Google Cloud Print lets you share your Windows printers with Chromebooks and the Chrome browser. We show you how to get Cloud Print working in your school.

Google Cloud Print allows you to share your Windows printer queues with your Google Apps users. Cloud Print works with the Chrome desktop browser, Chromebooks, and even Android phones and tablets, and because it plugs into the Google Apps control panel, Cloud Print is much easier to control and manage than Apple’s AirPrint.

Sharing Cloud Printers is done in exactly the same way as you share a Google Document. Printers can be shared with specific Google Apps users, with groups within your Google Apps domain, or made accessible to anyone with the URL to the printer. You can also share printers with specific groups of Chromebooks.

The print management options here are very limited. You can limit users to a specific number of print outs per day…and that’s about it. There isn’t a log of print jobs, or any way to charge printing to users, but you can manage the printer queue in the browser which is a nice feature.

Google Cloud Print is also starting to find support from third-party print management services such as Papercut, which provides additional print control features if you’re happy to pay out a little extra.

Google Cloud Print

So far I haven’t found a printer that Google Cloud Print doesn’t support, but we mainly use fairly common HPs. You can buy printers which officially support Google Cloud Print which connect directly to the service, but there’s not a huge advantage to doing this unless you have an aversion to Windows printer queues entirely.

It’s worth noting that Cloud Print is a beta product, and as such Google doesn’t provide official support. Despite this Google has been more than happy to answer my questions, and I’ve never been turned away.

Installing Google Cloud Print

  1. Download the Google Cloud Print Service installer.
  2. Install it on your print server.

That’s pretty much it for the actual install. You’ll get a new Cloud Print Service shortcut in your Start Menu which will open a small window to allow you to stop and start the service, other than that the rest of the configuration is done in Chrome.

cloud-print-service

Adding a Printer to Cloud Print

Next you need to start add your printers to the Cloud Print service. If you haven’t already done so, you’ll need to install Chrome on your print server for this part.

  1. Open Chrome on your print server – make sure you’re logged in with the account that you want to manage your printers. It’s a good idea to set up a new Google Apps user to manage your printers to prevent them becoming unavailable should your account be deleted or suspended.
  2. Click the Chrome menu button chrome-menu.
  3. Click Settings.
  4. Click Show advanced settings.
  5. Scroll down to Google Cloud Print and click Manage.
  6. The next screen will allow you to add new printers to Google Cloud Print or manage current ones.Manage Cloud Printers
  7. Local printer queues that you can add to Cloud Print are listed under the Classic Printers section.
    cloud-print-add-printer
  8. Click Add printers to make a Windows printer available through Cloud Print.

Once added, printers can be managed by visiting the Google Cloud Print page in your browser. From here you can also monitor queues, share printers, and…well, that’s about it.

Sharing Cloud Print printers with Google Apps users

Printers can be shared with Google Apps users and groups in the same way you share a Google Document — with individual users and groups:

Share Cloud Printer

Or to anyone with access to the printer’s link:

anyone-with-link

Printing limits can also be set for anyone with the link to control printing. You can also reset the link if it gets into the wrong hands.

Sharing Cloud Print printers with Chromebooks rather than users

Clarification: The Cloud Print options found in the Google Apps control panel under Device Management > Chrome > Device settings only work with Cloud Print certified printers. They will not work with printers using the Windows Cloud Print Service. You can still add Windows printers to this section but they will never be pushed to your Chromebooks.

Often in schools we want to assign printers to specific devices — in this case Chromebooks — rather than users. We want to make sure that when a student picks up a Science department Chromebook that they get access to the Science department printer.

To assign a printer to a specific Chromebook do the following:

  1. Login to your Google Apps control panel with an account that has permission to manage the printer that you want to share.
  2. Navigate to Device Management > Chrome > Device Settings
  3. At the top of the screen select the Organisation that you want to share the printer to. Usually this will be the one that contains your Chromebooks.
  4. Scroll down to the Cloud Print section.
    cloud-print-control-panel
  5. Click Manage.
  6. A window will appear that allows you to add your Cloud Printers to the Organisation.
    Google Cloud Print
  7. Click Save and your printer will now be available to all devices within the specific Organisation.

Will Google Cloud Print replace your in house print server? 

Google Cloud Print is still extremely limited and simply doesn’t provide many of the features required to manage printers within a large organisation. But as a simple way to make printers available to Chromebooks it works perfectly well. In future, as more third-party service providers support Cloud Print, and Google implements features like print logging, print charging, and departmental accounts, it could become a very powerful tool. Not having to worry about Windows printer drivers is incentive enough for me to switch.

There are also some data security concerns that need to be taken into account. Whenever you print a document through Google Cloud Print the file is sent and processed through Google’s servers. There’s no indication that Google are doing anything other than passing the data through to your printer, but unless Google states otherwise it’s reasonable to assume that some data from the document is stored on Google’s servers.

Google Cloud Print is free, really simple to set up, and works great with Chromebooks, so if you’re using Google Apps, give it a go.

Links you need to know

Google Cloud Print Service Installer
Google Cloud Print Android App
Manage Cloud Printers

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About Author

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Karl is an award winning Director of IT for the Royal Grammar School Guildford, based near London, England. He has been working in education for more than ten years and founded ClassThink in 2013 to share technology best practice with other schools. In 2014 he won the NAACE Impact Award for support services in schools, and writes edtech articles for Education Executive Magazine.

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