Print To PDF On iOS With Printopia

PrintopiaAs I mentioned in my MacSparky home screen interview, I have had an elusive quest to be able to save e-mails to PDF on the iPhone or iPad.

I was almost there with Save2PDF, but iOS5 killed that. So far, I have settled on a workflow using an app called Printopia that works very well. Before I get into the application, there are some things I need to get out of the way:

  1. The application is $19.95, so this needs to be something you really want to do.
  2. It is Mac only.
  3. It only works on your local network. This is not ideal, but not too bad for me as I am a hermit that lives in my dungeon office.

Isn’t Printopia For Printing?

Yes, yes it is. I suspect that the main reason that people buy Printopia is so that they can print from their iPhone or iPad to any printer, not just AirPrint devices.

That’s why most people buy it, but DocumentSnap readers are not most people. We don’t care about printing.[1] What we care about is the ability to have Printopia save to PDF in any folder.

Set Up Printopia

When you install Printopia, it automatically detects your printers and displays them, along with some new entries, in the Printopia System Preference pane.

Printopia Pane
Printopia Pane

You can see that it has detected my laser printer and added two new options: Send to Dropbox on Mac and Send to Mac. Those are default settings that allow you to save to a Printopia folder in Dropbox or in your Documents folder. Just for fun, we won’t use those and will create our own.

If you ever need to get back to these settings, it shows up under Other in your System Preference pane.

System Preference
System Preference

Add A New Location

You can save to any folder on your Mac, or any Application. You can even save to an Automator PDF workflow (!). We won’t be too hardcore here, and will just save it to an Inbox folder on the Mac.

Click the plus sign, and you are given the option to create a new location. We will choose Save to Folder on Mac….

Printopia Add Location
Printopia Add Location

As far as I can tell, Save to Folder on Mac… and Save to Folder on Dropbox… don’t do anything differently. It is just that by default the Dropbox one will be under the Dropbox folder, and by default the Mac one will be under Documents. You can set either where you want.

I chose an Inbox folder under Documents, and you can see that I now have a new entry in my Printopia pane.

Printopia Inbox Location
Printopia Inbox Location

Let’s create a Dropbox one too.

Printopia Dropbox Location
Printopia Dropbox Location

Stop Auto-Open

By default, when you create a PDF with Printopia, it will automatically open up the PDF after it is created. I personally don’t like that. I just want it to create the file and get out of my way.

To turn that behavior off, double click on the location in the Printopia pane and then un-check Open Sent Files Automatically. Much better.

Open Files
Open Files

Saving A PDF From iOS

When you are in an app that supports it[2], tap on the Print button. In iOS Mail, first tap the “swoop”.

iOS Swoop
iOS Swoop

Then hit the Print button.

iOS Print
iOS Print

Then you will see the entries that we had set up in the Printopia pane. (Yeah!)

Printopia Choose Printer
Printopia Choose Printer

We can either print the file (no!) or save it to one of our locations. I’ll save it to Filed Documents on Dropbox.

Printed File

This screenshot was taken on my MacBook Air, which is not the Mac Mini that I have Printopia installed on.

Since I had saved the file to a Dropbox folder, it automatically appeared on my other computer. The file name is the subject line of the email, which I can now change. You can probably see how powerful this can be.

All in all, I have found Printopia to be really easy to use and reliable. I am currently on the seven day free trial, but I will likely be purchasing it.

Do you have a different way to save PDFs from iOS (in particular, save e-mails as PDF)? Please let us know in the comments.


  1. OK, we probably do. Printing does work quite well.  ↩

  2. Sadly my favorite mail app, Sparrow, does not. It’s always something!  ↩

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Productive Macs Bundle, June 2012 Edition | Tips To Learn How To Go Paperless | DocumentSnap Paperless Blog - June 5, 2012

    [...] Printopia is most commonly known as a way to print from your iOS device to any printer, but I use it to create PDFs from my iPhone and iPad. I just paid $20 for this alone a few weeks ago (grumble [...]

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