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Surprise! iOS and Android printing gotchas

You'd think mobile apps would treat printing as standardly as desktop software -- but they don't

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Note too that PrintMe Mobile for Android works only with EFI's PrintMe Mobile server, which it requires to locate printers on the network. It also needs help printing Microsoft Office documents. Whereas iOS prints Office documents by converting them to PDF at the client, before sending them to the printer, PrintMe Mobile performs this conversion at the server -- using an installed copy of Office 2007 or Office 2010.

But these are considerations for IT. From the user's standpoint, if AirPrint is a bit confusing and limited in iOS, it's a little more so in EFI's implementation for Android. But PrintMe Mobile does bring printing to Android, where it previously did not exist.

What to look out for in desktop AirPrint printing
AirPrint wasn't designed for old-fashioned computers, but why shouldn't PCs and Macs get the same zero-configuration benefits as iOS users? Apple realized that they should, so in last year's OS X Lion, it implemented partial support for AirPrint, and in the recent OS X Mountain Lion release, AirPrint is a native protocol; AirPrint printers are now automatically detected and selectable for setup in OS X's Print & Scan system preference.

Windows is another story. AirPrint is Apple's protocol, not Microsoft's, so Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 know nothing about it. That means when you go to the Printers & Devices control panel in Windows and run the Add Printer wizard, no AirPrint printers show up when you browse the network.

But you can make Windows see them and work with them like any other network printer. To do so, you need Apple's Bonjour networking protocol running in Windows, which you likely do if you're running iTunes, as it uses it to detect iOS devices on the network for automatic syncing and backup. You can also download Bonjour for Windows from the Apple website.

With Bonjour enabled, there's one more step: You need to run Apple's free Bonjour Print Services for Windows utility (version 2.02 or later) -- which is what the Bonjour download installs -- to detect AirPrint devices such as printers and make them available to Windows. Once you've done that, they're available as standard Windows printers to your apps and OS services.

This article, "Surprise! iOS and Android printing gotchas," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in mobile computing, read Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog at InfoWorld.com, follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter, and follow InfoWorld on Twitter.

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