Google Cloud Print is an under-appreciated service that can send print jobs from virtually anywhere to a connected printer in any other location. Normally that involves tedious configuration on your network, but Cloud Print can do it in just a few minutes. It’s really easy to set up, and there are a few things you can do to extend its support beyond the browser to make all your printing tasks a lot easier. Here’s a look at what it can do, how you can set it up, and how to make it even better.
Google Cloud Print makes it possible to send any document or image to a printer from any location. For example, if you wanted to print out a letter at home while at work, you could use the service to send that letter to your home printer and have it waiting for you when you get back. Normally this kind of setup requires a tedious network configuration, but with Google Cloud Print you just click a few buttons and you’re done. The service can also print web pages and other documents to PDF format and save them in your Google Docs account. This is can be especially handy if you’re keeping your account synchronized with all your computers using a third-party service called InSync (more info here). Basically, if you want to print anything from any device to practically any location, Google Cloud Print can make that happen.
If you want to get started with Google Cloud Print, here’s what you’ll need:
Once you’ve got all of that ready to go, you can start setting it up.
There are two ways to set up your printers with Google Cloud Print. A handful of newer printers have internet connectivity built in and so you can connect them to Google directly. This process varies by printer, so visit this page to learn if your printer is compatible and, if so, how to set it up. If you have a traditional printer that’s connected to your computer, however, the setup process is always the same. Just follow these steps:
To test out your new setup, try printing something from within Google Chrome (such as this web page). When the printing options appear, choose “Print with Google Cloud Print” from the Destination menu. Click the “Print” button and you’ll be asked to choose one of your cloud printers. Pick the one you want and, assuming everything is working correctly, your printer should print out a document.
If you followed the instructions in the previous section, you already know how to print from a web page, but there’s still more than you can do. Currently there are plenty of ways you can print from your smartphone, and even from your Mac desktop (if you prefer to avoid using Chrome for the task).
Google Cloud Print has an tons of support in Android, of course, with a dedicated Android app and cloud printing support in the Google Docs Android app. You can also use third-party apps such as PrinterShare™ Mobile Print and Easy Print to get even more printing support out of Android. iOS users can check out PrintCentral Pro for iPhone and iPod touch or iPad to print with Google Cloud Print as well. Any mobile device can utilize cloud printing services by simply using Google’s mobile web apps. Just visit m.google.com on your mobile device to get started.
Strangely, there is no Windows app for Google Cloud Print but there is one for Mac OS X. It is aptly named Cloud Printer, and you can download it for free on the Mac App Store. It’s not a perfect application, as it can only handle documents that Google Docs can view. Also, it doesn’t function like an actual printer and instead requires you to choose a file you want to print from the dedicated app. You can, however, follow these instructions to use Automator to set up a virtual printer if you really want to use the standard print dialogue. Even with these disadvantages, it’s still a simple (and free) way to print from your Mac without the aid of Google Chrome.
For a few other niche options, and to stay up-to-date on the latest Google Cloud Print extensions, apps, and add-ons, keep an eye on this page.