Print an email to PDF in iOS 10 in just two confusing steps

It's hidden, but once you figure it out, it's a great way to get a previously difficult output from Mail.

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iOS added print support years ago, and Printopia and then other software rose to meet a challenge: supporting printers that didn’t use Apple’s AirPrint. But they also added a nifty workaround to the missing ability to create PDFs from email and other software that supported print via a Share button, but didn’t have a workflow that led to a PDF.

Printopia had to be hosted on a Mac, and it let you share any printer a Mac could access, as well as add printer and file-storage devices as printers. You could print to PDF on the attached computer or print to Dropbox. iOS 10 finally adds a subtle way to get the same effect without needing additional software. (Printopia ($20) is still pretty cool for a lot of other purposes, by the way.)

A colleague of Gabe Weatherhead, the proprietor of Macdrifter, wrote to him with the method, which I share and expand upon here with Gabe’s permission.

  1. In Mail, view a message.
  2. Tap the Share button.
  3. Select Print.
  4. In the Printer Options screen, you’ll see a preview. You can either pinch and expand it or poke it (the harder 3D Touch). A PDF preview window opens.
  5. Tap the Share button at the bottom of that window.
  6. You can choose any Share option, including Copy to switch to an app that supports PDFs into which you can paste, share it Dropbox, add it to iCloud Drive, and the like.
  7. Once it’s shared, tap the back arrow (upper left), and then tap Cancel.
mac911 print pdf from email

In a mail view, tap Share, choose Print, and then expand or drag the PDF preview. It opens in a separate view.

In my testing, images on a page don’t always load. With two images from Apple, one from TestFlight and one from its beta program, the TestFlight images previewed and the beta message didn’t. The beta message had a whole lot of CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) formatting, and it’s possible that affected how images were loaded. (The same email previewed fine in OS X.)

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