Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Printing from the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch on the road (no router and no sockets required)

OK, so if you - like me - couldn't find anything definitive on the web about how to print from iOS wirelessly without a router to a genuinely mobile printer (i.e. battery-operated and small), then read my story and relax - it is possible after all :-)

Recently I wanted to do something I thought was relatively straightforward and the kind of thing I really should be able to do with an iPad. How wrong I was ...

I've run a full 17-piece big band for the past ten years and right from the outset we've backed up all our music by scanning into PDFs. A few months back I became the proud owner of an iPad and took advantage of having those PDFs lying around by playing in rehearsals and gigs from an app called UnrealBook - brilliant, but until all the band follow suit (currently, five of us are doing it) I've still got to deal with paper.

Well now, I thought, I have all this music available electronically and Apple introduced AirPrint with iOS 4.2 - let's see if there is an AirPrint compatible mobile printer ... one that I could bring along to gigs/rehearsals and when a part goes missing (as they often do - we're talking 6000-7000 pages of music here) just whip out the iPad and a battery-powered printer and wait for the admiring gasps from the band.

Ha!

Don't make me laugh - 9 months after AirPrint was introduced, the range of AirPrint compatible printers was laughably small - 25 being your lot, and not one among them could even remotely be considered anywhere near mobile.

Apple strike again with their penchant for excelling in many areas with their products but having huge blindspots in others - they'll happily tell you that the facility is there, it's not their fault the printer manufacturers haven't caught up yet ... but that's absolutely no help to you or I. And so I set about looking for another, non-AirPrint, solution ...

My Requirements
  • Small and portable printer (preferably battery-operated)
  • No extra kit required (i.e. no router involved)
  • Print A4 PDFs in black & white
  • Quality/speed aren't necessarily issues *
  • Permanently store several thousand PDFs on the iPad
Solution
How-to
The key point to note is that with the above printer I was able to setup an AdHoc network and on the iPad I needed to manually specify an IP address in the same subnet as the wifi network of the printer. That removed the need for a router sat in-between the iPad and the printer.

In fact, you just need to satisfy a couple of generic requirements with whichever printer you decide will meet your mobile-printing requirements:
  1. Printer needs to be able to operate in AdHoc mode
  2. Connect to that AdHoc network with your iOS device and assign an IP address manually in the appropriate subnet
So, connectivity sorted - onto the actual music ... all our PDFs are on my Dropbox account. Inside UnrealBook, I sync'd all the folders and so have every chart on the iPad with a naming convention of "Chart Instrument.pdf" e.g. "Ain't That A Kick In The Head Trumpet 1.pdf".

To print someone's part, I get on the H470's network, open up the music in UnrealBook and use the "Open In" facility to send it to the free HP ePrint app ... from there the H470 magically appears, I press "print" and then it's me that's gasping admiringly as it very quickly spews out an excellent quality copy of the music.

Another generic point - whilst I happily use the free app provided by the printer manufacturer, I could just as easily use one of the mobile printing apps by EuroSmartz (e.g. PrintCentral - EuroSmartz Ltd) - the key thing here is that something on your iPad needs to know how to talk to a printer - EuroSmartz claim their app can talk to virtually any printer - YMMV. For convenience, here's a few that should get the job done:
Note: Apps change regularly, so do check the description to make sure it's going to do the job...

In my quest to see if this whole thing was possible, I read so many blogs/forums from people from various walks of life (truck drivers wanting to print from their rig or salesmen wanting to print an invoice in front of a customer for e.g.) but nowhere could I find anything definitive that told me it was even possible - so I wanted to blog about how, after much research, I took a leap of faith and bought a 2nd hand H470 from eBay, a new WiFi dongle for it, crossed my fingers and hoped.

A leap of faith which sent me soaring way past Apple's own wireless iOS printing options ...

* As it turns out the H470 has excellent reviews all-round and so excels as a mobile printer but performs very well as a regular printer (colour printing, photographs etc.) - I have it attached by USB cable and fed power at home when it's not out at band (and it's still sat in it's case, so all I do is unplug it and carry it out the door).

If it turns out my blogging efforts have saved you time or money, any sort of donation would be greatly appreciated to help keep things ticking over. Thanks!

20 comments:

  1. I have the same set up: iPad w/ h470. Got the eprint app and dropbox... Now I'm at the wifi screen in settings. How do I find out what ip address to enter. Proxy, subnet, it's all Greek to me. I just want to connect this to that. How did you find this info? Is it on the printer somewhere?

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  2. Hi Will - a good question ... so I posted some step-by-step instructions which you should be able to find on the main blog page.

    Hope that helps!

    Thanks,

    Keith

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  3. Hi Keith
    I've been looking forever for a solution like yours, great!
    Now I only have one problem, there is no way I can buy a h470 printer, they're all out of stock and I think HP doesn't produce'm any more.
    Can you recommend another mobile printer?

    Thank you so much!

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  4. Martinyme - glad you found this :-) I couldn't find any info about how to do this either, which was my motivation for writing the blog!

