How to: Using Google Cloud Print for working with PDFs

Google has built a cloud printing service for Chrome that is a powerful tool for printing to remote devices. This can also be used to capture anything to PDF for access on any device, and is great for BYOD devices for working with PDFs remotely.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor
CLoud Print thumb
Image: Google

When Google introduced its Cloud Print service, it was touted as a good way to print from the Chrome browser and by definition, the Chrome OS, to any printer that is connected to the service. These printers include a handful of Cloud Print-Ready units and old-school models physically connected to a computer on the same network as the Chrome device. In reality, Cloud Print is a powerful tool that can be used to capture almost any content for access from virtually any remote device.

The first step is to link Cloud Print to your Google account. This can be done from any Chrome browser via the advanced settings. Once the account is linked to Cloud Print, printers can be added to Cloud Print, which enables remote printing from any Android device or installation of the Chrome browser.

Cloud Print setup Mac
Cloud Print setup on a Mac.
Image: Screenshot by James Kendrick

The ability to print remotely is useful, but it only scratches the surface of what can be done with Cloud Print. As evidenced in the Print dialog in Chrome, documents can also be printed to a FedEx/Kinko's account. This opens up the ability to print complex work documents for business purposes. You can print directly to the Kinko's outlet of choice right from Chrome.

PDF as printed
Image: Screenshot by James Kendrick

There is another method of using Cloud Print that is even more useful for BYOD workers. Once Cloud Print has been enabled, all user devices with the Chrome browser installed show up as printers in the Cloud Print settings. This includes all Android devices (phones and tablets), iPads, and iPhones. Any listed device can be selected as a "printer". Printing content to one of these non-printer devices triggers Cloud Print to convert the document to a PDF file that is pushed to the selected device.

Note 2 PDF print 300
Printed to Note II smartphone.
Image: Screenshot by James Kendrick

This is a fast and simple way to get anything to a mobile device for access at any time. It's useful for capturing web content or other information. There are apps that capture information for access later, but this is particulary useful for capturing rich content that needs to be saved exactly as it appears in the browser.

Once content has been printed to a remote device, it is accessed through any app on that device that handles PDF files. These PDF files are standard format and can be manipulated just like any other PDF.

In addition to printing content to specific remote devices for saving as PDF, the Chrome print dialog has another "print" outlet that is very powerful. The Save to Google Drive option shows up in the list of printers and works as expected. Print content is converted to PDF as described above, and pushed to the user's Google Drive. This makes such content instantly available to any devices running Google Drive, and it is cross-platform, so that means virtually any device.

Google Cloud Print makes it easy to print to printers using old-fashioned paper, but it really shines when used as a capture tool for digital information. Web pages and other content accessible via the Chrome browser can be saved in PDF looking exactly as they do on the web. This capture can be pushed to any mobile device running Chrome, and even to the Google Drive cloud storage. It is thus a powerful tool for those using the Chrome browser, and especially for Chromebook users. This could make the Chromebook a useful device for those embracing BYOD.

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