Want to print an email you received on your iPad? How about a photo you snapped with your iPhone? Or a document you just downloaded from Dropbox?
Apple's AirPrint technology promises to make that easy -- but only if your printer has the support built in. What about all the models that don't? Do you really have to buy a new printer just to enjoy this capability?
Nope. You can solve this hassle with a $20 bill. Collobos FingerPrint 2.1 is a Windows utility (also available for Mac) that lets your iDevice print wirelessly to just about any printer.
There's no app involved here, only the FingerPrint software. Once installed, it discovers all the printers on your PC (including those connected to your network) and makes them available to any iOS device.
Thus, if you want to print, say, a photo, you just pull it up in the Photos app, tap the Print option, then choose the printer you want to use and the number of copies you want to print.
I've been using an earlier version of FingerPrint on my system for some time, and it works like a charm. Although the developer doesn't guarantee compatibility with all printers, I was able to get it working with four different models -- including an old HP Photosmart 475 (one of those "lunchbox" photo printers).
The just-released 2.1-version of FingerPrint adds support for Windows 8, Mac OS X 10.6-10.8, and iOS 6. It also lets you create virtual printers for services like Evernote and Dropbox, meaning you can "print" documents, photos, and the like directly to your accounts.
I think my only complaint with FingerPrint is its $19.95 price tag. (There's a trial version, thankfully.) That's cheaper than a new printer, sure, but still a bit steep for what is essentially a simple print server. On the other hand, it quickly and easily solves a major hassle with iDevice printing, and that's worth something.
Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at firstname.lastname@example.org, or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PC World Community Forums. Sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.