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

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!

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 FingerPrint 2    Mac:Buy FingerPrint 2
Given Collobos’ apparent success with this product, it wouldn’t be surprising if their pricing increased soon, so consider yourself warned.

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 TAUW 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 24×7, 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 (4×6 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:

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:

[learn_more caption="Click to view original Oct 15 2011 article"] 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

The 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 4×6 photo.

Of course, any Windows variant will do, not just servers.  Any system, ideally something efficient if left running 24×7.  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 (4×6 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 (4×6 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 24×7 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


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  • Rich

    I tested ‘Open On My PC’ and it worked nicely, opening Foxit on my desktop. I also found it worked with OneNote. This is a nice find.

    • tinkererguy

      After the video was recorded and uploaded to YouTube, I had also tested installing Adobe Acrobat Reader X on the Home Server box (I know, not a great idea, Foxit sounds like a better choice), and you’re right, opens right up, very fast, very simple.

      I’m done with the trial, and have now purchased my FingerPrint license, and gave feedback to the author that it’d be even better if there were an option to install it as a service, and ideally, offer support even for Windows Server operating system users. But meanwhile, I’m very grateful such a product exists at all and works so well.

  • tinkererguy

    A lot of rave reviews for FingerPrint, and confirmation they’re working on making it install as a service, over here:
    http://ipadhelp.com/ipad-help/airprint-for-windows-and-ios-5-or-later/

  • tinkererguy

    See also new article just published, with some details on router and firewall tweaking you may have to tackle, right over here:
    http://sbs.seandaniel.com/2012/01/how-to-use-your-home-server-as-airprint.html

  • Toxtoth

    I emailed Collobos support asking about running this as a service and they sent me a link to download the Beta of the newer version which does run as a service.  I urge you to do the same to become part of the beta testing!

  • Jay Oliphant

    Bought it now that it runs as a service! Works Great!

  • Aaron

    updated FingerPrint, now it doesn’t do anything for me…. any ideas? Very frustrating now that I am use to it working….

    • tinkererguy

      Aaron, that is disappointing news, I too wonder what is different about your failed update and my successful update.
      Can you give the very responsive Collobos support a try, and perhaps even let us know how it goes?
      http://www.collobos.com/support.html

    • tinkererguy

      Aaron, that is disappointing news, I too wonder what is different about your failed update and my successful update.
      Can you give the very responsive Collobos support a try, and perhaps even let us know how it goes?
      http://www.collobos.com/support.html

  • tinkererguy

    Aaron, that is disappointing news, I too wonder what is different about your failed update and my successful update.

    Can you give the very responsive Collobos support a try and perhaps even let us know how it goes?
    http://www.collobos.com/support.html

  • Paulbid

    I am running WHS 1, latest Fingerprint, and I can only see printers if I stay logged on as Administrator. As soon as I logoff, which is normally how I use WHS, the printers no longer show up. I have been in discussions with Fingerprint support and they are stumped. Does anyone have any suggestions? Do I need to stay logged on as Administrator all the time? If WHS applies patches and reboots, then I lose the service.

    • Paulbid

      Let me update this. Even if I disconnect from RDP, rather than logoff, I lose all printers.

      • tinkererguy

        This is truly strange.  Did Collobos support ask you to have a look at your Windows Event Log to see if there’s any enlightening errors, or indications of dependencies missing?

        • Paulbid

          No, they did not. They emailed me quite a few times, had me install the latest beta and version, and we basically gave up. I thought they would have had me send them logs. Let me give a little more background just to make sure I’m doing things right. 

          I always connect to my WHS system using RDP, logging in as Administrator. That is how I installed Fingerprint. If I leave that screen open, and go to my IOS devices (iphone and iPad), the printers just show up perfectly. However, if I disconnect from RDP, even though supposedly everything should be running, the printers no longer show up. If I logoff, which is my normal behavior, then the printers no longer show up either. 

          What is puzzling FP support is they have modified the code to run as a service, which I can see it is, but once I disconnect or logoff, it breaks.

          Very strange, and frustrating. I really would like this to work.

          What is intriguing to me is that I have an Android tablet also, and I installed PrinterShare on it, and it sees these printers just fine. Not sure how, actually, but they work, and FP doesn’t!

          • tinkererguy

            Well, I strongly suspect there is something a little different about your configuration.  You may have seen that I tested FingerPrint myself on XP, Windows 7, WHS v1 and WHS2011, and it all worked fine, as a service.  If you poke around your event logs, do you see the service stopping and restarting everytime you disconnect from RDP connections (which is strange)?  At least then, we’d start to know where things area going wrong.  Any firewall or antispyware software installed?  Just thinking aloud…

          • Paulbid

             OK, I did some testing and there are plenty of messages in the event log.

