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Setup Google Cloud Print on Your PC

If there’s one major problem traditionally with mobile devices, it’s printing. For the most part, you can’t print data from your smartphone without copying it to your computer and then printing it there. iOS 4.2 has made it much simpler with AirPrint, but it still only works with specific printers or special software on your computer. Plus, printing from Gmail or Google Docs on your iPhone will still look odd as the iOS printout will include your mobile web interface.

Today Google launched a new beta service, Cloud Print, that aims to make mobile printing simpler. Once you set it up on your home computer, you can print from Gmail Mobile or Google Docs on your smartphone, tablet, or Chrome OS netbook. Let’s see how to setup Cloud Print so you can print emails and more on the go.

Need Some Chrome?


First, you need to be running the current beta version of Google Chrome for Windows, which should be version 9.0.587 or greater. Cloud Print currently doesn’t work on OS X or Linux, though Google promises support for them in the near future. If you’re using another browser or the current release of Chrome, you’ll need to download and install the beta version which you can get from the Cloud Print site.

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Setup will only take a few minutes, and if you were already using the standard version of Chrome, all of your settings, bookmarks, and more will still be there after you upgrade. If you were using Chrome to download the new beta, you’ll need to exit and reopen it before the changes will appear.

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Add Cloud Print to Your Google Account


Got the latest beta installed? Now you’re ready to activate Cloud Print. Click the gear button and select Options to enable Cloud Print.

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Select the Under the Hood tab, then scroll down to the bottom and click Sign in to Google Cloud Print.

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Login with your standard Google account, and make sure to use the one you normally use with Gmail and Google Docs. You’ll only be able to share your printers with one account, so for now you’ll have to choose which account is most important to you if you have multiple accounts. Also, do note that Cloud Print is not yet enabled on Google Apps for Domains accounts.

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Seconds later, you should see a Success! message letting you know that your printers have been enabled with Cloud Print. If you’d like to make sure everything works, click Print a test page or browse to the Google Cloud Print test site to test it directly from your PC.sshot-2011-01-25-[23]

Click the Print a test page button, then select your printer from the list and click print. You should see every printer that’s installed on your computer, including network printers and virtual printers such as the software Fax printer and PDF printers. After a few moments, you should see your document printing out (or the virtual printer dialog opening on your computer if you selected a PDF or other virtual printer).

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Amazingly enough, you can even select from a number of printer options in Cloud Print. Select the printer you want to use, the click Advanced options to see all of the extra settings.

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If it doesn’t work, or you can’t see your printers listed, wait a few moments to make sure Google’s had time to authenticate your account and display your printers. Otherwise, you may need to add an exception for Chrome to your firewall so it can access your printers; it shouldn’t be necessary, but was the only way I could enable it on one computer. There have been some reports of Cloud Print not working, and it took several minutes to work the first time I tried it. Please share your experiences with Cloud Print in the comments, and hopefully we’ll all be able to help each other get Cloud Printing running smoothly on everyone’s computers.

Printing From Your Mobile Device


Ready to print from Gmail or Google Docs mobile? Just open a message or document on your iPhone, iPod Touch, or Android browser as normal. You can’t print with Cloud Print directly from any apps at the moment, so you’ll have to use the online Gmail interface in your mobile browser. Now tap the arrow at the top to open the menu in Gmail or Docs, then select the new Print option.

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If you’re using an iPad or Android tablet, you’ll be able to print from the Gmail touch interface, too. And, if your message includes a .doc or .pdf attachment you’d like to print, you can select and print it as well.

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Now just select your printer as you did from your PC with the test page. Seconds later, you’ll see a notification that your print job has been sent to your printer. If your computer is turned off when you print from your mobile device, don’t worry … Google will just cache the print job and automatically print it the next time you turn on your computer.

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Checkup on What You’ve Printed


Google keeps a record of your print jobs and printers on your Google account. If you ever want to see what has been printed or documents that are pending to print, you can login to your account at Google.com/cloudprint. If you don’t want to see a printer or completed print job listed, or want to delete a print job before it prints, just over over the entry, click the Actions link, then select Delete.sshot-2011-01-25-[44]

For now, Cloud Print is only very useful if you find yourself needing to print emails and docs from Gmail and Google Docs often. In the near future, though, Cloud Print will be incorporated deeper with Chrome OS and will likely be made a native part of Android. It’d be very neat if Google opens up an API so developers can add Cloud Print to any app. If and when that happens, well, I guess the “sky’s the limit” for mobile printing, too!

Get stuck and need help with Cloud Print? Check out Google’s Cloud Print Help Site, or leave a question in the comments here!

Thoughts? @reply me on Twitter or App.net