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One of the things some folks have found lacking in the iOS devices (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad) is the fact that you can't print from them. But if you think about it, there probably aren't a lot of times when that will be a barrier to getting your file on paper if you really need that. 

Because if you're near a printer, you're probably near a computer, too. So you can email your file off to a user on that machine, and they can most likely print your document (unless they are missing some software, like Word or the Adobe Reader – but that's going to be a rare case these days).

But for some of us, having direct access to a printer would still come in mighty handy. For example, I am part of a volunteer radio organization in Macomb County (Macomb County ARPSC) that works with the county's Emergency Management department. Many of our emergency scenarios have us working off battery power in makeshift stations, and we need to transcribe messages and keep logs. Yes, I can write them down, but we like to have everything computerized if we can, so we can go back later and get another copy, find out exactly when something was created, email them afterwards to do "after action" analysis, etc. I could bring my laptop, but it's only got power for a couple of hours. My iPad can easily last 10 hours though. I also have a portable, battery-powered printer, and it could be turned off except when printing to lengthen its battery life, but taking notes/messages/logs could happen at any time, so that's not as practical for a computer. 

Another case: as some of you who've been reading along know, I am an avid APBA Baseball fan. APBA has a yearly convention where we fans can go play a lot of games with our favorite teams. There's a tournament, and so of course you need to keep score and turn in your scoresheets. I love scoring with my iPad and the ESPN iScore Baseball app, but I still need to turn in score sheets.At the convention hotel I might be able to find a computer with a printer to email my sheets to, but I don't want to go hunting around or running off to the business center after every game (and I'm sure my opponent, who needs to sign off, won't be keen on that either). I also don't want to drag my computer around just to hook up to the battery-powered printer.

Hopefully, you knew based on the title of the blog entry that I have an answer. There's a few applications in the app store that will help you print directly. I tried out ePrint and I have to say that I love this app.

ePrint lets you print to networked printers and those shared off of Macs or print servers. It can find networked printers and give you a list of them if they support Bonjour, Apple's auto-discovery protocol (and quite a few printers do, including many for HP). It can use printers that don't support Bonjour, but you need to enter the printer's IP address. It does support LPR printers and HP JetDirect (usually on port 9100).

PCL, Postscript, and some Epson printers are supported for direct printing (those that are directly on the LAN, not attached to a Mac). Any manufacturer's printer attached to a Mac and shared out will work (as the Mac has the print drivers).

Once you set up a printer, you can then chose from several places to print from. You can print from your Contacts, Photos Albums, web pages (there's a build-in browser), the clipboard (although sometimes things don't get put in the clipboard they way you'd think they would), notes (these notes are taken directly in the program, so they aren't part of Apple's Notes app), and you can create a photo calendar or album of photos to print from those on your device. You can also open attachments from Mail, and you can open your MobileMe iDisk or other WebDav server to get files (Word docs, PDFs, RTF files, graphics) to print. If you device has a camera, you can even take a shot right in the program (which is saved in your camera roll).

You can choose the printer, the paper size, orientation, which pages of a multiple-page document to print, duplex and color (if the printer supports it) – pretty much everything you normally choose on your system. You can even print 2 up if necessary. As you can see above, you'll get a preview of what's to be printed, and you can zoom in on it of you want to see something clearer. The software works on both the iPad (with native screens, no need to use the 2x button), iPhone, and iPod Touch. The printer must be on your network or reachable directly via WiFi (not Bluetooth).

All in all, this is a great piece of software if, like me, you need to print in certain circumstances. And at $2.99, it's not going to break the bank.

The have a free version, ePrint Free (oddly enough). It is severely limited – it lets you print a single page at a time from your camera roll or an attachment, and only to a network-attached printer. It's just there to see if your network printer is compatible (any printer connected to a Mac is, so I'm guessing why that was left off).

I know a lot of you just don't need to print. But adding printing gets the iPad and iPod Touch one step away from needing a computer at all. If you have a WifI printer and an iPad/Touch, you could conceivably get by without a computer (although you'd have no way to back up your iPad/Touch, and if you wanted to upgrade the OS you'd need to head to a friend's house or the Apple store. And there are a few cases where printing, for some people, can come in handy.

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