Print from iOS with Dropbox, IFTTT and Automator

My printer, a Kodak 5250, 1 does not support Apple’s AirPrint and likely never will. That’s too bad, because I’d like to print from my iPhone and iPad. Today I worked up a convoluted work-around with some additional benefits. 2 Best of all, it didn’t cost me a dime.

The idea is to create a folder in Dropbox and attach a Folder Action to it that prints new additions. I use email to populate that folder and thereby trigger print jobs. Here’s how to set it up with IFTTT, Dropbox and Apple’s Automator.

Preparation

To get started, you’ll need an IFTTT account and a Dropbox account. Go to IFTTT.com and GetDropbox.com to sign up. Both are free 3. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to get started.

Dropbox and Automator

The first step is to create a destination folder in Dropbox. I made one called “Print.” Next, create a Folder Action with Automator and attach it to that folder. The action will print any document that’s added to the folder (below). Here’s how to create it.

  1. Launch Automator, which can be found in your Applications folder.
  2. Automator asks you to select a template. Click Folder Action and then click Choose.
  3. Click Utilities in the Action Library on the left and then find Print Finder Items in the next column. Drag it into window on the right.
  4. Choose your destination folder (“Print” in my case) from the drop-down at the top of the window.
  5. Select the printer you’d like to use from the Print To drop-down.
  6. Click Save and you’re done.

Easy, right? To test it out, drop a text file into the folder. If you did it correctly, your printer should spring to life and produce the document. 4. Now, on to the next step: getting stuff into that folder easily from an iPhone or iPad.

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  1. So close.
  2. Printopia is a fine solution and I recommend it. Set it up and it works. But where’s the fun in that?
  3. Dropbox offers 2 GB of storage for free. Additional storage is available for a fee.
  4. Bonus feature: Place an alias to that folder on your desktop for easy drag-and-drop printing.

What to expect from iOS 4.2 on the iPad

Now that iOS 4.2’s arrival is imminent, I’ve decided to review some of the major features and remark on what’s notable about each. Specifically, I want to focus on the four biggies: multitasking, folders, AirPrint and AirPlay. Here’s what we can expect from each under iOS 4.2 on the iPad.

Multitasking

Multitasking on the iPad will operate much as it does on the iPhone. Double-tapping the home button will slide the current screen up to reveal the Multitask Bar and its collection of recently-used, iOS 4-compliant apps. Tap any icon to return to that app in the state you last left it.

Notable about multitasking

First, the Multitask Bar displays 6 icons at a time, up from four on the iPhone. Also, WIRED notes that new brightness and volume sliders have been added as well as an AirPlay button. Now you can control a movie that’s being streamed by AirPlay without abandoning that game of Plants Vs. Zombies.

Additionally, there’s a new animation for switching between apps, which you can watch below (note: the iPad in the video was running iOS Beta 2). Previously, the animation resembled Keynote’s swap transition. The new one is a bit different.

Folders

This feature lets you group related apps into folders for better organization and less swiping. Frankly, I’m rather looking forward to it.

Notable about folders

On the iPad, you’ll be able to store up to 20 apps in a single folder, as opposed to 12 on the iPhone.

This isn’t a feature as far as I know, but I’d like to see swipe-able pages within a folder. For instance, if I’ve got 25 games installed, I could open the folder and then swipe past the first 20 to access games 21-25. It would also be nice to re-order pages while in “jiggle mode” the way we do apps, but now I’m getting ahead of myself.

AirPrint

Here’s another feature I’m anticipating. I say don’t believe the rumors; AirPrint will have you sending files to printers on the same wireless network as the iPad upon release.

Noteable about AirPrint

Expect several apps, including Apple’s own Pages, to require an update to get AirPrint working. Also, AppleInsider reports that AirPrint will allow printers to send messages to iOS devices, like a request for ink or toner.

If I’m wrong and AirPrint has been completely pulled from Mac OS 10.6.5, here are the technical acrobatics you’ll have to endure to get it working again. Or just wait for an official update from Apple. Either way, really.

AirPlay

This hot new feature will let you stream video, photos and music from an iPad to the current-model Apple TV and stream music to AirPlay-enabled speakers, including those connected to an AirPort Express. Next to multitasking, this is the feature I’m most excited about.

Notable about AirPlay

Download Squad reports that YouTube will have AirPlay support under iOS 4.2. Now I can watch those MST3K clips on the big screen. On the developer end, App Advice found that Apple has implemented AirPlay in their MPMedia Framework, which means that any app that uses Apple’s default media player is AirPlay-enabled. Imagine At Bat clips on your TV. I can’t wait.

There’s more of course, like Game Center support, enhanced Mail and enterprise features, accessibility improvements and so on. But these four features are the marquee items. If all goes to plan, this update will send the iPad through the stratosphere and into a whole new level of usefulness.