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Print from your iPhone without an AirPrint Printer

airprint featureOnce in a blue moon, I have to print a coupon or a letter or something. And when I do that, I use the same printer I’ve been using since 2009: the HP Photosmart C4780 that came for free with a MacBook purchase. In spite of getting this printer from the Apple Store, it does not support AirPrint—HP didn’t start supporting AirPrint until the HP PhotoSmart 5000 series (I missed it by this much). Although I’ll continue to pay astronomical sums for ink cartridges, for some reason I refuse to buy a new printer since this one works perfectly fine. But being unable to print from my iPhone or iPad—something everyone else has been able to do since iOS 4.2.1 was released in 2010—makes me feel like I’m stuck in the stone ages.

So, I did some research. And it turns out that there a few ways to get my non-AirPrint printer to print from iOS. Check it out.

Printing from iOS to a Non-AirPrint Printer

The overall concept of printing from a smartphone to a dumb printer is the same for each solution. AirPrint is a feature that lets you print wirelessly to a printer without worrying about drivers or anything like that, so long as your printer supports the protocol. But if AirPrint support isn’t built-in to your printer, you need an intermediary that can accept the incoming AirPrint request and pass it along to a connected printer. That intermediary can be a Windows, macOS, or Linux computer, or it can be software installed on your iOS device.

airprint screenshot

AirPrint Using CUPS

CUPS used to stand for Common UNIX Printing System, but as many acronyms go, I don’t think it stands for anything anymore. But what you need to know is that CUPS is a printing system that has AirPrint compatibility automatically built-in. To get CUPS working with AirPrint, all you need is a Linux device that is always on and always connected to the network. For example, a network attached storage (NAS) or a Raspberry Pi.

With my Synology DiskStation NAS, getting up and running with CUPS was super easy. It already had all the printer drivers built-in, so I didn’t even need to install CUPS. I just went to Control Panel > External Devices > Printers and added my printer. There was a little box for Enable Apple Wireless Printing and it works like a dream. There’s even an option for Enable Google Cloud Print though I admit I haven’t tried it.

You may have noticed that they didn’t have my exact printer driver in the drop-down list. The HP PhotoSmart 7150 driver works fine with my HP PhotoSmart C4780. After applying these settings, I can now AirPrint to my printer from my phone, so long as my Synology DiskStation is turned on.

I imagine it would be equally as easy on a Raspberry Pi or any other Linux computer you have set up. For a Pi running Raspbian, follow the instructions for installing CUPS in Debian. If you want a detailed how-to, shoot me an email or leave a comment and I’ll put one together.

AirPrint Using a Mac or Windows PC

If you have a non-AirPrint printer that is connected to a Mac or Windows PC, you can use that computer as an intermediary for processing AirPrint jobs from your iPhone or iPad. The catch: you’ll need some third-party software. Some of these apps are free-ish and others are paid. They work pretty much like CUPS, and in fact, some of the Mac variants use CUPS.

On a Mac, try out HandyPrint or Printopia.

For Windows, try O’Print. (Note that I have not used O’Print before. If you have, please let me know if you like it in the comments.)

AirPrint Using an iOS App

If you don’t want to have a computer or a NAS turned on all the time, you can use an iOS app to print directly to a non-AirPrint printer.

I got ePrint Free working with my phone and my HP PhotoSmart printer. The free version is fairly limited in what you can print. I successfully printed a photo from my camera roll. So, you could work around the limitations by screenshotting or saving images to your camera roll then printing them from the app.

Other iOS printing apps include HP Smart, Lexmark Mobile Print, and Samsung Mobile Print.

Conclusion

AirPrinting from an iPhone or iPad to a non-AirPrint printer is possible. The solution may not be elegant or full-featured, but it can be done using software or drivers on a computer, your phone, or another network-attached device.

Give it a shot and let me know how it goes. If you’re having trouble with your setup, leave me a comment and we’ll see what we can come up with.

BonusHey, if you’re printing something from Gmail, Google Docs, Google Sheets, or Google Drive, you can use Google Cloud Print from your iOS browser. Check out some vintage groovyPost for the tutorial: How to Print from Google Docs Mobile Using your iPhone or Android Phone

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6 Responses to Print from your iPhone without an AirPrint Printer

  1. Debbie Higgins July 31, 2017 at 11:50 am #

    Hi. I downloaded ePrint (paid for full version) and I cannot figure out how to locate a printer. It asks for an IP address, but I don’t know how to locate that. Can you help? I have a HP Photosmart Printer and a HP Laserjet Pro MFP M127fn. They are locally attached to my desktop, and my iPhone and my desktop are networked.

  2. Debbie Higgins July 31, 2017 at 1:38 pm #

    The only reason I posted here is because the original post contained the following:

    “Give it a shot and let me know how it goes. If you’re having trouble with your setup, leave me a comment and we’ll see what we can come up with.”

    With that in mind, I posted my issue/question.

    Sorry.

    • Steve Krause July 31, 2017 at 4:46 pm #

      Hi Debbie,

      It’s no worries. We love to assist any way we can, both in the articles, comments or forum. My point was if we get into a problem that’s particularly techy, the forum has better tools for organizing the conversation (with screenshots etc…).

      For your particular issue, I’ve personally not installed ePrint on my iPhone. Unlike Jack, my printer actually supports AirPrint so I don’t have experience with these apps. That said, I’ll play with it tonight and see what I can do to assist. BTW – I assume you’re able to print from your Windows PC. Have you shared the printer through your Windows PC? This might be a necessary step to put the printer “on the network”. Or… Does your printer have WIFI or a network cable?

  3. Debbie Higgins August 1, 2017 at 6:40 am #

    Hi Steve,

    Thank you for responding! My printer is “local”, meaning it’s plugged into my desktop. The desktop is networked and the printers are both shared. They just don’t appear in the list when I tap search. Neither printer is Wi-Fi capable because they are older. I know they’re on my network, because I can print from my laptop via Wi-Fi.

    Anything you can do to help will be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks! 🙂

  4. Chuck Jones August 1, 2017 at 2:56 pm #

    Nice article, thanks for the ideas! Like you, I have a Synology NAS running the most recent DSM software. When I try to add my existing Wi-Fi printers (Canon MF4890dw and Dell C1760nw), I don’t know which protocol and queue to specify. Also, those models don’t show up in the lists and so I don’t know which ones to pick. Any suggestions would be much appreciated. Thanks again for the article.

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