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Microsoft Updates Office iPad App with Top-Requested Feature: Printing

When Microsoft released its Office app for iPad users last month, the company left out one key feature: the ability to print files. The company fixed that yesterday with an updated version of the respective Office apps. But if you have an older printer, you may be out of luck. At the very least you'll have to find a workaround without AirPrint, Apple's universal print driver for iOS.

Microsoft said that adding the ability to print Office files from their iPads was the No. 1 request among the 12 million customers who have downloaded the new app, though many wonder why it was left out in the first place. An update to the app, available in Apple's iTunes App Store, lets Office 365 subscribers with at least the $6.99-per-month Personal Subscription, which recently went live, print their documents. You must update each Office app (Word, Excel and PowerPoint).

The update takes a few minutes if you have a good wireless connection. Once you open a document, spreadsheet or presentation, all you need to do is touch the File icon, Print and Select Printer. Upon doing so, I quickly discovered it couldn't find either of my two printers, which both support Wi-Fi. The error message read "No AirPrint Printers Found," as seen in Figure 1.

[Click on image for larger view.]  Figure 1. My iPad was not able to detect my older Wi-Fi-enabled printers.

Both printers are at least five years old and when I called the manufacturer, Brother, the technician said only newer printers have firmware that support AirPrint. If you have an enterprise printer that supports firmware upgrades you might have more success. If you have a printer that can't support AirPrint firmware upgrades, printing files will be difficult (if not impossible).

Apple created AirPrint as an alternative to requiring printer vendors to develop drivers. According to a Microsoft spokeswoman, AirPrint works "with thousands of printers." To see if your printer supports AirPrint, Apple posted a list and other tips. For its part, Brother offers its own iPad printing tool called iPrint & Scan -- though you can't print Office documents from it directly either. However if you use Brother's iPrint & Scan Web interface (an app also in the Apple App Store) and log into OneDrive, you can open your file and print it. It's not the most elegant approach but it works.

The new Office app for the iPad has some other added features including AutoFit for Excel, which lets users adjust the width of multiple rows or the height of multiple columns simultaneously in a spreadsheet. This feature was designed to let users spruce up the appearance of their spreadsheets and ensure that no content is hidden. For PowerPoint users, Microsoft added SmartGuides, which lets users align pictures, shapes and textboxes when moved around on a slide. The app update also features some bug fixes.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 04/30/2014 at 1:06 PM


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