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How to print from your smartphone

Here at Komando.com, we've made the argument that a modern tablet can replace your desktop or laptop computer ... in certain cases. For web browsing, Facebook, email, watching videos, reading books and other basic tasks, a tablet, or even a smartphone, works just fine for many people.

Where tablets and smartphones still fall short is when you want to edit photos or videos, type long documents, do any serious gaming, use a large screen or print. Of course, those arguments are getting weaker every year.

Newer and more powerful gadget hardware is getting better at running photo and video editing apps. Third-party Bluetooth keyboards will help you out with typing. Click here to see a great Bluetooth keyboard available in Kim's shop.

Mobile games are getting increasingly complex, and can even link up with some PC or console games. Smartphone screens are topping 5.5 inches and Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 has a 12-inch screen. Apple has an iPad Pro with a 12.9-inch screen as well.

That just leaves printing. Printing from a smartphone or tablet used to be a case of tediously connecting your gadget to a computer, transferring files and then printing from there. Over the years, direct printing from a tablet or smartphone has improved, but it could still be kind of iffy.

Have we now reached the point where it's truly hassle-free? Let's take a look.

Disclaimer: I do know plenty of people who say they're never going to trade their computer for a tablet, and if you're one of them that's fine. I'm one of them, too. However, you might find yourself needing to help a computer-free relative or friend with this exact problem, so it's good to know what's what.

The basics

To print from a tablet or smartphone you need a few things. The first one, obviously, is a tablet or smartphone.

It helps, though if you have a newer model running the latest software from Apple or Google. Older operating systems aren't going to have the range of features or run the necessary apps correctly.

You're also going to need a compatible printer. For computer-less printing, it will need to be wireless so it can connect to your network or, in some cases, the internet. Some printers include Bluetooth, which can work with mobile gadgets as well.

Just getting a wireless printer isn't enough. Both Apple and Google have their own printing systems called AirPrint and Google Cloud Print, respectively. You want your printer to be compatible with these.

Tip within a tip: You don't want to lose image quality when printing your photos out. Our sponsor, Epson, offers a wide range of printers, including the brand new EcoTanks. These printers use tanks instead of cartridges so you won't waste a drop of ink when you print. Click here to learn more about Epson's high-quality printers today.

Of course, most printers' manufacturers now have their own printing app. You install it on your gadget and can use it to print to the printer over a network, or even over the internet. Search the Apple or Google app store for your printer manufacturer to see what is available.

With this many options available, be sure you get a printer that has as many as possible. Even if you only have Apple gadgets right now, for example, you never know if you might switch to Android in the future. You want a printer that also works with Google Cloud Print, or has an Android-compatible app.

Find recent lists of AirPrint compatible printers here and Cloud Print compatible printers here.

What if you already have an older wireless printer that isn't necessarily "compatible"? Before you chuck it, try the app Paper Hammermill (Android, Apple; Free). This can print directly to most wireless printers.

Once you have everything ready to go, it's time to print. Connect your printer to the network and make sure your gadget is also on the same network.

Use Apple AirPrint

To use AirPrint, open an app and select the document or photo you want to print. Then, tap the arrow icon at the bottom of the screen.

This will bring up another menu, where you will select the print icon. Next, you select your printer (you should see your AirPrint-compatible printer automatically) and the number of copies. Then let the printer go to town.

Using Google Cloud Print

To use Google Cloud Print, the printer needs to be connected to the network. If it's a "Cloud Ready" printer it will register itself with Google's Cloud Print service automatically. You can also follow Google's instructions for setting up compatible printers.

Then grab the Google Cloud Print app from the Play Store. There are a number of apps and programs that work with Cloud Print, and they have varying features, but this is the official Google one.

Once it's installed, tap to enable it and will find any networks on your printer automatically. If you have any printers linked to your Google account, you can print to those as well over the internet.

Open the Android app and then the file you want to print. In Android 4.4 and higher, tap the Options icon (it looks like three vertical dots) and select Print. Choose your printer and you're done. You can also choose to "print" the file to your Google Drive.

For Android 4.3 and earlier, open the Android app and tap the Share icon (it looks like a sideways pyramid) and select Google Cloud Print.

Using a third-party app

Third-party apps are going to work a little differently. Some of them have you select the file you want to print from inside the third-party app. Others let you use the "Share" button in an app to send the file to the printer. Check the instructions for your third-party app of choice to find out exactly how it works.

Alternatives to home printing

Printing to your own printer at home is nice, but if you don't print much then setting all this up could be an unneeded hassle.

When it comes to photo printing, major stores around you like Walgreens, Target, Walmart and others will print photos right from your phone. Some stores, like Walgreens, let you order photos from the app and then pick them up later. There are also third-party apps that can do this.

Or you can visit online services like Snapfish and Shutterfly that also let you upload photos and order prints.

Alternatives to printing in general

Before you decide to print something, it's a good idea to ask if it really needs to be in paper form. Google Cloud Print lets you "print" files to your Google Drive account where you can share them with people.

AirPrint lets you "print" files to PDF, which you can then email or share online. The beauty of digital files is you can organize them, share them and not lose them as easily, while still saving money on paper and ink.

If you must print something, here are five ways to stop wasting printer ink and money.

More tips you can't miss:

The truth about extended warranties

How to do a Deep Web search and why you should

Save money with these budget-friendly tech alternatives

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