What is AirPrint?

Apple AirPrint

The term AirPrint can be found again and again when working with a Mac, iPhone or iPad. There are certainly many readers who already use AirPrint every day in the office or at home, but some may not be familiar with the term. Since AirPrint is mentioned again and again in my blog articles, I would like to explain it briefly here.

What is AirPrint actually?

In principle, AirPrint is a software interface created by Apple, which was originally intended to enable mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad to print over the network (WLAN). Neither the iPad nor the iPhone have a USB port that you could use to connect a printer with a cable.

The "trick" of AirPrint is that you have a standardized interface that supports so-called "AirPrint printers" so that you don't have to install any drivers on the iPhone or iPad. That would not be possible either, since iOS or iPadOS does not offer a function for this. With macOS, on the other hand, this is possible and also the rule if you want to connect a new printer to the Mac.

Apple AirPrint is a software interface for controlling printers from an iPhone or iPad without installing drivers.

Apple AirPrint is a software interface for controlling printers from an iPhone or iPad without installing drivers.

AirPrint also suitable for wireless printing on the Mac

AirPrint is not only reserved for iPhone and iPad, but can also be used on the Mac to establish a wireless connection to the printer in the WLAN. It is only important that the Apple device is in the same home network as the printer. The second requirement is logically that the printer supports the AirPrint protocol.

Another note from the Apple website:

AirPrint works with WiFi or wired network connections. AirPrint devices connected to the USB port on an Apple AirPort Base Station or AirPort Time Capsule or to your computer via Bluetooth cannot use AirPrint.

Incidentally, this also applies to printers that are connected to the WLAN via a Fritz!Box.

Here you can see from three different apps where you have to tap to get to the menu where you can also start printing.

Here you can see from three different apps where you have to tap to get to the menu where you can also start printing.

Print to iPhone, iPad or Mac via AirPrint

When designing AirPrint, Apple made it extremely easy for users to set up and print. In principle, no setup is necessary, since the Apple devices and the printers communicate via the Bonjour log find automatically. This is referred to as “zero configuration networking” or “zeroconf”. Provided the devices are AirPrint compatible and on the same WiFi network.

A typical process for printing a document via the iPad or iPhone looks like this:

  • You open a document (can be a PDF, a text, a word doc or a graphic).
  • In most apps there is a circle with three dots in the top right corner, which you click on.
  • In the list of options, select Print and then the appropriate one AirPrint printer .
  • With other apps (such as the "Photos app") you select the "Share button" to print and you will find the "Print" option in the share sheet. There, too, you will be prompted to select the AirPrint printer.

On a Mac, you add the AirPrint printer like any other printer via System Preferences > Printers & Scanners. Printing is then carried out in the respective program via the "File > Print" menu.

View and cancel AirPort print jobs

As with printing via macOS, you can also view the print jobs under iOS and iPadOS or cancel them if necessary. To do this, go into the app switcher after the print job has been created. This works with current iPhone models by swiping from the bottom edge to about the middle. In the list of open apps, select the print center and see the current print jobs there, which you can click on and then cancel using the "Delete print job" button.

Once a job has been completely sent to the printer, it is no longer visible in the print center and is only managed by the printer. If you want to cancel such an order, the only thing that often helps is to switch off the printer.

Even if you print via AirPrint, you can view or cancel the current print jobs on the iOS device (screenshots: Apple.com).

Even if you print via AirPrint, you can view or cancel the current print jobs on the iOS device (screenshots: Apple.com).

Use AirPrint without WiFi

I wrote above that it is a requirement that the printer and the iOS device are on the same network. However, there is also the option of connecting a printer to an iPhone or iPad completely without a WLAN or WiFi network in order to print on it. And you don't need the internet for that.

The whole thing is called ad hoc mode or direct wireless printing and works with all printers that are compatible with AirPrint.

The procedure is relatively simple:

  • Go to Settings > Wi-Fi on the iPhone/iPad
  • Then search for the printer's WLAN and connect to it

Now the connection between the printer and the iOS device is established and you can start printing as described above.

With programs like Printopia you can send print jobs from the iPhone or iPad via a PC or Mac to printers that are not airprint-capable (screenshot: Printopia).

With programs like Printopia you can send print jobs from the iPhone or iPad via a PC or Mac to printers that are not airprint-capable (screenshot: Printopia).

Print to non-AirPrint printers with iPad and iPhone

If you don't have an AirPrint printer, you can still use a detour to print on your non-airprint-compatible printer. The prerequisite is that you have a Mac, which is the link between the iPhone/iPad and the printer. The Mac (or PC) translates the AirPrint information of the print jobs into the language that the printer understands. Furthermore, printer sharing must be activated on the computer and software such as Presto, Netputting handyPrint, OPrint for Windows or printopia does the "translation".

An alternative to expensive software is a solution with a Raspberry Pi. John Graham-Cumming has the instructions on how to use it to make an AirPrint translator for old USB printers right here described. Depending on whether you prefer to tinker or simply want a software solution, you can choose how to solve the printer problem. In any case, there is no shortage of opportunities.

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