Print Magic for IPhone

The objective of Print Magic is simple: print from your iPhone to one of your network's printers. The idea behind this $7 app from Wellala is just ambitious enough: print, one at a time, text or graphics that have been copied from another app, or Web pages, or photos. And though it's hard to be sure where the "magic" comes in, it may be in the fact that this app, unlike others that enable you to print from the iPhone, does not require any server software to be installed on a standalone Mac.

Print Magic does all of these things. The one thing you have to do on your Mac is make sure that Printer Sharing is enabled via the Sharing panel in System Preferences. Then you install the app on your iPhone (and you subsequently reboot your iPhone, per the instructions, and wait for about 30 seconds). At that point, the app can print to any printers you have on your network. In my case, Print Magic quickly recognized both my Brother HL-2140 laser printer and my Epson Stylus CX9400Fax inkjet, which are joined to my home network via a MacBook running Snow Leopard.

Using Print Magic on the iPhone is also relatively simple, in part because you have few options. You can copy a URL from Safari (or any other app, for that matter). You then quit Safari, and open Print Magic. Almost immediately the Web page associated with the URL begins loading into Print Magic. The app does not have its own built-in browser, but it does a very good job of rendering Web pages as they look in Safari, and displaying them either in portrait or landscape mode. You tap the print icon, and within a few seconds, your printer is humming away.

Unfortunately, what you're printer is humming away at isn't always what you might think. Although Print Magic provides seven print size options (letter, A4, legal, etc.), I stuck with the default letter size. And using that default, some strange things happened with Web pages. One consistent problem was that it only used a 4-by-7-inch area of the paper, leaving wide margins all around. Documents longer than a few pages often printed out of order; you'll have your entire document, but will need to piece it together in the correct order using sometimes difficult guesswork. (There is no page numbering.) In one case, Print Magic displayed a blog post correctly on the iPhone screen, then proceeded to print dozens of copies of the first page before I manually halted the printer. My inner environmentalist (and outer cheapskate) cringed at the waste of toner and paper.

What Print Magic does do consistently well is print photos (you can select photos that are in your iPhone's Photo app from within Print Magic), and it also does a terrific job of printing copied text. Although the rendering is in 12-point Courier and the formatting is limited to paragraph breaks, the results are quick and very readable. The same blog post which caused the endless printing nightmare described above turned out to be just fine when I decided to print it out by simply copying the entire page from within Safari, and then opened Print Magic to view the text (plain, but readable), and print it.

I've previously reviewed Print n Share. That's an app that also enables you to print from your iPhone, and like Print Magic, it costs $7. It's an app that's a bit more complex than Print Magic but can do much more, and do it consistently. It's a major league app. Print Magic has a lot of promise, but it commits too many unpredictable errors at this point to rise out of the minor league ranks of apps. You'll want to wait for subsequent updates to see if Print Magic lives up to its potential.

[Jeff Merron is a freelance writer and editor living in North Carolina.]

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