPrint may be the app for you. It is a pay-what-you-want application (you have to donate at least $1) and it does just one thing: takes the printers your Mac is connected to and makes them available as AirPrint enabled printers.
If you’re looking for the least expensive option to simply enable AirPrint for your iOS devices, then check out handyPrint.
In short, Printopia is my favorite because it’s feature rich, easy to set up, and extremely reliable.
You can try it out for free, and a license costs $20. If you want to read more, Dan Frakes wrote a review for Macworld and gave Printopia a score of “5 Mice,” the highest score that Macworld awards.