I often forget about printing until I absolutely need it, and from my home office where I blog, make PowerPoint presentations, send emails, and take briefings, I rarely have a need to print. When I do, it’s usually a pretty simple laptop-network-printer operation without any real complexity. Not having a need to print has made me apathetic to the printing needs of the rest of the corporate world. Actually, no, it’s not that I don’t care about printing, not at all. I just sort of thought that printing was “solved” a long time ago. Yeah, Windows printing sucks in certain scenarios, so go get a third party solution and call it a day.
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To some degree that might be true. Any third-party product is going to be better than the basic stuff, so having something is better than having nothing at all. That is not a reason to tune out Printing, though, and though it all looks the same on the surface, there are new products for new use cases that did not exist just a few years ago. I wrote recently about ThinPrint Mobile Print’s ability to print to AirPrint printers on remote networks (like when users are remoted in from an iPad at home). The fact that this feature was needed sort of opened my eyes, so I asked about Tricerat’s capabilities. This is what I learned.
The printing solutions from Tricerat build upon each other, starting with the baseline Screwdrivers, which has been around the longest. Screwdrivers is the universal printer driver which represents the point in time where I came to believe printing was solved. Can it get simpler than printing with no drivers? Actually, no, but not having drivers means that you have a very basic set of features and management.
That’s where the next product, Simplify Printing comes in. Simplify Printing builds upon the driverless printing of Screwdrivers by adding in printer features and management. With Simplify Printing, you can access the advanced print features, even showing the local print driver UI, from a Terminal Server session, even printing to printers that require pin codes. Simplify Printing adds in management capabilities that let you turn on and features on a per user or per printer basis, as well as assign printers to users.
Building on Simplify Printing is Simplify Printing TX, which has support for mobile devices and the unique use cases they present. You might remember an article I wrote about Tricerat Torx, which was the first foray into mobile. Torx created virtual AirPrint printers that admins could map to physical printers (AirPrint or not). Simplify Printing TX is the evolution of Torx.
There are a lot of products out there that allow mobile devices to print to network printers, but what really captured my attention was the fact that with Simplify Printing TX, users can print to any printer at home. Not just AirPrint printers at home–any network-discoverable printer.
Here’s how it works:
- A user starts working on their iPad by starting up the TX App, which the user logs in to in order to connect back to the TX server (part of the Simplify Printing TX architecture that talks to the print servers). That application broadcasts to the local network looking for any network discoverable printer, AirPrint or otherwise. If your printer supports Bonjour, the TX App will see it.
- After logging into the TX App, the user switches out of that and starts up their TS/VDI session. Since the TX App logged into the TX server, and the TX server talks to the print servers, the system is aware of all the printers discovered on the iPad’s network and has set up queues for each of them. Those queues are visible only to that user, and already appear in the TS/VDI session.
- When a user prints, they simply select the printer they want to print to from the remote print dialog. A push notification is sent to the TX App on the mobile device, and when the user taps that notification (or brings the TX App into the foreground), the job is automatically sent to the printer.
I want to reiterate how cool it is to me that this does NOT require AirPrint, meaning even my 8 year old HP Photosmart C6200 which shows up in my list of available printers as simply “Bonjour” is able to print jobs via this solution. Add to that all the management capabilities of Simplify Printing, and I’m very impressed.
The last feature of Simplify Printing TX that’s worth calling out is their Google Cloud Print integration. My experience with Cloud Print has been mixed, especially when it comes to printers that are not Cloud Print-enabled. For those printers, Google gives you the ability to run a sort of virtual Cloud Print queue on a system that is configured to print to the old printer, but this has been problematic in the enterprise. Tricerat has created their own version of this that enables customers to set up Google Cloud Print printers for legacy print queues that are already in the Simply Printing system. This allows you to continue to use your existing printers for as long as you want, and it’s seen a lot of interest from Education and other customers that use Chromebooks.
Here I sit in June of 2015, writing about printing with more gusto than I have in the last five years. There’s actually a lot happening now as problems start to develop out of the new use cases customers find for virtual desktops and these next-gen client devices. I won’t fall into the trap of thinking it’s solved again. If you know of other use cases that need attention or other cool solutions that we might have missed, let us know.