    As for recommending another mobile printer ... the H470 is the only one I've ever owned. Technically, this approach should work with any printer (mobile or otherwise) which is able to setup a wifi connection in AdHoc mode.

    eBay throws one up every couple of days in the UK, so you might want to consider that route. Otherwise, research away, check reviews etc. and just make sure whatever you get works in AdHoc mode ...

    Good luck!

    Keith

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  5. Keith,

    Just some information on what i attempted. I connected my Linksys Wireless G print server to my canon ip100 mobile printer. I was able to establish an adhoc connection between the two. My iPad print progam, "Printer Pro" allowed me to add the ip with no problem after connecting to the server adhoc network. I attempted to print document and the printer "receiving data" indicator began to blink. I was very excited at that moment.... but.... then nothing happened. It just stopped blinking. No sure what else i can do, but for others looking into this, type of setup, it appears not to work with my devices. I was really hoping not to have to buy anything else to get this to work, but I may have to go with a printer, as you suggested above, that has the adhoc wifi capability built in. Thanks for all the info.

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  6. Keith,

    Since my print server did not work on the canon ip100, i then connected directly to my brother MFC-9320 wireless printer in the adhoc mode. I am unsure if i am doing something wrong, but i got the same result as above.... indicator flashing that data is being received but then nothing. Oh well, guess i will keep looking.

    Thanks again.

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  7. Thanks for the updates - a WiFi print server is a really interesting idea I hadn't considered before and if there's one out there that's battery operated, then that opens up a number of other mobile printers such as the Canon IP100 you mentioned. Not as neat as just iPad->H470 but beggars can't be choosers with the lack of mobile printer options out there ...

    Anyhow, back to your predicament ... so, you can see the printer from your iPad which indicates the flow of iPad->Print Server->Printer is working fine - only things I can immediately think of are:

    1. Make sure you can use the Print Server and these printers in AdHoc mode from a laptop or PC - if not, then that suggests the Print Server itself is what needs looking at
    2. Try another iPad printing program - there are some free ones out there (including one by Canon)

    Hope you get it working!

    Thanks,

    Keith

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  8. Wow Keith thanks so much for this mate! I unfortunately couldn't take the risk on buying the card (HP were no help as they didn't even know the card!) so grabbed an AE as I was sure it would work however I'll be sure to grab a card for the next solution needed thanks to you!

    P.S I know there will be 100's of happy people out there singing your praises! :)
    Cheers
    SteveHanna

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  9. Steve - thanks for the kind words. Aim of the game is to help other people given that this info just isn't around anywhere else...

    I assume that AE=Airport Express? If so, drop me a mail if you can with what your setup is, how you're using it day-to-day and how you got it to work and I'll add it to the blog if it might be useful to others.

    Thanks,

    Keith

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  10. Will this work with an Ipad 2?

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  11. Yes, absolutely - what we're doing here is is iOS-specific as opposed to being specific to the iPad 1, so it'll work on all flavours of iPhone, iPod and iPad capable of running iOS 4.3 and above.

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  12. Hi is there a way to get the Hp office jet 100 mobile printer to work with a Ipad even with a AE I don't care as long as it works.

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  13. Hi Derrick - without an Airport Express, no chance ... the OfficeJet 100 is a BlueTooth printer and iOS simply can't print via BT. If you add an AE into the mix ... I honestly don't know, I had a quick search on the 'net and found conflicting opinions - some people claiming it works, some people saying they just couldn't make it happen (both with different printers, not the OfficeJet 100).

    What's certain is that you'll need a printing app on the iPad (e.g. one of those listed in my post) ... and that if you can't find the answer online, the only way is to give it a try and hope - but be prepared for it not to work and put the AE to other uses (or re-sell it, or borrow one in the first place).

    One other thing - it may help to be able to set a static IP address (as per my instructions for the H470 - http://genuinely-original.blogspot.com/2012/01/getting-ipad-to-talk-to-h470.html). You can see how to do this for the AE using the iPad at the following YouTube clip : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98fiDENRzok

    Whatever happens, it'd be great is if you could post back how you got on so other people can learn from your experience.

    Mant thanks,

    Keith

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  14. It is truly a nice and useful piece of information. I am satisfied that you shared this useful information with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.


    Printhead911

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  15. This works great, thanks for posting this...

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  16. Replies
    1. Thanks Knev but you're missing the point entirely - this is all about mobile printing on-the-go and carrying around a Windows 7 machine simply doesn't cut it ...

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  17. you can also try print n share and the brother rj4040?

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  18. I would advise getting a Zebra Printer (imz320) and the app called Mobi Print. It uses bluetooth and the app auto resizes to fit this printer and works great. mobiprintapp

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  19. Keith,
    Thanks for the information but not sure it will work for me. When in the field I access the software I use by a remote desktop. This works great for about 70% of what I do but sometimes I need to print in the field which has been the limiting factor with my ipad. Will this setup work when using software accessed through remote desktop?

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