With the release of iOS 4.2, AirPrint is now a standard feature of the iPad, but its usefulness is severely limited since only a few printers are supported. Printopia is software that runs on any Mac and makes AirPrint useful to the masses. If Ecamm Network, the company behind Printopia, can make it work, why can’t Apple?
Printopia is an inexpensive application (only $9.95 with a 30 day free trial). It shares any printer connect to that computer, either directly or through a networked printer, with the iPad. It also adds a pair of virtual printers. “Send to Mac” takes the content being printed on the iPad and sends it to the Mac with Printopia installed as either a JPG or PDF file. The other virtual printer will send the file to the Mac’s Dropbox folder if one exists.
In our test, the software worked well. We had a little trouble getting things set up at first. After reinstalling our printer driver and then Printopia, it worked fine. So this might have been a printer driver issue and not a Printopia problem.
The application is not at all intrusive. Printopia runs in the background and the user only notices it when opening up the System Preferences. This is much more convenient than some of the other solutions we tried, like PrintCentral or Printer Pro, both apps that add printing via iPad Apps with some less convenient workarounds to perform, or the failed attempt to bring networked printing to the iPad by PogoPlug. I’ll be uninstalling all three from my iPad and buying Printopia instead.
As we asked at the outset, what could have kept Apple from doing what a tiny company the fraction of the size of the corporate giant? Our hope is that Apple buys out Printopia and fold it into OS X as soon as possible.
The video below not only comically illustrates the problem with Apple’s built-in solution as well as how well Printopia works.