I'm an advocate of being as paperless as possible, but there are absolutely times when certain documents need to be printed out. I've got to bring some physical documentation to an appointment later this week related to my ongoing scuba diving certification, for example. I suppose I could bring them on my iPad (and I will), but my instructor doesn't have digital signing capabilities, so it sort of defeats the point.
So, what do you do if the only gadget you've got on hand is a tablet or smartphone? Grab a mobile printing app, of course.
The latest one to hit my information radar is one called FingerPrint, developed by Collobos. Meant specifically for iOS tablets and phones, the software installs on your Windows personal computer or Macintosh, making all the printers that are available to that computer also discoverable by your mobile devices. The application uses Apple's AirPrint technology, and integrates with many well-known cloud storage or document resources services, including Dropbox and Evernote, allowing you to print from remote locations.
The developer offers a free trial version of FingerPrint; it costs $19.95 to buy it.
Certainly, FingerPrint isn't your only option for mobile printing, although it's advantage is that it works with both Windows and Macintosh.
You might also want to read up on PrinterOn, which is a company focused on helping businesses such as hotels, airports, printer shops or libraries open up their printer to mobile devices. Instead of creating wireless hotspots, the company is enabling "printer spots," with the idea that businesses might be able to provide printing services to visitors.
If you want to use the service, you need the mobile application, which is available for Apple iOS, Android or BlackBerry. One thing that is particularly interesting for anyone who is a hardcore users of SAP or Oracle enterprise software: PrinterOn is working on allowing printing from these applications.
If these two approaches are almost more fuss than it's worth from your perspective, here are some other mobile printing applications you might want to check out.
I'm listing them alphabetically, along with the mobile platforms that are supported. I'm not listing any apps that are specific to a particular printer manufacturer, although you will find that many of the big names (Hewlett-Packard, Epson, Brother, Lexmark) have their own utilities listed in the various application marketplaces or stores for mobile apps.
Anyway, here are some of the applications that claim to be universal. Proceed with caution, as many of the reviews that I've read about some of these utilities definitely suggest that the technology for mobile printing is still far from perfect. If you're daring, though, here are some apps to explore.
Print (Apple iOS) - This $2.99 app uses Google Cloud Print and works with both smartphones and tablets. You can use a cellular network to send files to printers. It is limited to things like contacts or Web pages, though.
Print from Android - The software works in tandem with in application on your personal computer to print out a variety of documents. The current price on Google Play is $1.30.
Print Magic HD for iPad - Focused specifically on Apple's tablet product series, this app is priced at $4.99, and prints both PDFs and photos.
Printer Pro (Apple iOS) - Supports printing to Wi-Fi printers; the lite version of the software makes sure your particular printer is compatible, before it requires you to download the full version, which costs $6.99.
PrinterShare (Android, Apple iOS) - Offers printing capabilities directly to a printer that supports Wi-Fi or USB connections or to shared printers. Be careful, based on the comments from users, this app is charged on a per-month or per-page basis, starting around $4.99.
To Print (Apple iOS) - The free version uses AirPrint for printing text messages, contacts and other basic information from your iPhone or iPad. The $3.99 edition allows you more options, along with the ability to print from Google Docs or Dropbox.