Air Mail by Google

29 06 2013

Google Cloud Print is an online service that connects your printers to the web. Using Google Cloud Print, you can make your home and work printers available to you and anyone you choose, from the applications you use every day. It works on your phone, tablet, Chrome device, PC, and any other web-connected device you want to print from.

Here is a brief overview of the topics discussed in my series ‘Air Mail by…’ with details about Google’s Cloud Print.

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The service is available through the Google Chrome browser, Google’s mobile apps such as Gmail and Docs, and other supported iOS, Android, Windows and Mac apps. It is also the default printing method on Chromebooks.

When starting a print job e.g. from an iPad data are transmitted from the iPad to a Google server and then to a selected printer over a secure internet connection.

What kind of printers can I print to using Google Cloud Print?

Google Cloud Print can print to Cloud Ready Printers, which connect directly to the web and don’t require a PC to setup. Google Cloud Print can also connect to existing classical printers that are plugged into a Windows, Mac, or Linux computer with Internet access, using the Google Cloud Print Connector in Google Chrome.

How do I connect my printer to Google Cloud Print?

In order to print using the Google Cloud Print service, first connect your printer to the service. Google Cloud Print can print to either a Cloud Ready printer that can connect directly to the Internet or a classical printer that is plugged into a Windows or Mac computer with Internet access.

To connect a Cloud Ready printer to Google Cloud Print, follow the instructions for connecting Cloud Ready printers.
To connect your classic printer, you will need to install Google Chrome on a Mac, Windows, or Linux computer that is connected to your printer. Once installed, enable the Google Cloud Print connector in Google Chrome.

Details of connecting classical printers …

To connect your classic printer, enable the Google Cloud Print connector on any computer that is already connected to your printer and able to print. You’ll need Google Chrome to be installed on the computer.

Once Google Chrome is installed, follow the steps below to enable the Google Cloud Print connector in Google Chrome.

  • Log in to your user account.
  • Open Google Chrome.
  • Click the Chrome menu on the browser toolbar.
  • Select Settings.
  • Click the Show advanced settings link.
  • Scroll down to the “Google Cloud Print” section.
  • Click Sign in to Google Cloud Print.
    In the window that appears, sign in with your Google Account to enable the Google Cloud Print connector.
  • Select the printers you want to connect, and then click Add printer.
    You’ll see a confirmation that Google Cloud Print has been enabled.
    Click Manage your printers to learn more.

    The printer is now associated with your Google Account and connected to Google Cloud Print. You can print to this printer using Google Cloud Print whenever you’re signed in with the same Google Account.

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Limited GCP features on iOS devices …

Unfortunately most of the apps for iOS devices do not support GCP at the time except Google Chrome and Gmail for iOS.
An app that supports GCP is PrintCentral by EuroSmartz but I cannot recommend this app as it has bugs since years and the UI looks a bit playful and is definitely not state-of-the-art.

Examples …

Printing a website

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Printing an E-Mail

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Printing is also available from within the app Gmail for iOS devices.

Sharing a printer …

You can let your friends use any printer you connected to Google Cloud Print, as long as they also have Google Accounts. Follow these steps to manage your printer’s sharing permissions:

  • Visit the Google Cloud Print management page.
  • Click the Printers on the left side.
  • Select the printer that you want to share.
  • Click the Share button.
    When you share printers, you’ll share printer names so choose a descriptive name when setting up your printer for the first time.
  • In the dialog that appears, enter the email address for the person or Google Group you want to share with.
    Click Share.
    Your friend will receive an email notification. To disable sharing, follow the steps above to open the Sharing dialog for the printer and edit the user list.

The security …

Cloud printing always submits documents via an internet connection to the service provider, in this case Google. So security questions have to be assessed.

What you should know is

  • Transmission is encrypted
  • Information about the jobs you send for printing, the documents themselves, and server logs created from each request ate shared with Google
  • Documents themselves are kept strictly confidential on Google servers but only for so long as the print job is not yet completed

Some technical details …

Notifications of waiting jobs are distributed to printers using a persistent XMPP connection. The printer initiates this connection with the Google Talk XMPP servers.

To maintain a persistent XMPP connection Google’s libjingle library can be used. A persistent connection to talk.google.com and subscription to Google Cloud Print notifications is established by sending a subscription stanza to the Google Push Notifications service.

Whenever the printer comes online or receives notification of a waiting job, it uses the Fetch API to grab any available jobs in the queue. The /fetch call takes the printer id (required) as a parameter and returns the list of available jobs in the Queued state. Each job has an id, a title, a status, and two URLs: one for the job ticket (in either XPS or PPD format, determined by the format in which the printer originally registered its capabilities) and one for the job file itself. The file is available in PDF, PWG-raster (March 2011 draft), or in the original format of the document. The document type served is specified via the accept header of the request made to the second URL of the print job: the URL of the job file itself. Not specifying this header will result in a PDF printout.

Summary …

Google Cloud Print is an extremely useful feature but Apple again said ‘NO’ to implementing this feature and only supports it’s own AirPrint feature. AirPrint is designed for using printing functionalities only for devices connected to the same WiFi network. So if you are out of the commonly used network you cannot print documents.
With the above mentioned exceptions no app designed for iOS is GCP capable.

So it’s recommended to use the HP ePrint Service if there is a need to print documents from outside the network to which the printer is connected (see Part (1) of my articles about Air Mail …).

Related links …

Google Cloud Print

Google Cloud Print Support


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