Since the release of Microsoft Office for iPad this week, there's been renewed interest in printing from iOS devices, mainly because users of Microsoft's newly released office suite for Apple's mobile platform does not have a built-in capability to print yet.
However, this is not to say you cannot print Microsoft Office documents from an iPad. It just requires a few workarounds.
First, it should be noted that even if you have a printer in your home or in your office, that does not mean you are able to actually print to it from your iOS device. In fact, you need a printer that is compatible with AirPrint, Apple's own wireless printing protocol.
AirPrint has been part of iOS since version 4.2, but many people are not aware it even exists or even how to use it.
Apple's own support pages on AirPrint has documentation on what kind of printers support the protocol. Several of the larger manufacturers, such as HP, Brother, Canon and Epson all have models that support it. The printer you already have may support it, but it might require a firmware update. Also, to use Apple's own words,
"AirPrint printers connected using Bluetooth or shared through a USB port of a Mac, PC, AirPort Base Station, or Time Capsule are not supported."
Once you've determined that your printer and setup is AirPrint compatible (like my WiFi-connected HP LaserJet 100 shown above) and it is connected over the same Wi-Fi network that is accessible from your iOS device, you then have to actually use an application that supports AirPrint on your iOS device. Not all iOS applications support AirPrint.
Office for iPad is not currently an AirPrint-enabled application. However, you can print Office documents from an iPad. First, using Office for iPad, save the document to your OneDrive or OneDrive for Business cloud storage.
After editing your document in one of the Microsoft Office for iPad applications, open your document from your OneDrive or OneDrive for Business cloud storage using Office Online in your Safari browser. For demonstration purposes we're going to open the "Northwind Business Plan."
Next, once our document is open, click on File, on the upper left. I've marked it with red underlines.
Next, choose Print.
After choosing Print, Office Online will render the document in a printer-friendly mode in Safari. With Word, it saves it and displays it as a PDF document. In Excel, there is an additional step where you will be prompted to display the document in a "Printer-Friendly View", after which you proceed to the next step.
Next, in Safari, click on the Share button, which looks like a box with an upwards-pointing arrow on it, on the top left part of the screen. One of the share options is Print which is on the bottom row all the way to the right.
As you can see, I have an HP LaserJet 100 that has been detected by AirPrint.
Within the AirPrint dialog, you can customize the page ranges you want to print.
Pages is a native iOS application that is part of Apple's iWork suite that can print directly to an AirPrint-capable printer. However, note that the option is buried in the Tools menu. Unlike Safari, the Share menu within iWork apps does not have a print option.
iWork Applications can store data locally on an iOS device, within iCloud, or from a cloud storage service that is compatible with WebDAV feeds.
Google's QuickOffice for iOS works with their own Google Drive/Google Apps services and is capable of directly printing to an AirPrint-capable printer as well.
QuickOffice was purchased by Google in June of 2012 and once had the ability to store data in competing cloud services such as SkyDrive (Now OneDrive) and DropBox. It does not anymore.
If you don't have an AirPrint-capable device, but you own an HP printer, you might want to look into their ePrint software, which works with a wide range of their own printer models. Additionally, you can print photos and emails directly from your iPad, and can access a number of HP printers at public locations hosted by UPS, FedEx, Walmart and PrinterOn.