FingerPrint: easily print from your iPhone or iPad to network printers and USB photo printers, even if they're not AirPrint compatible, new Windows version now installs as a service

Posted Oct 15th, 2011 (updated on May 2nd, 2014) in
  • Home Server
  • iPad
  • iPhone
  • Mac
  • Mobile
  • Virtualization
  • Windows
  • Update: Friday, July 12, 2013.
    Unfortunately, buy-it-once FingerPrint is no longer sold, replaced by Presto, which I haven't tested, but is reviewed by The Wall Street Journal here. This article kept for archival purposes only.


    Update: Sunday, September 23, 2012.
    New version 2.1 released, read newer article at tinkertry.com/fingerprint-2-1-runs-on-windows-8-and-windows-server-2012

    Update: Saturday, February 11, 2012.
    New version 1.2.0.278 released
    If you use Dropbox, don't forget to go into FingerPrint preferences, and specify your Dropbox folder, then you'll be able to "print" to Dropbox too!

    FingerPrint1.2.0.278
    dropbox-333a361f281ada5984f25446e6bb0c1f

    Update: Monday, January 30, 2012.
    Printing from any iOS 5.0 device (iPad, iPhone) to non-AirPrint printers is now even easier.
    You heard it here on Tinkertry.com first, read the Collobos Software Press Release:

    Thanks for your support of Collobos! FingerPrint as a service is now OFFICIALLY available for Windows. We are really excited about it and have even more cool stuff in the pipeline!!
    Best, Lanny, CMO
    www.collobos.com

    Tinkertry.com is now able to offer affiliate links to secure Collobus site, no discount codes required:

    PC:

    buy_button_11

    Mac:

    buy_button_11

    Given Collobos' apparent success with this product, it wouldn't be surprising if their pricing increased soon, so consider yourself warned.

    img_5044-8afcae88c3b6d27065e3c73951dfa6fc

    The list of Apple's natively supported AirPrint compatible printers is rather short, seen at iOS: AirPrint 101, where it also mentions that "AirPrint only works with a network connection to an AirPrint-capable printer. A printer connected to the USB port of your Mac, PC, AirPort Base Station, or Time Capsule is not supported." Like many others, I'm not particularly interested in buying new printers. Just install FingerPrint on PC or Mac, ideally on an always-on system or VM, then you or anybody on your network can then easily print from any iOS 4.2-or-later device (iPad and iPhone).

    What could FingerPrint running as a Windows service mean, to you? Well, it's even easier to print from your iOS devices, helping many folks avoid the wasteful need to buy an AirPrint printer, especially if you already have printers you're happy with. My family has already enjoyed using networked printers and USB printers in my home for years. Since October 2011, any iPhone or iPad on my network can use native iOS functionality, to print to those same old printers, without needing any 3rd party Apps on the iPad/iPhone. This is exactly what I wanted, and training others takes about 5 seconds.

    See also the first post at ipadhelp.com about FingerPrint actually working on iOS 5.0, and a good TUAW article here.

    Here's some more benefits, based on some testing I did with tinkertry.com/vzilla (quickly testing 6 operating systems running concurrently, even though vZilla currently has just 16GB of RAM)

    FingerPrint for Windows:

    • now runs on PCs meant to run 24x7, such as backup servers, without having to be logged in
    • now you can be sure this program is always running, even after overnight automatic patch reboots, or after a power interruptions
    • works in a virtual machine just fine (networked printers, and even USB printers)
    • works on Windows XP, Vista, 7 (32 bit and 64 bit)
    • works on Mac OS X (10.5 - 10.7)
    • works on Windows Home Server v1, and all versions based on Windows 2008 R2, see test matrix below
    • once licensed, stays out of your way at boot time, so no boot-slowing splash screens
    • use the trial edition to be sure it works with your printer
    • No special apps needed on iOS devices, just select the Print option, it's crazy easy (see screenshots above), and fast (4x6 photos printed in same 40 seconds as with a PC)

    Why would this site, which is mostly about virtualization and running efficient servers in your home, make this announcement? Well, the FingerPrint article is one of my top 10 read articles, ever, and it keeps growing, which is rather unusual. And because I now have a vZilla, that makes short work of testing such an app, on 6 different operating systems, moving the "virtual" USB cable from VM to VM as I went, as seen in the video below.

