AirPrint on steroids: first look at Printopia, bringing shared printer support for iPad

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When Apple removed AirPrint shared printer support from Mac OS X 10.6.5, it created a functionality gap that developers moved quickly to fill. Yesterday, TUAW took a first look at FingerPrint, an AirPrint solution that enables iDevice printing to many Mac OS X shared printers. Today, we have an exclusive first peek at Printopia, a competing product from long-established Mac developer Ecamm.

Like FingerPrint, the $9.95 Printopia allows non-supported printers to work directly with Apple's new wireless AirPrint functionality; both products also allow PowerPC users on Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard to share printers for iPad use (a great way to get some utility out of that G4 Mac mini in the closet). But that's just where Printopia gets started. This easy-to-use system control panel expands AirPrint features to provide support for Dropbox file sharing and printing to Mac-based PDF files.

I really liked how well Printopia is integrated into Mac OS X. By working as a preference pane, it provides the option for always-on support without having to run a separate application. What's more, unlike the AirPrint Hacktivator solution, Printopia does not change any system files or require components that Apple has removed from the public system release.

Unlike FingerPrint, Printopia works with all printers, including those that require password support, duplex printers, and local USB printers that aren't shared. While FingerPrint re-advertises your Mac's existing Bonjour printers, Printopia takes things further, advertising printers even if they are not already on Bonjour. Admittedly my product testing has been limited, but Printopia worked flawlessly with everything I threw at it yesterday and this morning.

Ecamm has a well-deserved reputation for quick customer support, and rapid turnaround on bug fixes. The company has been in operation since 2002 and joined the Mac market in 2003. It has a proven track record of both creating and supporting these kinds of user-centric utilities for the long term. Although slightly more expensive than FingerPrint's application, Printopia's extra features and its company association may offset its cost differential for many customers.

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