Apple last week released iOS 4.2 for the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad. Among the included features is AirPrint, the ability to print from these devices to a network printer. Unfortunately, as released, AirPrint only recognizes 11 printers in the world, and yours (probably) isn’t one of them.

For a list of the compatible printers, you can look here.

Offering this feature in such a limited way seemed a bit lame by Apple’s standards so I thought there had to be more to it. It turns out that the ability to print to most printers was included during the development of OS X 10.6.5, but removed just before release. Although it’s unclear why, the speculation was some intellectual property conflict.

Fortunately, there are workarounds that will probably work with your printer. One is easy, but has be paid for. The other requires a few more steps but is free. I’ll review both, but even if you opt for the former, take a look at the steps for the latter as I include a suggestion for adding a PDF printer to your Mac, something that might help you in other ways.


Printopia is an app that you install on your Mac that will make any printer connected to that Mac visible to your iDevice. It will also set up a virtual PDF printer that will let you print to a PDF on your Mac rather than directly to the printer, and, if you use DropBox, will let you print to your virtual folder so you can access the PDF’s from anywhere.

I have not tried this myself, but their description makes it seems simple and complete, and, at $9.99, pretty inexpensive. They also offer a 7-day demo so you can see for yourself if it’s worth it.

The Long Way

Feel like doing it yourself? There’s a solution for that too. As I mentioned, Apple removed the ability to print to any connected printer just before shipping OS X 10.6.5, but it turns out that just three files, deep in the heart of the OS, need to be replaced with their cousins from the development versions. Normally, I wouldn’t recommend this, except that someone made it way too easy. AirPrint Hacktivator will restore the functionality in OS X 10.6.5 by replacing the files behind the scenes (and reverse the process too, if needed), making it possible for your iDevice to see any shared printer.

Here are some requirements for AirPrint Hacktivator: You must be running MacOS X 10.6.5 and iTunes 10.1. You must turn on printer sharing in the System Preferences and share the printers you want to access. Because printing takes place through your Mac, the computer must be on (not asleep, but on) when you want to print. If you can meet all of those requirements, read on.

Here are the steps:

  1. Download and install AirPrint Hacktivator.
  2. Go to your System Preferences -> Sharing and turn on Printer Sharing.
  3. Go to System Preferences -> Print & Fax and delete any printers you want to access from your iDevice.
  4. Re-add those printers and make sure sharing is turned on for each one.

When you try to print from an iDevice that’s connected to your WiFi, the shared printers will show up as options.

Print To PDF

There might be times when you want to print directly to a PDF from your Mac. Sure, you can do that now through the Print dialog by using “Save As PDF”, but there is an advantage at times of being able to select PDF as the actual printer. There is one less step, and you can print in batches. Throw in the added benefit of being able to print to a PDF from your iDevice, and you might want to install CUPS-PDF, a free PDF printer driver.

The download link is here and the instructions for installation are here. After you’ve added the printer as described, be sure to turn on sharing for it and it will be accessible to your iDevice too.

[Written by Kem Tekinay]