How Mobile Printing Works

Mobile Printing Components

Inside a PDA, there's not much room for memory or storage.
Inside a PDA, there's not much room for memory or storage.


Lots of people in office settings use a basic version of mobile printing all the time. The HowStuffWorks office, for example, has a wireless local area network (WLAN). Employees can print from their laptops to a network printer from anywhere in the office. But if work takes us out of the office, we need another way to print.

Mobile printing is a generic term for products and services that let people print documents when they're away from a traditional network or local printer. Usually, mobile printing is wireless. It often uses Bluetooth or 802.11 networking (both of which use radio waves) to communicate. Some older handheld devices use infrared signals, similar to the signals most TV remote controls use.

All mobile printing options require three components:

  • A device that can print documents, whether on its own or with added software
  • A way to connect to a printer, usually wirelessly
  • A printer

The exact components of a mobile printing setup depend largely on the capabilities of the device that's communicating with the printer. A laptop, for example, usually has plenty of memory and a range of applications that can create documents. It has printing capabilities built in to its operating system. So for most laptop users, mobile printing simply involves connecting wirelessly to a printer via Bluetooth or WiFi.

PDAs, on the other hand, have less memory than laptops. They often use scaled-down versions of programs, and sometimes their operating systems don't include print capabilities at all. In order to print from many PDAs and smart phones, the user must first download printing software. That software has to efficiently process documents so the print job doesn't overwhelm the device's memory.

We'll look at some examples of mobile printing software in the next section.