The iPad can print many document types, but the built-in print function works only when connected to specially equipped printers. These printers must handle Apple's "AirPrint" technology. If you don't have an AirPrint-equipped printer, you can use third-party applications to enable some print functions for standard wireless printers.
AirPrint connects your iPad to the printer through your wireless network. The process works with all generations and models of iPad. As of the date of this publication, only specific models of Hewlett-Packard printers support AirPrint technology. Your compatible printer must have current firmware updates and an active Internet connection. HP printers that feature "ePrint" technology are compatible with Apple AirPrint.
Several apps let you share a printer hooked up to your Mac or Windows PC with the iPad over your wireless network. These apps work with varying degrees of success and may only support documents, photos or files stored in specific locations. Read the full specifications carefully before purchasing any iPad printing apps to ensure you get one that works for the types of files you want to print.
Traditionally, printers require software called a driver to operate properly. This software installs on your computer, either from a disc, an Internet download or an automatic finder process when you plug in the printer the first time. IPads are not compatible with printer driver software, which is why you need a special printer. AirPrint-enabled printers hold their own software internally so you do not need a typical driver to let your device communicate with the printer. Using the shared printer method lets you bypass the driver needed by using your computer's driver, rather than the iPad software, to do the necessary communication.
If you don't want to buy a new printer, the easiest iPad print method is to transfer the file to your computer. Email and cloud services both let you do this wirelessly and quickly. In fall 2011, Apple is scheduled to release iOS 5, which will include a free, automatic cloud storage feature to share your documents more easily with your computer, whether for printing or other reasons.