What is the easiest way possible to enable printing from an iPad?
August 13, 2012 6:58 AM   Subscribe

We bought an older relative an iPad for ease of use in email and web browsing. He wants to be able to print things from it. He does not have wifi. What is the very easiest way to enable him to print emails and web articles?

Our older relative needed a new computer for his rural home. He has only dial-up and is very bad about maintaining computers so we got him an iPad with Verizon data service, which reaches where he lives. He wants to be able to print. All I see is AirPrint, which requires wifi, which he does not have.

How can we allow him to print? I imagine we have to add wifi to his house, but seeing as he is not technically competent and lives far away, we would need to make this as easy as humanly possible.

What printer and equipments works easily right out of the box? Are there any printers that print from an iPad that contain their own wifi? What is the easiest way to get this done?
posted by procrastination to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I think what you want is a wireless router and print server. You don't need actual wi-fi, just something that can create a wireless network that the ipad can connect to that can also talk to the printer.

Something like this should do the job - you can have him plug the printer into the USB port and set up the default wireless options, then just turn the ipad's wifi on when he wants to print (as data won't work over the wireless)
posted by corvine at 7:16 AM on August 13, 2012

You're looking for AirPrint printers.
posted by squorch at 7:17 AM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wifi is going to be a requirement, I'm afraid. There is a way to use 3G to connect to a PC remotely and print that way, but you're using dial-up, so that's out.

The easiest way to get this done is to drop $50 on a wireless router, connect the printer and PC to the network, and set things up that way.

It's not that difficult. You can limit the WiFi to just the iPad, which has a pretty decent interface for that sort of thing, and connect the PC and printer with ethernet. Running cables is a heck of a lot easier than futzing about with WiFi.
posted by valkyryn at 7:17 AM on August 13, 2012

Everything else is a kludge and difficult to work with. Bite the bullet, get wifi and an AirPrint printer.
posted by squorch at 7:18 AM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have a Brother MFC-J270W printer connected to my wifi network. I spent $50 on it at Best Buy. Brother has a iOS app [free] that allows me to print and scan from my iPad. Easy-peasy.

Here's the current equivalent for $70 at Amazon.
posted by chazlarson at 7:28 AM on August 13, 2012

The problem is going to be that once you connect the iPad to a Wi-Fi network, it assumes that's where your internet connection is, and doesn't use the cellular connection even if the Wi-Fi is non-responsive to its requests for web sites. So your relative will have to connect to Wi-Fi when he wants to print, then disconnect when he wants to continue browsing.

(Note: I believe this is set to change in iOS 6 -- i.e., if the iPad doesn't get a response over Wi-Fi it will eventually fall back to cellular -- but that's still at least a few weeks off.)
posted by Nothlit at 7:38 AM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

There are other ways to do it, but the easiest way possible is a wifi router and an Airprint printer.

That said, the unusual setup will take some doing (you'll need to set up and Ad Hoc network, I think). However, if there's a tech-saavy person that can get everything set up, then it should need basically no maintenance.

Apple lists a bunch of Airprint-compatible printers here, although most of them are optimized for photo printing. I don't know of cheap, B&W laser printers that are also Airprint compatible.
posted by Betelgeuse at 7:41 AM on August 13, 2012

If it's an iPad 3, it should be possible to use the iPad's "Personal Hotspot" feature as a WiFi access point which a WiFi-enabled printer (such as the Brother linked to by chaziarson) can connect to.

However, "Personal Hotspot" may be disabled. It's up to Verizon. They may charge extra for it, or they may disallow it completely.

The "AirPrint" and similar printers require WiFi, but they do not* require an external internet subscription. Any cheap WiFi router will work fine as a bridge between the iPad and the printer.

* Theoretically, at least. It might be that the printer does something stupid like "phoning home" to its manufacturer, in which case it would need internet for that.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:49 AM on August 13, 2012

I have a wifi printer, which includes its own email address (this seemed bizarre but might fit your needs perfectly!). You can email documents to the printer and it will print them for you. I'm not at home to look and see if the printer has an ethernet port, but if its possible to find a printer that has this feature and has an ethernet port, you could just buy a cheap switch and connect the printer to the dial up modem.

However, I think setting up wifi might be easier.
posted by Joh at 9:44 AM on August 13, 2012

Apple makes printers exactly for this situation. Airprint - see the link above.
Don't over think it and get some complicated set-up -
pay a little extra and get the product that the manufacturer recommends for this job.
posted by Flood at 10:17 AM on August 13, 2012

Apple doesn't make printers any more. They do sell printers from other manufacturers that support "Airprint," but they don't sell all of them -- There are 7 manufacturers of AirPrint capable printers, and the Apple Store page Betelgeuse linked to only has 17 printers from three manufacturers.

I agree with the suggestion to buy a printer that supports AirPrint directly. You say the iPad gets data service from Verizon. If you got him an iPad 3, then the Personal Hotspot feature will be enabled without extra cost, and qxntpqbbbqxl's suggestion of using the Personal Hotspot feature with an AirPrint capable printer with built-in WiFi is probably the cheapest and simplest solution.

However, as others have noted, you can get a WiFi router for less than $50 bucks that you could use to network the iPad and the printer. If you do go that route, I would suggest disabling the DHCP server on the router and letting the Printer and iPad self-assign their IP addresses to avoid the possibility that the router will identify itself as the default gateway for the network, even though it has no Internet connection, and confuse the iPad about how it can access the Internet.
posted by Good Brain at 10:16 PM on August 13, 2012

Oh, I should have asked, do you have an iPad or an iPhone at home? If so, I'd suggest configuring the printer and router and testing the setup before sending it off to your relative so they can just plug them into power and go.
posted by Good Brain at 10:19 PM on August 13, 2012

Ugh, to be clear, contrary to Nothlit's understanding, the iPad will continue to use the Verizon connection for Internet access while it is connected to a WiFi network, provided the WiFi network doesn't have a default gateway.
posted by Good Brain at 10:26 PM on August 13, 2012

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