If you haven’t heard of Google Cloud Print, this is not surprising. Despite the fact that it has been around since 2011, it has not been widely adopted. However, this may change over the next year or so. Unlike some Google services that shut down during spring cleaning, more and more features are being added to Google Cloud Print.
So first of all, what is Google Cloud Print? Basically, it is a way for users to connect their printers (wired or wireless) to the Internet and be able to print from any device (Internet, desktop, mobile) from anywhere in the world. What’s great about Google Cloud Print is that you can print from the device without having to install any printer drivers on the system. This can save a ton of time and energy.
For example, if you bought a new Windows PC and connected it to your network, you will usually have to find drivers for your current printers, download the software, and follow all the steps to install it on that PC. Now, this alone takes time and usually a lot of troubleshooting steps and also slows down your system due to the many additional printer software / tools you don’t need. From now on I will refer to it as GCP.
With GCP, you simply install the Google Cloud Print driver on your Windows computer, and now you can print from any program directly to any printer added to GCP. So is GCP the greatest in the world? Well, there are a few caveats and limitations, which I will explain below.
Where can I print?
GCP sounds great, but you may ask, where can I print from? Well, that’s where GCP made a big leap in the past year. At first, you could only print from Chrome OS, Google Chrome on any platform, and Gmail and Google Docs on your mobile. The first addition to this list is the Cloud Print app on the Google Play store for Android devices.
With this app, users can print various local files directly to GCP, including SMS chats, images, Facebook, Dropbox, Box, Mail and more. Users can also manage printers, share printers, manage print jobs, and more from the application. There is no Cloud Print app in the Apple App Store at this time, but given Google’s long track record of delivering Google apps for iOS devices, there is a good chance we will soon see Cloud Print hitting iPhones and iPads.
On July 23, 2013, Google actually made GCP a lot more useful by introducing the Google Cloud Print driver. You can install it on any Windows computer, and it will allow you to select Google Cloud Print when printing from any Windows application.
They also released Google Cloud Print service in addition to the printer driver. The Cloud Print Service will run as a Windows service and can be used to connect older legacy printers to the GCP. The print service is more focused on businesses and schools.
Finally, there is a small list of applications that work with GCP and allow you to print from them. For example, on iOS, you can download PrintCentral Pro, which will allow you to print emails, contacts, text messages, and more from an iOS device to GCP. Google hasn’t released a printer driver for Mac at this time, but you can download the Cloud Printer app that does the same.
Now that you understand where you can print from at the moment, let’s take a look at connecting printers to GCP.
Cloud-ready versus classic printers
The main thing to understand in GCP is how you connect printers to a real service. There are two types of printers in the GCP world: Cloud Ready and Classic Printers. Cloud-enabled printers are printers that come with GCP installed and configured. This is by far the best way to use GCP as the printer will actually register with the GCP service on your network and will always be available for printing.
Another great feature of cloud-ready printers is that they automatically update their firmware and drivers over the Internet, so you don’t even need to worry about it. Unfortunately, there are not many printers yet that support GCP. You can see the full list of cloud-ready printers here:
If you have one of the listed printers, you can click the link provided to configure it using GCP. You just need to register your Google email address with GCP on the printer.
Next come the classic printers. Classic printers are what most people will use when setting up GCP. Classic printers are either printers that are directly connected to your computer via a cable, or wireless printers installed on your device. Any printer that you can print to from your computer can be added to the GCP regardless of how it is connected.
The main difference between a cloud-enabled printer and a classic printer is that in order to print to any classic printers, the computer where the printers are installed must be turned on and you must be logged into Google Chrome. If you shut down your computer or quit Chrome and try to print to GCP, the print job will simply be added to the print queue. When your computer turns on again and you log into Chrome, your print job will print.
Add a classic printer
Adding a classic printer to GCP is pretty easy. First, go to the computer that already has printers installed and open Chrome. Then click the Chrome menu button (three horizontal lines) and select Settings.
Scroll down and click Show advanced settings. Scroll down a little more until you see Google Cloud Print.
Go ahead and click the Add Printers button and a pop-up window will appear listing the installed printers.
You can also choose to automatically register new printers when they are connected to your computer. That’s all it takes to add printers to GCP. You will now be taken to the GCP Management Console, where you should see a list of your printers.
Download files for printing
In addition to the various printing methods mentioned above, you also have the option to upload a file directly to GCP and print it. So, for example, if you are on a Mac and want to print a PDF, image, Word document, or whatever, you can simply download it. Log in to the GCP Console, click PRINT, and then click Upload File to Print.
I downloaded the Excel file and it printed out fine. As far as I can tell, it looks like you can print any file. I was even able to print the Adobe Photoshop file. I haven’t managed to NOT print anything yet, so that’s great.
One of the great features of GCP is the ability to share your printer with someone else who has a Google account. This should be one of the best GCP features. My parents came to town last week and needed to print a boarding pass for their return flight. They usually just use my computer and print it from there, but this time I decided to give GCP a little test.
I went to the GCP console, selected a printer, and clicked Share.
Then I just entered my email address and selected the print permission.
On her Google account, she received an email with a link to add a printer.
She clicked the link and then had to click Accept to add my printer to her Google Cloud Print account.
And that was literally everything! Then she just printed the boarding pass from Chrome and selected my printer. It was printed in two seconds and you’re done. No need to use my computer, no need to download printer drivers to her computer. Just submit the link, click on it and print! Next time someone comes to you and needs to print and you don’t want them on your computer, use GCP if they have a Google account! For the first time in a long time, I was impressed that something worked so well and efficiently.
Using Google Cloud Print, you can also consolidate all your printers in one place. For example, if you have a wireless printer installed on one computer, but the second printer is cabled to the second, you can add both printers to Google Cloud Print and print to print from any computer or any mobile device.
Alternatively, you can print any file on Google Drive or directly from the FedEx office. The ability to save to Google Drive makes GCP feel like Evernote. You can print a web page for later viewing directly from Google Drive.
Overall, Google Cloud Print has gotten a lot more useful over the year. Google will continue to add additional features to GCP that will make it a great way for consumers to print easily from anywhere and on any device. Enjoy!