Printing in Android 4.4 KitKat (with some help from HP)

Printers, as we all know all too well, are fickle beasts on a good day. So you'll forgive us for not expecting too much when it comes to printing wirelessly from our phones. But there's a new printing framework built into Android 4.4 KitKat. On the back end, you'll be able to print over Wifi, or Google Cloud Print. Here's how Google puts it:

Android 4.4 introduces native platform support for printing, along with APIs for managing printing and adding new types of printer support. The platform provides a print manager that mediates between apps requesting printing and installed print services that handle print requests. The print manager provides shared services and a system UI for printing, giving users consistent control over printing from any app. The print manager also ensures the security of content as it's passed across processes, from an app to a print service.

Your mileage may vary, of course. But, we're happy to report, our first experience with the new printing framework — at least from an end-user standpoint and with some help from an HP plugin — worked flawlessly.

I'm using an HP printer. After firing up the Nexus 5 for the first time, the phone automatically downloads the HP Print Service Plugin. (That's whether there's a printer anywhere near you or not, actually, and we're not crazy about that. It's good for regular folks, but not great for ) Once installed, my Nexus 5 was able to see my Officejet J4680. 


You will, however, need to have an app that's capable of printing. Google says that "most devices" with KitKat will have Google Cloud Print pre-installed, and Chrome, Drive, Gallery and QuickOffice all support it as well. Other applications might need updating by the developers. As an added bonus, you can save printable items as PDFs. (That's an offshoot of the way this all works in the first place, and it's handy as hell.)

This isn't the new framework in and of itself. Obviously, HP's played a hand here. But it's also just about as simple as it can get.

So here's how it worked:

Phil Nickinson