Despite the technological advances of fingerprint scanners and retina displays, iOS devices can still only print to a very limited number of printers that support AirPrint. While more and more printers are adding this feature (and some manufacturers, such as Canon, are even providing updates to certain models to add AirPrint functionality), buying a whole new printer for a feature you’ll likely not often use just cost effective.
Printopia is an app that’s best known for serving as a gateway between your iOS device and your printer, providing a way to print to any Mac-compatible printer directly from your iOS device, free from the restraints of AirPrint. While most may be content with only this functionality, Printopia offers so much more for both Mac and iOS devices alike, especially to those looking for a paperless workflow.
PC Load Letter
Printing, especially from an iOS device, is something we’re all doing less and less. Not only do you need to remortgage your home just to buy a set of colour cartridges but many of us now have a smartphone so that much of what we printed, from reservations to flight tickets, just doesn’t need to be put to paper. Despite this, there are some situations where a printed copy of a document is required.
Printopia exists as a preference pane, accessible from System Preferences. After installation, there is nothing else that needs to be done to start printing, as long as you had your printer set up within Mac OS X. Unless you regularly change printers then Printopia is truly an app you can set once and then forget about.
There are only a few options and settings that can be changed as the app manages everything else for you. Apart from enabling or disabling Printopia, you’re free to add and remove print destinations, though printers can only be disabled and cannot be removed.
Any existing printers that you have set up on your Mac will automatically be shared via Printopia across your network so, provided both Mac and iOS device are on the same network, your iOS device will instantly see an AirPrint-compatible printer as available. This lack of any configuration for both Mac and iOS device make Printopia a seriously simple app to get going.
Printing from an iOS device works no different than if you were to print to an AirPrint printer and Printopia even supports password protection, perfect for office environments where you might not want everyone to print to the expensive colour laser printer.
Printopia’s name is somewhat misleading because some of its best features are when you’re wanting to avoid printing. I’m a huge advocate of paperless workflows, and nothing makes me scream internally quite like printing for the sake of printing. In addition to providing access to your printer, Printopia also lets you “print” from your iOS device directly to an app or folder on your Mac. As far as your iOS device is concerned, saving a document to Dropbox is just an AirPrint-enabled printer.
Printopia captures all printed documents it receives as PDF that can be automatically saved to any folder or sent to an app on your Mac, such as Dropbox or Evernote. Combine this saving feature with an app like Hazel and you’ve got yourself a great paperless workflow for your iPhone or iPad. There’s support for print actions too, just as if you were printing the document directly on your Mac.
Setting up these paperless workflows is a cinch as Printopia includes options to save to a folder, Dropbox or send to an app. Each one simply appears as an AirPrint printer for your iOS device to use.
Printopia does rely upon outside help for performing anything beyond saving to a folder or app, relying predominantly upon print actions that you can create through Automator. I’d like to see Printopia offer at least some sort of workflow creator or way to print a document after it has been sent to a folder. Granted, you can do this fairly easily within Automator, but offering it within Printopia would provide a whole new level of document archival. Even if you had to print a document, at least a copy could be saved at the same time rather than printing twice.
Mac to Mac
It isn’t just iOS devices that Printopia will work with, Mac OS X Lion and above support the use of AirPrint printers as well. While it may not be as useful to share printers that other Macs will likely already support, some of the paperless workflows might come in handy should you find yourself sharing a friend or relative’s Mac.
My only criticism of Printopia is its name and I suspect many people just aren’t aware that it offers so much more than simply being an easy way of printing from an iOS device. While that is certainly a great feature, Printopia’s crowning achievement is its folder workflows, providing a way to save printed documents directly to a folder or app of your choice.
Even if you have an AirPrint-enabled printer already, Printopia is exceptional if you’re wanting to do more than just put ink to paper. Since iOS offers no way of saving documents, messages or web pages that you might want to print to other apps consistently, Printopia not only offers a solution but it’s one that is supported in any app that can print.