Apple introduced AirPrint in iOS 4, but the feature—which allows you to print from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch—is limited to folks with AirPrint printers. Luckily, a small utility called Printopia makes it possible for your iOS device to print to any printer your Mac can see. And that’s only half of what Printopia can do.

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Show Notes

Again, you can download Printopia from Ecamm’s website.

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Show transcript

iOS 4 introduced AirPrint, which lets you print from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to AirPrint-compatible printers on your Wi-Fi network. It’s a great feature, but only if you have one of those AirPrint-compatible printers. I don’t know about you, but I run my printers into the ground, and I’m not looking to buy a new one any time soon.

Luckily, there’s a utility called Printopia.

If your Mac can print to a printer, Printopia can enable your iOS device to do so, too. What’s proved even more important to me in my daily use is that Printopia can print to files on your Mac, too—but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Download a free trial of Printopia from Ecamm’s website, which we’ll include in the show notes. Once you fall in love with Printopia like I did, it costs twenty bucks to own.

Printopia installs as a Preference Pane inside System Preferences on your Mac. The preference pane should find all the printers your Mac can print to. That might include printers connected via USB, or printers plugged into an AirPort base station that your Mac also connects to.

Make sure the printers you want your iOS device to be able to see are checked—and your setup is complete. Go back to your iPhone or iPad and find a document you’d like to print. Tap the Print button, and those printers you checked in Printopia will appear as available options for printing. The sole requirement is that the Mac on which you installed Printopia needs to be powered on in order for your iOS devices to see the printers.

But as I alluded to before, making your printers AirPrint-ready is at best half of the joy of using Printopia. You may be familiar with the notion of “Printing to PDF” on your Mac. That’s when you use the Print dialog on your box not to print a hard copy, but to “print”—and note that I’m saying the word “print” with quotation marks around it—to a PDF document that you can then email off to someone, or save, or whatever you need.

Printopia recreates that concept, of printing to different file formats on your Mac, from your iOS device. In Printopia’s preference pane, I added options like Send to Dropbox, Send to Desktop, Send to Acorn—my image editor of choice—and Send to Cloud, a free service for quickly generating public links to images or snippets of text. So all those options appear as potential pseudo-printers on my iOS devices.

That means if I snap a photo, take a screenshot, or write something in Pages, I can choose to Print to Dropbox, and the file quickly shoots into the appropriate place on my Mac. And Printopia’s smart; if I print an image, it’s treated as an image file. If I print text, I get a PDF.

I use Printopia all the time. And now, you can too.

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