However, before Android tablets (or phones) can be considered as a PC/laptop replacement, rather than just an additional device, they must be able to perform the basic tasks that traditional computers excel in – and that includes printing.
It is still a lot more difficult to print from an Android tablet or phone than from even the cheapest PC or laptop/netbook – not all printing options may be available and a lot depends on which printer you have, but it is possible to print directly. There are several ways to do it from Android:
1. Manufacturer Apps – You may be able to print directly from your Android tablet or phone to a wireless printer by using an app from your manufacturer – most (not Dell) provide free apps to enable printing and/or scanning although the functionality and ease of use varies considerably from near perfect to almost worthless…
Note: each app may support only a limited range of printers – check the download page to see if yours is supported.
Epson iPrint – Free. Print to nearby wireless Epson printers. Photos, webpages and PDF files. Access and print your files from Box, Dropbox, Evernote and Google Docs. You can also scan and save your files or send them in an e-mail. Ratings – 4 stars and good reviews. Available here.
Canon Easy-PhotoPrint – Free. Does photos (not documents) and scans from your Android tablet or phone on a compatible PIXMA multifunction printer via a local wireless network. Ratings – 3.5 stars and mixed reviews, primarily because it only handles photos, not documents. Available here.
HP ePrint Home & Biz – Free. Wirelessly print most digital content to more than 200 HP models. Mobile printing of most digital content (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, photos, PDF and text files). Ratings – 4.1 stars and good reviews. Available here.
Lexmark Mobile Printing – Free. PDF documents and photos from your mobile device on supported wireless Lexmark printers and multifunction devices. Ratings – 1.6 stars and very poor reviews, primarily because it only does photos, not documents, and it only supports a very limited range of printers. Available here.
Samsung MobilePrint – Free. Photos, documents, PDF and web pages directly from your Android phone and tablet. The application also enables scanning documents to your mobile device directly. Wireless or Wired network connection required but supports Shared Printers connected with PC via USB. Ratings – 3.9 stars and good reviews. Available here.
Brother iPrint&Scan – Free. Photos, PDFs and webpages (not documents) and scan to your Android device. Use your local wireless network to connect your Android device to your Brother printer or all-in-one. Ratings – 3.7 stars and good reviews. Available here.
2. Google Cloud Print – Be prepared to do some reading to get this up and running – I suggest reading Google’s support page here.
Using it you can make your printer(s) available to you from any Google Cloud Print enabled web, desktop or mobile app. Google Cloud Print can work directly with Cloud ready printers (very few available) but also to standard (classic) printers that are plugged into a Windows or Mac computer with internet access.
Note: for a standard/classic device to work, ‘plugged into’ means the printer must be local (directly connected to the PC e.g. via a USB lead) – network/wireless printers will not work.
For classic (local) printers, you will need to have installed Google Chrome on your PC/Mac that has the connected printer you want to use. Then enable the Google Cloud Print connector in Chrome to associate the printer with your Google Account and connect it to Google Cloud Print.
To print from Cloud Print on your Android tablet you can use the built-in support available in Gmail or Google Docs. Alternatively, the Cloud Print Plus app available here allows you to use your printer using Google Cloud Print – and comes with an internal file browser with support for PDF files, photos, Word docs, Spreadsheets and Powerpoint files.
The main features of the highly rated (4.5 stars) Cloud Print Plus app are:
– Share printers with friends
– mail and sms printing
– print job management
– internal file browser
– webpage printing
– printer managment ( Printer options )
– Print from clipboard
For Cloud Print ready printers (from Epson, Kodak etc) or HP E-Print enabled printers you don’t need your PC/Mac to be on, but for all other ‘classic’ printers your PC/Mac needs to be ON for you to print from Android.
If your printer can’t be reached at the time you submit your job (e.g. the computer running the Google Cloud Print connector is turned off, or your Cloud Ready printer is disconnected), your job will wait in the queue in the Cloud. Your printer will download and finish the job normally as soon as it comes back online.
3. Other Alternatives
Of course if you are only printing very rarely you could go the manual route and just sync your Android tablet or phone with your PC/laptop, copy the documents/photos over to it and go from there – or even the kludge of emailing the file to yourself, receiving it on your computer and then printing the attachment there…
Apps from printer manufacturers vary considerably but may be worth trying (if you have a supported printer) – to avoid possible frustration, double check the requirements and features carefully.
Using Google Cloud Print is another useful way to print from Android tablets and phones but, unless you have a supported new Cloud printer, it can be frustrating to have to turn on your PC/Mac before printing from your Android device can begin – it would be much better to send directly to the printer rather than via another computer.