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.
What You Can Do With Google Cloud Print
Google Cloud Print makes it possible to send a 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 synchronised 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:
- The Google Chrome web browser.
- A regular or internet-enabled printer. (Virtually any printer is fine, but the setup process varies depending on the type of printer you have.)
- An active, internet-connected computer that the printer is connected to if it is not an internet-enabled printer.
- A Google account. (If you don't have one, sign up for one here.)
Once you've got all of that ready to go, you can start setting it up.
How To Set Up Google Cloud Print
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:
- First, make sure everything is in place. You'll need Google Chrome installed on your computer. Also, ensure that your printer is connected to your computer, it's currently on, and you can print from it normally. (Note: You'll only be able to send print jobs to this printer when it is connected to your computer, so it's best to set this up on a desktop machine where the printer will always remain connected and powered on.)
Once you have everything in place, open up Google Chrome and click the wrench icon in the upper right corner, choose "Options" ("Preferences" on a Mac), and then click the "Under the Hood" tab. Alternatively, just click this link. Now scroll down to the Google Cloud Print section towards the bottom and click "Sign in to Google Cloud Print".
- In the resulting window, sign in with your Google Account. This will enable the Cloud Print Connector on your computer.
- When a new message appears with a button labelled "Finish printer registration", click it.
- You'll receive a confirmation if everything worked properly, and it'll offer a link called "Manage your printers". Click on it to verify all the printers on your computer are now listed.
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.
Do More With Google Cloud Print
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).
Print From Your Smartphone
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 utilise cloud printing services by simply using Google's mobile web apps. Just visit m.google.com on your mobile device to get started.
Print from Your Mac
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.
Got any helpful tips for getting the most out of Google Cloud Print? Share them in the comments!