How to turn your Mac into an internet printer, and print from anywhere

Picture this scenario: You’ve multiple computers at your office
and only one of them (which is a Mac) is connected to the
printer. Every time you need to print a document stored on
these “other” computers, you have to manually transfer the file
to the Mac and start the printing process from there. Wouldn’t
it be super-convenient if you could just send a document
wirelessly and instantly initiate the process of printing files
remotely?

Today, I’ll show you how to break apart from
this hassle and easily print files remotely from any computer
using a combination of Dropbox and Automator.

Set up remote printing

Essentially, we’ll be using a Dropbox folder where anybody can
copy files to be printed and then have the Mac sync this
folder. Next, we’ll be using an Automator workflow to print out
all the documents found in this folder in real-time. Here’s how
to get started:

set-up-remote-printThis
Automator workflow monitors for files in the specified Dropbox
folder and prints them out.
Photo: Cult of Mac

  • First of all, create a folder called Print
    inside your Dropbox.
  • Open Automator, select Folder Action and
    click Choose.
  • Under Folder Action receives files and folders
    added to
    , select
    the Print folder.
  • In the left-hand sidebar, search for Print Finder
    items
    and drag the selection onto the right-hand side
    window to start building your workflow. Here, select
    a printer from the drop-down menu. If you’ve multiple
    printers connected to the Mac, select the appropriate one from
    the drop-down menu.
  • Save the workflow as “Print files.”


Once you’ve
set up the workflow, let’s see how you can start using this
remote print service.

How to Print From Windows, macOS, Linux, Android

Print Files Remotely on a MacSimply drag and drop the files to be printed into the
Dropbox folder.
Photo: Cult of Mac


Initiating a print job is fairly
straightforward on these aforementioned platforms as they
provide direct access to the file system. To initiate the
printing process, you can just copy the file to
the Print Dropbox folder and Automator
will automatically print out that document as soon as the
Dropbox folder is synced with your Mac.

You
can copy the files to the Dropbox folder pretty much on any
platform — as long as it provides access to the file
system.

How to Print From an iPhone/iPad


The
iDevices don’t ship with a native interface to access the file
system, so how do you copy the files to the Dropbox folder from
an iPhone/iPad? Luckily, there are a number of workarounds
you can use to get around this:

1. Using a File Manager

Import to DropboxImport the
file to Dropbox using the share extension
Photo: Cult of Mac


 

The first workaround is to download a free file manager app
like File Manager. Using a file manager app, you
can browse through the local storage and easily export the
required file to Dropbox using the
iOS share extension
. Of course, you’ll need the Dropbox app
to be installed on your iPhone/iPad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Upload to iCloud Drive

Import to iCloud DriveImport
the file to iCloud Drive
Photo: Cult of Mac

The second workaround you can use is to upload the file to
iCloud Drive. For the uninitiated,
iCloud Drive
is Apple’s take on cloud storage that offers 5
GB of free storage. To upload the file, simply open Dropbox on
your iPhone/iPad, tap on the upload icon and select the file to
upload. Alternatively, you can also upload the file directly
from the iCloud Drive app.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Upload to Dropbox Using
Email

Upload to Dropbox Using EmailConnect Your Dropbox Account to Send to Dropbox
to Upload via Email
Photo: Cult of Mac

The last workaround is to upload files to Dropbox using email.
While Dropbox doesn’t officially support uploading files via
email, there are certain third-party services that can help
accomplish this.

One such free service I’ve used personally is Send to Dropbox. Once you connect
your Dropbox account to the service, it’ll assign you a unique
email address. It goes without saying that you should keep this
email address private. Here on, you can upload the file as an
attachment and send it to your secret email address.

The file should be automatically added by default to the
apps/attachments inside the main Dropbox folder
within a few seconds. While this service has had some hiccups
in the past, the developer has been quite prompt in fixing the
issues. Also, if you’re using this workaround, make sure to
update the folder location in the Automator workflow.

Using these simple steps, you can print files remotely from
a printer connected to the Mac using any computer or a
mobile device. Perhaps the best part is that you can start a
print job from any remote device, without requiring them to be
on the same network.

Of course, we’re only scratching the surface of automation and
we will be covering a lot more of such automation tricks in the
future. Meanwhile, If you’ve got another
cool Automator workflows
that help you save time and stay
productive, I’d love to hear about it in the comments section
below.




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