Those introducing non-Microsoft devices into their workflows may be worried about losing familiar functionality. Here’s a good example: Can you print to an existing printer from a Chromebook? How about from an Android phone?
In this week’s We Help Wednesday episode of the First Ring Daily podcast, one of the questions we received was about printing from a Chromebook.
A friend of mine asked me to help them pick out a new laptop. They said the really only need it to use the web and occasionally print things. So they said the wanted a cheap Windows laptop, or maybe a Chromebook. How compatible is a Chromebook with printers?
Off the top of my head, I observed that I do print to my network-attached printer from a Chromebook—could, in fact, do so from Android as well—but couldn’t remember the details off the top of my head. So I said I’d look at this again and write it up.
Let’s do this thing.
We have two printers in our home, a network-attached Dell 3130CN laser printer in my office, and a PC-connected HP OfficeJet All-in-One something in my wife’s office. I use the former.
When you try to print from a Chromebook for the first time, the default choice is “Save as PDF,” but Google also provides a “Save to Google Drive” option. Both of these stretch the boundaries of what I’d call “printing” but whatever. You can of course add a printer as well. It’s just not that obvious.
You do so using a system called Google Cloud Print. This system supports Cloud Print Ready printers—there’s a compatibility list—natively, but you can also connect to any printer as well. My network-attached printer is not on the list, so I attach it as a classic printer.
To do so—and this is where things get weird—you have to set it up first from a Windows PC (or Mac) that is running Chrome. So open up Chrome on your PC and type chrome://devices/ in the address bar, and press Enter. The Devices page appears.
Click the Add printers button to add one or more local printers to Google Cloud Print, thus associating them with your Google account.
In my case, the only one I want to add is the Dell, so I unchecked the other choices. Then click Add printer(s). When you do, you’re told that your printers are now registered with Google Cloud Print and you’re ready to go.
And you are: If you go back to the Chromebook and navigate to that same Devices page in the browser (chrome://devices/), you will see that your printer has been added successfully.
Likewise, when you try to print from a web app—Google Docs, Word Online, whatever—that printer is now available.
And it works as you’d expect. (Note that your PC must be powered on in order to print.)
What’s neat about this functionality is that it’s tied to your Google account. This means that any printers you add to Google Cloud Print like this will be available from other Google devices too … including Android phones and tablets. So once you’ve set up a printer this way, you can print from your phone if you want to.