    But it's also because I had signed up for the beta, and Collobos listened. Like many others, I suggested FingerPrint be easily installed as a service, while keeping the same simple UI. I also encouraged Collobos to test FingerPrint with home server operating systems, which are a very large part of what I do write about.

    What particularly impressed me was what happened next. Not only did Collobos take me up on that suggestion, but I personally worked together with one of their developers on beta testing on a variety of systems, including server operating systems that they don't officially support. Guess what, it works fine, just install the print server role first, and you're good to go. This is good. And a good excuse to really kick the tires on vZilla, which held up extremely well. This was actually fun.

    Yes, the special yellow purchase buttons for FingerPrint licenses, seen above, are affiliate links. So this is site sponsorship of sorts, which could finally actually help cover some of the cost of continuing to run Tinkertry.com. Don't worry, I don't plan to go overboard with discussions about mobile devices and tablets, choosing mostly to cover their utility in managing virtual and physical infrastructures.

    Keep in mind that I had seeked FingerPrint's functionality out, when iOS 5.0 broke most competitive printing options. This product is simple, leveraging Bonjour, and uses minimal system resources. I tested the trial edition myself to be sure it worked with my printers. It did. I then very quickly then published those successful tests, knowing it was well worth the cost, and it still very much is.

    So those yellow Add to Cart buttons above give you a very easy way to show your support for Tinkertry, and Collobos. Seems a lot less intrusive than those ad words cropping up at many blogs that I (used to) enjoy.

    Here's a screenshot from the new video, showing me FingerPrinting:

    fingerprinting-e1b30a144c7a529036af55bd3221dfc4

    Here's the FingerPrint PC Version 1.2.0.244 tests peformed Jan 30, 2012: (click each link to jump to just the right spot in the YouTube video)

    Operating Systems Supported by Collobos:
    1) Microsoft Windows 7 SP1 (64 bit)
    2) Microsoft Windows XP SP3 (32 bit)

    Operating Systems Tested at Tinkertry.com:
    3) Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 (64 bit)
    4) Windows Home Server SP2 (based on Windows Server 2003 32 bit)
    5) Windows Home Server 2011 SP1 (based on Windows Server 2008 R2 64 bit)

    6) Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials SP1 (based on Windows Server 2008 R2 64 bit)*

    *Just remember to Add Role, Print and Document Services, Print Server, before installing FingerPrint

    Here's the printers I've tested to date:

    Here's my tests of all 6 operating systems, but Windows 7 x64 users only need to view the first 9 minutes, to see a very thorough overview of features (except Dropbox integration):

    Here's wwwinsanelygreatmac.com's tests of FingerPrint for Mac:
    youtu.be/36--50rM7nw?hd=1&t=1m14s

    See also this very recent video of Scott from Collobos, at MacWorld / iWorld:
    youtu.be/T20WfbYcpO8

    Foot Notes:
    Here's Sean Daniel's site, where he discusses having to adjust his DLink DIR-655 to enable multicast, so Bonjour could do it's thing. Sean also opened a firewall port 6631, mentioned on the Collobos support site, but as you'll see in my simple tests, this wasn't necessary in my case.


    Below is how the original article appeared, Oct 15, 2011, with two new screenshots added:

    Originally entitled "Windows Home Server as an iOS Print Server - AirPrint Compatibility Not Required"

    With the recent release of iOS 5.0, many an iPad or iPhone users found themselves unable to print at all. The existing home-network based printing solutions, that offered printing from non-AirPrint printers, no longer worked. Something changed in iOS 5.0 that broke those functions, so now the wait for a workaround or fix began.

    Examples of workarounds included AirPrint Installer, which required you to install iTunes or Bonjour Printer Services separately, then run their Service installer (with no obvious uninstaller).  But it did work, as also described by CNET and TUAW.

    That was until iOS 5.0 came out.  The solution surfaced today, Oct 15 2011, with ipadhelp.com posting this article entitled AirPrint for Windows and iOS 5. Great screenshots walk you through the solution to this problem:

    "FingerPrint" from Collobus Software

    he cost is $7.99 for Mac or $9.99 for Windows, with no special software or apps are needed on the iOS device, instead merely leveraging the AirPrint UI many apps have supported since iOS 4.2.

