a. Bluetooth – Use the setup disk and select Bluetooth connection.
b. Infrared (IrDA) – Not seen much, requires special software.
1. Network/Access Point: Any Wi-Fi device (including a printer) can support one (or even more) of three different Wi-Fi “modes” (ad hoc, infrastructure and Wi-Fi Direct). Most common is infrastructure mode, usually set by most routers and therefore every other Wi-Fi device (and virtually all Wi-Fi printers) will also be set to this mode as well.
Fiirst, set up the printer: Since the network should already be set up, there are only two steps to setting up the printer: Establishing the Wi-Fi connection between the printer and the network and then installing the driver so it knows how to send the print jobs to the printer.
In order to do this, you should know beforehand the network’s SSID (name), any password and the correct security protocol (WEP, WPA or WPA2). Less likely, but still important, items are whether DHCP is enabled, meaning that IP addresses are automatically (vs. manually) assigned and that the hardware isn’t set to connect to devices with specific MAC addresses, otherwise you’ll have to enter the printer’s MAC address before installation. You must install the printer driver on the computer connected to the wireless printer, usually using the installation disk that came with the printer, The fact that the printer may previously have been connected with the USB driver doesn’t matter, you must re-install using the wireless driver.
Next, install the software driver on the mobile device: Normally, the printer’s LED/LCD front panel will tell you the name and password for the wireless printer, so that you can detect it on your wireless mobile device(s). Open up a document or e-mail, then click on the Print command from the right top drop-down menu and see if the device locates your printer. If it prints, fine. If not, you may have to download an app to connect to your printer, usually from the printer’s manufacturer. (For more about this, see below).
2. Direct to Printer (no computer attached to printer): Say you just want to walk into your home and print an e-mail from your phone or tablet without firing up the laptop or desktop computer or turned on:
(a) Wi-Fi Direct: If available on your printer, this is much easier and also allows the connection of two devices even if only one supports Wi-Fi Direct. Basically, select the WFD icon at the bottom or the printer’s panel or the desktop software, then pick the printer from a list of available networks and enter the password for the printer. Then the standard installation for the driver is installed and the correct printer is confirmed to be connected.
(b) Ad Hoc Network: For printers without Wi-Fi Direct, you can still sometimes connect using an ad hoc network in the same way as connecting to an access point, discussed above. But you will have to specifically set up an ad hoc network first if you don’t have one.
3. Smart Phone/Tablet: This isn’t nearly as easy as you might think it should be. This is because not every printer manufacturer or printer model offers a printing app for any given phone or tablet. Moreover, even if you can find the right app, it may not connect your mobile device directly to the printer. You may have to connect both the printer and the phone or tablet to an access point, then print that way. Or use a cloud based utility or printer sharing utility installed on the smart phone.
(a) Apple phones/tablets use software called AirPrint, which connects iOS devices to more than 1,100 compatible printers when both devices are connected to a Wi-Fi network. To print from a supported app (again, not all apps are supported for Wi-Fi printing), you simply have to select Print, choose the printer from the list of available printers, set your features (options) and click Print.
(b) Android phones/tablets: Unfortunately, USB, Windows network and Bluetooth are unsupported by Android. However, the Mopria Print Service app as well as an increasing number of printers from printer manufacturers certified by the Mopria Alliance contain procedures for connection directly between the mobile devices and the printer. There are also third-party apps available for this purpose. PrinterShare is a common app that can print to Windows network, Bluetooth or USB printers (via a USB OTG cable) share printers, but you’ll have to pay for the privilege, about $13 for the premium version. [Personally, I’d opt for free Google Cloud Print, see below.]
(c) NFC (“Near Field Connection”): This feature enables printing by touching a phone/tablet to a specific place on a compatible printer. Many Android phones offer NFC capability but most iPhones don’t yet (although the iPhone 6 has NFC, it still doesn’t support printing yet). Many printer panels (system trays) offer an icon for NFC printing.
d. Cloud printing: If you have a Google account, for example, you can connect to Google Cloud Print either by activating Google Cloud Print support in Google Chrome or directly via a Cloud Print – enabled printer. To print, simply tap the Share button and select Cloud Print, then select the printer. The good news is that, because this is cloud printing, you can print to any Cloud Printer (home, office, friend’s house, wherever) no matter where it is located. Various manufacturers (like HP) have their own apps for cloud printing, as well.
e. Print to PDF: This is a little different from cloud printing, above, although it still uses the Share feature. Essentially, you are archiving whatever you want to print from your phone or tablet to a PDF file which you can access later from anywhere (as it’s stored in Google Drive). You can then print from somewhere else when you access the archived file from another device where a printer is available.
f. Print to e-mail: Some manufacturers (like HP) have apps that print to e-mail, which is sent to a recipient or yourself which may have a printer at the receipt location. Not always what you may be looking for as a wireless solution, but an excellent last resort.
g. Manufacturer’s Software: Many printer manufacturers have their own software to connect to their brand of wireless printers. For example, HPePrint, Android, Epson iPrint, Canon Easy-Photo Print and Samsung Mobile Print. You can search Google Play for more manufacturers’ apps. Each app has its own installation features and options, some much better than others. But Google Cloud Print works better for its enabled printers, and the manufacturers’ apps don’t always play as well.
NOTE: Over the course of setting up the mobile wireless printing apps, I’ve noticed that sometimes you must switch Wi-Fi networks to reach the printer’s broadcast network, but that means that if you’re trying to print off of an internet app, you won’t be able to do so, as your internet Wi-Fi connection will be lost when you connect with the printer’s Wi-Fi network.