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Print Files From Anywhere via Any Device With Dropbox

Have you ever wanted to print something from your iPhone, or needed to print something on your office printer from your netbook at home?  Here’s how you can make Dropbox into a quasi virtual print server.

Syncing files between your own computers or sharing them halfway around the world is simple and quick with Dropbox.  The only problem is, these files are digital.  Even today, sometimes we all need printouts of our documents on paper.  Most of us are not near a printer all the time, and often today we’re using documents on mobile devices that can’t even print normally.

Dropbox, amazingly, can be a solution to this.  Thanks to a free VBS script from our friend Amit over at Labnol.org, you can set your computer to automatically print any file you place in a certain folder in Dropbox.  This way, you can save a file to this folder from your smartphone, and get the printout within seconds from your desktop.  Let’s see how this works.

Setup Automatic Printing From Dropbox

If you don’t already have Dropbox installed on your computer, download it from the link below and set it up.  Then, download and unzip the ePrint.vbs script.

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Double-click the eprint.vbs script to run it.  This will automatically create a new PrintQueue folder in your Dropbox.

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Now, when you want to print something using your default printer and default print settings, simply copy and paste the file into the PrintQueue folder.  Note that if you simply drag and drop a file to the folder, it will move the file by default; simply hold the Ctrl key at the same time, though, and it’ll copy the file instead.

That’s it!  Your file will automatically open in the default program and print.  Once your file’s printed, it’ll be moved from PrintQueue to the log subfolder.  This way, if you ever accidently move a file into the folder, you’ll still be able to retrieve it.

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This PrintQueue folder will show up on any computer or mobile device you sync with Dropbox, but will only print from the computer running the vbs script.  So, you’ll want this script to always run on your primary computer.  Simply drag the eprint.vbs file to your Startup folder, and then it’ll always be ready to print your files whenever your computer is running.

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Printing Directly From a Program

Now, no matter what computer you’re on, it’ll be easy to print from your primary computer.  There’s just one thing to remember: Never save your main files in the PrintQueue folder.  Always save your files first to the folder you want to keep them in.  Then feel free to press Save as and push another copy to your print folder, and it’ll automatically print, no matter where you are.

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Printing From Your Mobile Device

Once you have printing setup on your main computer, it’s easy to print files from any mobile device, too.  There are a number of apps for all the popular mobile platforms that integrated with Dropbox, so check out the link below to find apps for your device.  Now just write or paste any text you need to print, save it to that folder, and you’ll have your paper copy ready in seconds.  There are also many apps that can directly access your Dropbox, so you can copy existing files to your PrintQueue folder as well.

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Alternately, you can email files to your Dropbox, and then later move them to the print folder.  This is not a perfect solution, but if your app doesn’t integrate with Dropbox, it may be the only way you can get it there.  Browse to Habilis (link below), and click Connect to Dropbox to setup the email service.

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Login to your Dropbox, then click Allow.

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Seconds later, you should see a notification from Dropbox that Habilis has been linked to your account.

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Now, go back to Habilis’s site, and you’ll get a unique email address for Habilis.  Anything files you email to this address will be added to a /From Habilis folder in your Dropbox, and then you can move it to the print folder later from another app, your browser, or a full computer.

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We never cease to be amazed at how useful Dropbox can be.  From syncing portable apps between computers to sharing files with others easily to staying on schedule with synced calendars, the ways you can make use of Dropbox are only limited by your imagination.  It’s actually cut down on the amount of pages we print out, but if you still need your files on dead trees, this is a great way to do it from anywhere, anytime.

Download Dropbox ePrint [via Labnol.org.]

Get Started with Dropbox

Download Dropbox for Your Mobile Device

Find Dropbox-powered apps for your PC, mobile device, and more

Signup for a Dropbox Email address with Habilis

Matthew digs up tasty bytes about Windows, Virtualization, and the cloud, and serves them up for all to enjoy!

  • Published 10/25/10

Comments (15)

  1. Cambo

    Should be noted that a VBS script will only work on Windows…so if your printer is on your Linux or Mac machine, you’re SOL.

  2. Matthew Guay

    @Cambo – Good point … there’s actually options for Linux and OS X on Labnol.org. Here’s a shell script for Linux (http://www.labnol.org/software/print-files-on-linux/17841/) and Automator settings to do it on OS X (http://www.labnol.org/tech/print-files-on-remote-mac/17838/).

  3. Richard

    Great article.
    I notice that you can’t print pictures off that you have taken with your camera (HTC Desire). This may be different with Windows 7, but with XP it requires the user to be at the PC to go though the photo printing wizard. Is there another way to get around this?
    It also keeps stating that it doesn’t support text handling at this time?
    It’s probably just me, so I guess I need to keep on playing with it.

  4. Keith

    I was just about to set-up a home wireless printer. This saves me time and money. Your How-To’s are priceless.

  5. Matthew Guay

    @Keith – So glad it helped … I wanted this for the very same reason! Networked printing can be difficult to setup and confusing, so this definitely takes some of the complication out of the picture. Hope you find it useful!

  6. Dan

    what if you switch your printer over to a new computer? do you just install the vbs script on that computer, or do you need to delete the print queue folder and start from the beginning?

  7. Shon

    I use ZumoDrive instead of DropBox. I altered the script lines 18-31. Basically just commented out those lines and changed line 26 to:

    strPath = “Path\to\folder\to\watch”

    Works great, other than the Windows Print Wizard as mentioned earlier.

  8. Matthew Guay

    @Shon – Neat … Glad it worked with that too. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Johann

    I’ve mentioned this a few times before in my comments but I always set a mail filter in my gmail so that it forwards certain emails to my Habilis account for uploading to Dropbox. This allows me to then have a sensible email address to use for Dropbox uploading instead of the crazy long Habilis one.

    You could set multiple rules where the email either needs to arrive with a certain email ‘+’ tag in the recipient name or the subject contains a specific ‘keyword’, or it even has to come form a specific email address for it to be forwarded on ot Habilis. This allows you to give access to other people safe in the knowledge that if they abuse it you can just change your mail filters to revoke access and DON’T have to get a completely new Habilis account.

  10. RichB

    This works like a charm…………………………… UNTIL i try to print photos……

    Same issue as Richard, any JPEGs gets hijacked by the Windows Photo Printing Wizard, which has no default settings and therefore won’t auto print. I have tried associating JPEGs with a different program but they still get caught up in this crappy Windows app.

    Any ideas anyone?

    Still – a great program and great how to. Cheers

  11. Kilco101

    You could use a file syncing program to copy everything from the Habilis folder into ‘PrintQueue’ folder. This would automatically print from email.

  12. Chris James

    A quicker way to do this is by using PrinterShare

  13. Mel

    How can I get a print file from my iPad to the PrintQueue folder in Dropbox on my PC? Habilis is no longer available and the recommended replacement sends files to the Attachment folder.

  14. ize

    Not working on windows 7. I copied manually the file to PrintQueue folder, and after a while file has been moved to log folder. But nothing print out. I also watch my printer queue and nothing there. Anyone success doing this on Windows 7?

  15. mav

    Hi – this only works if you’re using your own Dropbox account – either locally or remotely; if you try to share the “PrintQueue” folder then the whole “hot print” functionality disappears and the “PrintQueue” folder is rolled back to an ordinary folder both for the Dropbox-er you’ve shared the folder with as well as your own “PrintQueue” folder. Any way to work around this so that the folder can be shared – and thereby other Dropbox account holders can remotely print to your printer would be great!

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