In this section, I look at a summary of your options for printing from an iPad to a non-AirPrint printer using a USB or Bluetooth connection. I link to other sections of this website where I cover each of possible printing workflows alternatives in-depth, including its pros and cons, cost, along with videos and other resources.
If one particular alternative appeals to you, I’d encourage you to explore the related pages on this website so you can get an in-depth understanding of whether the solution will suit your specific circumstances. The home page presents a summary of all your iPad and iPhone printing options.
I’ll start with your options for printing from an iPad to USB connected printers and then move on to Bluetooth connected printers.
How to Print from an iPad or iPhone to a USB Printer
If you have a printer that has a USB connection then your options to print from your iPad or iPhone include:
- Third-party printing apps. Connect your printer to a router and print through a third-party printing app (e.g. PrintCentral Pro) installed on your iPad or iPhone. While you can print to many models of printers directly using these third-party printing apps, they don’t support printing to every make of printer. (You’ll have to check compatibility using a free lite version of the third-party printing app or with the app developer.) These apps have one significant shortcoming. That is that you must print all of your content (i.e. documents, emails, files, etc.) from inside the third-party printing app.
- Print servers. Connect your printer to a print server like the Lantronix xPrintServer and a router. Your iPad or iPhone will now see the printer in the same way as they would see an AirPrint printer. That is, you can print directly from any app that supports printing.
- Third-party software on your Mac or PC. Connect your printer to your Mac or PC and print from your iPad through the wireless network your computer is connected to. Your Mac or PC must be switched on, awake and have the special third-party software installed and running in the background. If you wish to print through the native print menus of any app on your iPad or iPhone then you would need to install special third-party software on your Mac or PC (e.g. handyPrint, Printopia, Presto, and O’Print). Otherwise you can install free third-party companion software on your Mac or PC (like WePrint from EuroSmartz) to print from inside a paid companion app (like PrintCentral Pro from EuroSmartz) that you install on your iPhone or iPad. (That is, using this option, you will not be able to print from any app on your device that offers printing, only through the special third-party printing app.). These options are explained in full in the article on Printing from an iPad to a Printer Connected to Your Mac or PC.
- Print via the internet using Google Cloud Print or HP ePrint.
How to Print from an iPad or iPhone to a Bluetooth Printer
It is not currently possible to print directly from an iPhone or iPad to a Bluetooth printer using the native print menu of any app on your iPad or iPhone.
This is because you cannot connect to your printer wirelessly from your iPad or iPhone by Bluetooth.
(For completeness, I do note that there are one or two ‘point-of-sale’ receipt printers that connect to the iPad or iPhone using a Bluetooth connection. However, my understanding is that they work because you can only print from the receipt printer manufacturer’s special-purpose app which communicates with the Bluetooth receipt printer. That is, you can only print receipts, not normal documents or files and so this is not a solution for most people.)
It is possible to print from an iPhone or iPad to a Bluetooth equipped printer as long as you don’t mind printing via your Mac or PC. There are two good solutions:
- Third-party apps and software. This option involves installing a third-party printing app on your iPad or iPhone (e.g. PrintCentral Pro) and its free companion software (e.g. WePrint in the case of PrintCentral Pro) on your Mac or PC. This solution works because the drivers for your printer are installed directly on your Mac or PC and not your iPad or iPhone. The downside is that your Mac or PC must be turned on and awake, connected to the same Wi-Fi network as your iPad or iPhone and the special third-party software running in the background. Secondly, all of your printing on your iPhone or iPad is carried out through the third-party printing app (e.g. PrintCentral Pro). You wont be able to print via the native print menus from the apps on your iPad or iPhone. The upside is that the solution will work with pretty much any Bluetooth printer you can connect to your Mac or PC. And so, if you have an old Bluetooth printer that you love, you can almost certainly get it to work with your iPad or iPhone.
- Third-party software. Similar to the first solution, its possible to purchase third-party software to install on your Mac and PC that makes your printer ‘pretend’ to be an AirPrint compatible printer. Here you have several options including handyPrint, Printopia, Presto and O’Print – AirPrint Activator. While this option may be slightly more expensive than the first, you can now print directly from any of the apps on your iPhone or iPad that support printing. Whereas in the first solution, you’d have to print through the third-party printing app. Now your iPad or iPhone will see the printer just the same way as it would any normal AirPrint printer. When using this option, your Mac or PC needs to be turned on and awake, connected to the same Wi-Fi network as your iPad or iPhone and the third-party software running in the background.
So, these are your options for printing from an iPad or iPhone when you have a USB or Bluetooth printer.
While they may seem a little inconvenient, if you don’t print from your iPad or iPhone very often, they might just fulfil your needs. They also save you from having to buy a new printer.
This is actually the solution I use most often because my laser printer is a non-AirPrint compatible printer. For $5, I print from my iPad via my Mac using handyPrint. Problem solved.
Be sure to explore the related sections on this website which give you more detail and the pros and cons of each of the individual options I’ve discussed here.