Remote printing via iPhone

The inability to have an iPhone seen as an external drive when wired connected to a Mac is a hindrance. Most solutions involve wirelessly connecting your iPhone and Mac on the same network. One of the best is Air Sharing by Avatron. Its Pro version allows you to see your iPhone as a hard drive and perform file operations such as printing. If you’re working on your own and are confident of always having a shared wireless network connection between your computer and iPhone, Air Sharing Pro may be all that you need.

I inspected DiskAid, which does what it says — you can access your iPhone as an external hard drive while wired connected to iTunes. But on a non-jailbreaked iPhone, you only have access to a file directory within the DCIM folder (where photos are stored). You can’t edit any files transferred to your iPhone via DiskAid, so it’s value is in storing files, not doing anything with them.

But I have a team of work colleagues, and several of us work on the same documents. At our desks, there are several viable solutions — Google Apps, Huddle.net, Box.net, Dropbox, SugarSync.

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Yet we would like to be able to edit our shared documents in the cloud, on the go. So, we need iPhone and Blackberry applications that will give us access and editing powers to these documents.

The offerings begin to narrow quickly. I found none to support editing Huddle.net or SugarSync hosted files, for example. Several did support access to Google Docs and Box.net files, so I focused on these offerings, particularly for Box.net hosted files.

For editing documents on the iPhone, the two major offerings are Documents To Go (DataViz) and Quickoffice.

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What I don’t like about Documents To Go is the need for a Microsoft Exchange server or Gmail account to email documents into/out of your iPhone.

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What I do like about Quickoffice is the straightforward interface to my Box.net files.

Now, some people don’t like the fact that you have to setup a Quickoffice username to add their supported third-party file hosting services — mobile me, Dropbox, Google Docs, and Box.net — but it’s a one-off setup that doesn’t get in the way thereafter.

For editing documents on Blackberries, you’ll want to investigate ExSafe, which is officially supported by Box.net.

And it works: on-the-go editing of your Box.net files via your iPhone or Blackberry, via Quickoffice or ExSafe (respectively).

But what about printing these documents remotely? I’ve only investigated options for the iPhone (Blackberries are much easier to be seen as external hard drive via a USB cable connection, so it’s just a matter of accessing those files directly from your computer.)

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Again, there are several iPhone applications for this, but I easily decided upon Print Central for iPhone, and I’ll tell you why.

It wasn’t because it can send a file directly from your iPhone to any printer connected to a computer on the same wireless network — cool in itself that is.

It is because it can do this even when Wi-Fi is not available, through Print by Proxy. This means that from your iPhone, with no Wi-Fi but some mobile/cellular network connection, you can send your print command using an email address as proxy (a sole-purpose Gmail account is suggested). So long as the printer you’re printing to is connected to the internet somehow, e.g. direct Ethernet cable, your document will come out the other end of the printer.

Why does this matter to me so much? Because I really do have work environments where wireless internet connection is a new and unreliable science, but there is always a mobile network available and Ethernet ports I can plug my laptop into.

Alternatively, I can be out on the road and directly print the required document at the office printer.

But this gets even better.

Remember my work colleagues using Box.net? This setup now means that anyone on the team can access any document and send it to a printer, without having to be at a desktop computer; shared Box.net documents can be printed from your iPhone anywhere in the world with a mobile/cellular network connection.

To achieve this spectacular result, you need to link your Box.net account to Print Central via WebDAV. It’s easy: in Print Central, go to Places; click “+” icon; select WebDAV; Username = Box.net email address, Box.net password, URL = https://www.box.net/dav, Name = up to you. Although Box.net WebDAV access is not officially supported by Box.net, it has proven very reliable access so far.

I neglected to mention that to use Print Central for iPhone for remote printing, you need to install a small desktop application called WePrint (Mac/Windows); it’s part of the Print Central installation procedure. It’s worth it, as it simplifies the otherwise required convoluted network settings to make this all possible.

So there you have it:

1. Box.net (Mac/Windows) for collaboration on shared documents in the cloud
2. Quickoffice (Mac)/ExSafe (Windows) to access and edit Box.net files amongst collaborators, from your iPhone/Blackberry
3. Print Central for iPhone (Mac/Windows) to remotely print (Wi-Fi/3G/EDGE) documents from your iPhone

Result: a team of work collaborators who can edit, share, and print any document anywhere!

One thought on “Remote printing via iPhone

  1. Visit http://www.filereflex.com to provide you the ability to view Microsoft Word (DOC, DOCX), Excel (XLS, XLSX), PowerPoint (PPT, PPTX, PPS, PPSX), and Adobe PDF files on your BlackBerry phone. Mobile Systems indicates that the full-featured version with viewing and editing features will possible be on hand as you read this. In terms of screen layout, you can choose between landscape and portrait views, fit to screen, and full-screen options.

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