            When I first login (or reconnect) to WHS, I see a message in Applications from FP that indicates SERVICE_CONTROL_SESSIONCHANGE. Then it sets up the printers.

            It seems that when I disconnect from my RDP session, that FP is then crashing with an application error. But when I reconnect, it starts through the same SESSION_CHANGE messages and set up logs again.

            Why would RDP crash when I disconnect?

      • mark

        There are a couple ways of creating a service from the application. 

        First, you can use an application (stand alone – no install needed) called ANYSERVICEInstaller. I downloaded it from wegotserved forums.  There are a lot of threads for various home server forums on the topic.

        Or you can create the service manually from the CMD prompt. 

        AnyserviceInstaller is much quicker to use in my opinion.  The file FingerPrintService.exe will be created as a service so when you log off, your service will continue to run.

        The only other caveat is that in order to use anyservice installer, you have to have a copy of the Windows Resource Kit on the WHS.  

  • tcm692

    so what happens (how do you resolve) if you do NOT install the print server role first (server 2k8 r2)?  Is it not as simple as uninstalling fingerprint, installing the server role & then reinstalling fingerprint?  

    • tinkererguy

      Just add the print server role, and reboot, and I believe I recall it then just works (I did test this once, a few versions/months ago, so I’m educated-guessing the behavior is still the same).

  • mark

    I have been running this as a service on my WHS (2003) with no issues to a LAN/IP connected HP2600N with no issues.  The version I have does not/did not natively run as a service. I did some “tinkering” to have it run as a service.

  • kit

    just clicked through on your purchase buttons and filled out form but when i said “submit” nothing happened, didnt get serial number or any confirmation of purchase (already had fingerprint loaded but even though ipad could “see” the printers, was unable to print to it; figured it was some kind of tease where you have to license it to get it to actually work). so went to fingerprint menu that includes “purchase license” and did get confirmation with serial number. am hoping i didnt get charged twice, will be watching my bank statement.

    • tinkererguy

      I’ve reported this to my contact at Collobos, and I thank you for taking the time to document a possible issue with your purchase when using my site’s button.

      Please let us, and http://collobos.uservoice.com (simple webform), know of your technical issues and/or if you did actually get charged twice.

      • tinkererguy

        Collobos and I checked into this, and they only see one purchase from your email address, so it would appear you’re all set. I haven’t had any similar reports of button trouble, but Collobos and I have now been notified by you, because you took the time to report the potential trouble. Thank you, and no, the unlicensed product is not crippled, so please use http://collobos.uservoice.com to secure support if needed, and let us know how it goes if you’re willing.

  • Dean

    So… I purchased fingerprint a while ago and loved it. I have since upgraded to a new computer (yay) but dont have the original install file. any way to download it and use my key on the new machine (old machine is toast)?

    • http://TinkerTry.com/about Paul Braren

      The best way to resolve this is contacting Collobos directly, seems likely they’ll help you square away this straight-forward request:
      http://fingerprint-support.collobos.com/

  • http://TinkerTry.com/about Paul Braren

    I severed all relationship with Collobos months ago, when I saw the path they were headed down. Perhaps I didn’t take it far enough. I don’t wish to get into flame wars, or negative articles, it’s just not my thing, to get into morale killers and time wasters. I cannot imagine it being easy for any company to move from one-time purchase over to monthly subscriptions, without angering a lot of folks along the way.

    But this experience has really made me think long and hard about all 3rd party software in the Windows space, where developers sure seem inclined to burden everything with ads, subscriptions, and even spyware, just to make a living. You can’t even get a clean download from CNET these days without getting their terrible downloader.
    http://forums.cnet.com/7723-12543_102-595643/annoyance-with-crapware-on-cnet-downloads/

    I will do what I can to make this right. I don’t think removing old articles makes a bunch of sense. Things change, folks can see my original publication dates.

    That said, I still have the original installers for multiple fingerprint releases (that I purchased and found to work well, before I ever wrote about their stuff). I will give an older 2.2.0.629 release a shot, on a fresh VMs that never had any prior version installed, to verify that using it is still viable for folks that already paid. I believe Itay that you are hinting the older installer link worked out for you, is that correct? What exact OS version did you try it on (not that it should matter much, other than server copies needing the print services role added as a prerequisite)?

    Meanwhile, Itay, thank you so much for sharing that very valuable link with Dean, and this threaded conversation here on Disqus will be picked up by Google’s indexing within a few hours, for everybody else’s benefit as well!

    • Itay

      I rebuilt my Mac Mini server last week and wanted to downloaded Fingerprint for Mac.
      I was a bit worried that it won’t activate my license, but fortunately they were not THAT horrible and the software activated fine.

      The only reason I resurrected this old post is for the benefit of other people, though I don’t believe it will last very long….