How to print from Android with an app or Google Cloud Print, and a compatible printer

You can carry the entire Internet in your pocket, but you still sometimes need to put something on paper.

Patricia Dougherty asked “How can I print from my RCA Android tablet?”

There’s no perfect way to print from an Android phone or tablet. Every method available has limitations. You’ll need the right printer. Or a PC. Or one specific app that must be able to work with another specific app.

But it can be done. Here are two approaches.

[Have a tech question? Ask PCWorld Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector. Send your query to answer@pcworld.com.]

Printing directly

If your printer supports Wi-Fi, and is set up to use your home Wi-Fi network, there’s a very good chance you can print to it directly (assuming you’re at home). It all depends on whether there’s an app for your particular printer.

I have a Brother printer set up on my network, so I searched the Play Store for brother. I found two workable, but very different apps. You might find similar options for your printer.

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The Brother Print Service Plugin doesn’t really have a user interface. Once it’s installed, it brings up a setting page where you turn it on and select your printer. After that, you can make changes in Settings. The apps that support the Plugin (there aren’t many, but they include Chrome, Gmail, and Photos) will now show a Print option in their menus.

Brother iPrint&Scan is a full-blown app, and it works as an enclosed system. To print anything, you open iPrint&Scan, and use the app’s user interface to find and print your desired file.

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Printing through your computer

If you can’t get your printer on Wi-Fi, try Google Cloud Print. Google developed this method of sending the print job over the Internet. Google Cloud Print can send jobs directly to a Google-certified "Cloud Ready" printer, which can connect directly to the web. For a "classic" printer designed to connect to a PC, Google Cloud Print can route the job through your Internet-connected PC to the installed printer. If you PC is off when you print from your Android device, the file will print soon after you boot your PC and connect to the web.

You’ll need Chrome on the PC, and a Google account (a Gmail or Youtube account will do). You’ll also, of course, need to be able to print from the PC to the printer.

To set up Google’s Cloud Print technology on the PC, go to Chrome, click the menu icon in the upper-right corner and select Settings. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click Show advanced settings. Scroll down to Google Cloud Print. Click the Manage button.

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In the resulting page, click Add printers under “Classic printers.” Make sure your desired printer is checked. Preferably make it the only one that is.   

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You’ll also need a Cloud Print app on your phone or tablet. You can find several of them at Google’s Cloud Print App page. I recommend Paulo Fernandes’ Cloud Print Plus.

When you first open Cloud Print Plus, you’ll get an option to select a printer. If your printer isn’t there, tap the three-dot menu in the upper-right corner and select Refresh printers.

To print a file, open it in its appropriate app, tap the Share icon, and select Cloud Print.

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