Google Cloud Print is an excellent tool for people who still own older printers that don't have a network connection of their own. It allows you to hook up your printer to your computer via USB and then use that computer as your printing server — no need to throw out a perfectly fine device. However, it looks like all good things must end when it comes to Google products, and the Cloud Print shutdown is already looming — the service is turning off its servers on January 1, 2021. Google has a list of recommended replacements, but almost all of these are aimed exclusively at businesses, except for one: PaperCut and its Mobility Print service.
While PaperCut has lots of paid products in store for businesses that have to manage a plethora of printers for a multitude of different user groups, the company's free Cloud Print replacement looks promising. It currently only supports remote printing for Chrome OS and Windows, so you can only print from your phone when you're in your home network, but that's still better than being left stranded without any solution at all.
Setting up Mobility Print
To get started, you need to download the Mobility Print server from PaperCut's website for your operating system. You're taken to a local server address once you've installed it, where you need to create a user name, password, and an organization name — write those down or save them to your password manager. The software then automatically recognizes printers connected to your computer and makes them available for everyone using Mobility Print on your network. There are instructions on how to install clients on computers and phones on your local server's web address, but we want to highlight the mobile setup here.
On Android, you download and start the Mobility Print app, check if it's set up as a print service in your system settings via a link provided in the app, and then you're already all set. You'll find printers connected to your computer in the printing dropdown, accompanied by the PaperCut icon. When you select them as a target, you'll see a warning that your documents might pass through servers, but that's just a boilerplate statement — your data doesn't actually leave your local network at all.
As mentioned, the biggest caveat with Mobility Print is the lack of iOS and Android support for remote printing when you're not connected to your home Wi-Fi. A spokesperson told us that "there are a few things we still want to add to optimise the experience on Mac, Windows, and Chromebooks before moving to mobile," so we probably can't expect this to be ready by January 2021, when Google Cloud Print dies. However, if you only ever need to print stuff from your phone while you in your Wi-Fi anyway, this limitation shouldn't bother you too much. In any case, Mobility Print should be even faster than Google's solution when you use it locally since jobs don't have to pass through servers before arriving on your printer.
Setting up Mobility Print's remote printing
Let's preface this by emphasizing that you only need to go through the following process when you want to print remotely while you're not at home. If you only want to print from your home network, you can skip this section.
To set up Mobility Print's remote printing solution for Chromebooks and Windows computers, there's an Enable Cloud Print button on your computer's local printer server interface. A popup will inform you that your print jobs are private and secure by using WebRTC to create peer-to-peer connections. Click Enable to proceed, and you're taken to a website where you have to configure an invite link. If you want to set up remote printing permanently, tick the "no expiration" box under Printing expiration date. You can do the same for the invite link expiration date if you want to be able to keep using the same invite link for more devices, but you can always generate a new one, which might be the more secure option.
Once you've generated the invite link, you can send it to your other Chromebook or Windows computer — hit the copy to clipboard button and write yourself an email or use a service like Pushbullet. On a Chromebook, you're taken to a website from which you can install the Mobility Print Chrome extension. You should then be able to start printing remotely right away — a handshake with your server is established via the personalized link you've used to open the website.
The setup screen for Chromebooks.
You can test if your installation was successful by disconnecting from your home network and see if you're able to see the printer you've set up via mobility print. If you have a tethering plan, you can use your phone's hotspot to do that real quick. Otherwise, you might have to go outside to and look for a public Wi-Fi network. You can easily spot the Mobility Print targets in your printing list thanks to the attached green PaperCut logo.
Printing remotely works!
You don't have to worry about opening any ports in your firewall because Mobility Print uses the same ports as video conferencing apps. Its reliance on existing standards and peer-to-peer connections is also the reason why PaperCut offers Mobility Print for free, as a spokesperson shared with us — PaperCut simply doesn't have to process a lot of data, so it can cross-finance the service via its paid products. The company hopes that people who are happily using their product at home might recommend it to their work IT departments.
Deactivating Google Cloud Print
Since these are already the last days of Google Cloud Print, you probably don't need to deactivate Cloud Print manually. But if you'd like to clean up your printer selection before the end of the year, you can head to google.com/cloudprint#printers, click or tap your printer, and hit the delete button.
Unfortunately, Mobility Print can't replace the Save to Google Drive printer in Chrome's printing menu, which is also tied to Cloud Print. Google suggests you select Save as PDF and manually upload your documents to Google Drive in the future.
The detailed feature comparison. Source: PaperCut.
As you can see, Mobility Print isn't a 1:1 replacement for Cloud Print just yet, and it won't be able to replicate the Save to Google Drive printer. Since Mobility Print isn't a first-party solution, the setup is also a bit more tedious than the seamless Google Account integration Cloud Print provides, but PaperCut made the process as simple as possible. And once Mobility Print gets remote printing support for Android and the remaining platforms, it should be the best replacement for Google Cloud Print you could ask for.