|Initial release||November 22, 2010|
AirPrint is a feature in Apple Inc.'s OS X and iOS operating systems for printing via a wireless LAN (Wi-Fi), either directly to AirPrint-compatible printers, or to non-compatible shared printers by way of a computer running Microsoft Windows, Linux, or OS X. AirPrint does not require printer-specific drivers. It connects via a Wi-Fi network only, and thus requires a Wi-Fi access point. Direct Wi-Fi connection between the device and the printer is not supported by default, but has appeared as the 'HP ePrint Wireless Direct AirPrint' feature.
History and printer compatibility
Following the iPad's introduction in 2010, user concerns were raised about the product's inability to print, at least through a supported Apple solution. Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs reportedly replied to a user request for printing in an email with, "It will come", in May 2010.
At launch, twelve printers were AirPrint compatible, all of them from the HP Photosmart Plus e-All-in-One series. As of July 2014, that number had grown to about 1,100 compatible printer models from two dozen different manufacturers. The current list can be found on Apple's support site. The related technology is covered by US patent no. 20110194123, "Printer that supports driverless printing".
Legacy printer support
A number of software solutions allow for non-AirPrint printers to be used with iOS devices, by configuring support on an intermediary system accessible via Wi-Fi, connected to the printer. Since AirPrint is driverless, such a configuration compensates for the printer's lack of native AirPrint support by using the drivers on the intermediary system instead.
The simplest solution for all platforms is to create a new Bonjour service that tricks iOS clients into believing they're talking to an AirPrint device. Many blog posts and commercial software products exist to accomplish this, as well as open source solutions in Linux. This works in many cases because AirPrint is an extension of the Internet Printing Protocol (IPP), which many printers already support either directly, or as a result of being shared through an intermediary system (typically CUPS, the Mac/Linux printing system). This approach is limited however, as the AirPrint-specific components of the protocol are missing. This can lead to compatibility issues and unexpected results. Some software packages address this completely by translating between the two dialects of IPP, avoiding compatibility issues, while most just re-share printers using the AirPrint service name.
On OS X, the simple solution is creating a new Bonjour service that enables AirPrint support for the legacy printer. Commercial Mac OS X software for this purpose includes Netputing handyPrint, Collobos Fingerprint, and Ecamm Printopia.
In most GNU/Linux distributions, AirPrint support should be automatic with the CUPS default printing subsystem since version 1.4.6 (such as Trisquel 5 and Ubuntu 11.04). CUPS servers before version 1.4.6 with DNS based Service Discovery can also be configured manually, by adding DNS-SD printer service discovery records to a name server.
Apps and utilities
There are a number of 3rd party solutions, available on the Apple App Store and elsewhere, that allow printing to legacy printers directly or via an application helper. Netgear Genie, for both Mac OS X 10.6 or above and Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8. Genie permits you to make any shared network attached printer accessible via Airprint. The application is free for customers of current Netgear routers. Printopia Pro is a commercial solution designed to allow AirPrint to work on large business and education networks. It offers features useful to large organizations including centralized management, directory integration, and allows AirPrint to operate across subnets. It requires a server running Mac OS X 10.7 or later, and one server can potentially serve an entire organization.
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