Yes, you read that correctly. Some time soon-ish, you will be able to print from your Chromebook, without having to use Google Cloud Print.
At the moment, there are two ways to print from a Chromebook, and both are fairly limiting.
Method 1: Google Cloud Print. This is a great option that is not exclusive to any one printer manufacturer. Pretty much all the printer makers have made at least one Google Cloud Print ready printer available. Some are easier to setup than others, that’s for sure (I’m looking at you, Canon).
Even non-Google Cloud Print ready printers can utilize Google Cloud Print, so long as there’s another device (say, a Windows computer, a Mac, or even a Raspberry Pi) that can act as a GCP Printer Server.
Method 2: HP Print for Chrome. This is a great app made available by HP, that allows you to print from your Chromebook to your HP printer without needing Google Cloud Print. Many (most?) HP printers are compatible with this app, but ONLY HP printers are compatible.
Those solutions are neat, but now (for Canary users anyway, and everybody else at some point in the future hopefully), you can turn on a flag (go to chrome://flags and search for Native CUPS), and enable native printing. Once enabled, you should see something like this in your settings:
Let’s back up for a second. You might be asking, “What’s Canary?”. I’ll tell you.
Canary is for super-nerd-developers. Let me break it down real quick:
There are 4 different “channels” for which to run the Chrome browser on a Windows/Mac/Linux machine, or ChromeOS on your Chromebook:
Stable: This is very stable
Beta: This is not super stable
Developer: This is not stable at all
So when the developers at Google decide to try out a new feature (like native printing) they might push it to the Canary channel. The feature will likely be broke as all get out and will be super experimental. Then, if they decide to move forward with the feature, they’ll push it to the Developer channel, which is slightly more stable than the Canary channel. Then from there it’s the Beta channel which is usually pretty darn stable, but has a lot more people testing than the Dev/Canary channels, so it’s not uncommon for someone somewhere to find a way to break it and provide valuable feedback. Then, once the devs are sure it’s ready, they’ll push it to the Stable channel, which is the channel that your Chromebook is on right out of the box.
Switching to stable/beta/developer channel is as easy as going into settings and clicking a couple buttons. Getting into the Canary channel is a bit more difficult, and I won’t be discussing it here. Feel free to Google it. =]
Give it a few weeks, and we’ll likely see this feature make it’s way to the developer channel. Few more weeks, beta, few more weeks, stable.
It could take months, or years. It could never make it to stable and be completely abandoned. It’s happened before.
But I doubt that will happen in this case. This is something that is SORELY NEEDED and quite frankly, IT’S ABOUT TIME Google did this. CUPS — Common Unix Printing System, which is what linux computers typically use to print — is something that the Linux kernel upon which ChromeOS is built is already set up to utilize. It really shouldn’t be all that hard to make this a thing. I can only imagine there were non-technical related reasons for waiting 5 years to make printing from a Chromebook easy.
My opinion, is that if Chromebooks are really going to infiltrate the enterprise world, then printing simply has to be easier. If you’re a medium sized company, with 10-20 printers in your offices/buildings, you’re not going to want to upgrade all those printers to Google Cloud Print ready printers. If you’re a large business with 100 printers….definitely not. You want devices that can just print right out of the box, and it appears that Google is finally going to make that a reality.
Thanks to our friends at Chrome Unboxed for being brave enough to explore the Canary channel and find these golden nuggets.