    I tested FingerPrint for Windows version 1.0.0.136 with iOS 5.0 today. I started with discovering the printers using built in drivers in Windows Home Server 2011 (based on Windows 2008 R2). Then I installed FingerPrint in seconds, simply sharing those printers out to all iOS devices. It doesn't actually use, or require, the Windows native network sharing, which I left off for these already-shared networked printers. FingerPrint uses uses Bonjour that it's bundled with. Printing was fast and easy, just as fast as from a PC, even for a 4x6 photo.

    Of course, any Windows variant will do, not just servers.  Any system, ideally something efficient if left running 24x7.  So it could be a Windows 7  laptop, or Mac OS X on a mac mini.

    Here's the 4 printers I've tested to date: Epson PictureMate Dash Compact Photo Printer PM 260 (4x6 photo printer attached to WHS2011 by USB 2.0) Brother MFC-7820N (using native driver the Add Printer Wizard offered) Brother MFC-9840CDW (using native driver the Add Printer Wizard offered) Brother HL-2070N (using driver the Add Printer Wizard offered from Windows Update) I also noticed printers added to Windows at any time automatically show up in FingerPrint, with no need to even restart FingerPrint. Here's the backstory:

    The list of Apple's natively supported AirPrint compatible printers is rather short, as seen in the kb article iOS: AirPrint 101, where it also mentions that "AirPrint only works with a network connection to an AirPrint-capable printer. A printer connected to the USB port of your Mac, PC, AirPort Base Station, or Time Capsule is not supported."  Which to me, meant my old AirPort express's USB port was unlikely to ever provide me with network printing from iOS devices to non-AirPrint printers.

    Like many others, I'm not particularly interested in buying new printers.

    Here's the upsides:

    • No new hardware purchases necessary, if your printer works with FingerPrint
    • No special apps needed on iOS devices, just select the Print option, it's crazy easy (see screenshots above), and fast (4x6 photos printed in same 40 seconds as with a PC)
      Here's the downsides (mostly just nit picking):

    • The program is not installed as a service, so without further tweaking, you'll have to have a machine that's on 24x7 and logged on for it to work.  Tell Collobus of your interest here. (fixed Jan 2012)
    • If the photo color's aren't to your liking on the iPhone or iPad, this won't give you that function, you'll need to try to fix the photo with some of the new photo editing built into iOS 5.0, or use other 3rd party App Store apps.  But you can always use your PC, just go to the new iCloud "/My Photo Stream" folder that automatically shows your latest iPhone photos.
    • You might not have fancy features (like stapler or scanning, etc), but I was able to specify duplex on my multifunction Brother MFC-9840CDW just fine
    • I like ability to test with a trial edition, before purchasing the license.  The help system is very clear about the what it does and encourages you to test it for yourself.
    • It appears that for FingerPrint's "Open On My PC" to work with a Home Server, you'd need to have a PDF viewer installed (vulnerability), which isn't practical or desirable, just a minor nit.
    • This only works when you're home. Perhaps someday they'll be a Hamachi VPN for iOS or Android to connect to your Home Server Family Cloud network seamlessly when you're away. But at this point, if you're not on your home's network, you won't be able to print, directly anyway, and I've heard the Dropbox integration, which wasn't installed on my FingerPrint system prior to the screenshots and videos, could be a good way around this, using VBS scripts to autoprint stuff in that Dropbox folder, or just manually printing from a PC or Mac when you return home.
    • Here's a great spot to consider making your comments:

    existing homeservershow.com/forums thread, or right below on Disqus.

    Here's the video I recording of my own tests: (using Windows Home Server 2011)

    I recorded a video that demonstrates finding a printer, installing FingerPrint, then test printing to that printer:


    Saturday, November 2, 2013 Update:
    Collobos has moved FingerPrint to a monthly subscription model, and renamed it Presto. I have removed all links from my shop buttons in the original articles, to avoid confusion, since I have not tested Presto. It is my understanding that prior versions still work, with the discontinued version still available for download (not purchase) here:
    fingerprint-support.collobos.com/knowledgebase/articles/132163-reinstall-links