Remote printing options for the technologically unsophisticated

Google print is going away. It was a useful service that allowed my in-laws to scan documents that were automatically emailed to Mrs. Charming and Rested. We could also use remote printing to send things to the printer we had set up for them in their house. They got a hard copy instantly with no downloading necessary. So, for example, when they were audited, they could scan letters from the IRS. We could read them, write a response, and print it to their printer (2 copies). They just had to sign and mail the letter. This has greatly simplified helping them.

What’s the best way to get this functionality back that will be easy for them to set up? New equipment is fine and we’re willing to pay a reasonable fee for a service but probably not more than $15 or so per month.

They are not technically sophisticated people. They have iPads and iPhones on a wifi network but no computer. I hope they can still find their wifi password and let’s assume they can. They don’t use email. They can text and use WhatsApp. They can sometimes navigate to a website on their phones or iPads but they aren’t consistently able to do it. Whatever equipment or service they need, they will need to set up on their own because we are unlikely to be able to visit them for several months so the simpler the better Any recommendations? I get that this may be an impossible ask.

Thanks in advance.

My HP Envy printer has a configurable unique email address. If I send a document to it, it’ll print. This doesn’t cost any extra a month as it’s just a part of the printer. I would guess many printers have the same functionality.

Whilst changing it may be difficult,just finding out the default one is merely 2 button presses.

This might be from way out but my public library lets you send printing to it remotely. I can’t imagine why you couldn’t send printing to their library if theirs does remote printing. You could find out if their local public library does similarly. Privacy is assured with mine. It is either 10 or 15 cents a page for black and white, more for color. Might be a doable stop gap until you can feasibly physically be there to set something new up.

I also believable office supple store copy centers might do that remotely as well, but much more than that I don’t remember. Office Depot, Staples, etc.

At the very least, I can confirm that other HP printers have this capability. It’s really nice for printing things out that you have on your phone instead of (especially in an office setting and especially if you don’t have your own computer in that setting) emailing it to yourself if it’s not already in your email then finding a computer you can use get to your email and print it out. I have a few people where I work that regularly email things to the printer. One of them is a bit older and not always on top of new tech. For him, he picked up on this with no issue, while he still calls gmail his ‘firefox email’ and I can’t convince him that he can open it at home, on his phone…in whatever browser he wants to open it in.
He’s also managed to figure out how to send texts to the printer, so he can get orders via text from customers and he’ll send them to the printer for one of us to (hopefully) notice.
It’s odd, he’ll be totally baffled by one thing and figure out every bell and whistle on another closely related thing.

My Epson All in One color printer also has a unique email address. Its a bunch of random characters followed by

Thank you both. Do you have to do anything other than connect the printer to wifi for it to receive the email?

Also, does it ever get spammed? I don’t want random people to be able to send stuff to my in-laws because the email address is sequentially just numbered from 1-10000 and the spammers are just willing to try every one.

Thank you too. It’s good to know other printers have the same service. Again, is there anything more to do than just connecting the printer to email?

[quote=“BippityBoppityBoo, post:3, topic:938537”]
This might be from way out but my public library lets you send printing to it remotely. [/quote]

I appreciate the suggestion but this is way too cumbersome and slow. We need something with the ease of use of a butter knife and the speed at least of a fax. This would be too slow.

No one has mentioned whether this goes the other way. Do any of these printers also scan documents and either email them or save them to a cloud storage that my wife and I could access remotely? After we configured the current setup, my inlaws can shove the papers in the scanner and hit “Scan,” and they show up in my wife’s email. Sometimes we have to tell them go back and scan the backside too but aside from this hiccup, it works perfectly every time. We need this functionality too.

Do the HP printers have any security protection to prevent hackers from sending spam to printer email addresses? Back in the days of fax machines, it was common to find various spam printouts in the output tray of the fax machine when you went to use it. Do these printers have a way to prevent that?

Since the email address is hosted by the printer company, I’m sure they have some spam detection going on.

I expect that the default addresses are a UUID or other large-space sparse identifier. There are too many of them for any spammer to find one by random guessing before the heat death of the universe.

Got it. Offered as a wild card only, especially I’m tech-daft in my old age and had nothing to offer vis a vis remote printing from home printers. I can work mine but that is about it.

Glad to see tech-adept Dopers jumping in with wisdom. Kudos to you also for understanding your parents and not berating them, as many do, for their tech skills. That an admirable trait-kindness personified. You sound like a blessing to them.

Thanks BippityBoppityBoo. I can’t judge them for not using technology. Neither of them ever worked office jobs and they didn’t have any real experience with technology until we got them a few devices a few years ago. I also volunteer teaching technology skills to the elderly so I get it.

Ironically, they are way better with technology than my own parents and my dad studied computer programming, bought his first PC in 1983, and worked with computers at least a little right up until he retired around 2005. Sure, his programming experience ended in 1969 but you would think the interest and experience would be worth something. Nope.

Make sure it has wifi. Granted, most network connected ones will, but make sure. Mine is connected via an ethernet cable, I couldn’t tell you if it has wifi or not.
But, other than that, you had to set it up to be able to do this. IIRC, it was logging into the printer from a web address, turning on the ability and maybe registering something or another with HP. It’s opt in not opt out, or rather, you have to turn the feature on to get it working.

Yes. I couldn’t tell you which ones do or don’t but when I googled ‘hp printer scan to email’, there was hits for HP’s website which went to pages about setting up (or troubleshooting) scanning to email. So, it exists, but that’s the extent of my knowledge WRT to HP printers scanning to email. It sounds like, if you do this, you’ll want it to be very easy. Like, insert the sheet they want scanned, hit a button and they’ll get an email a minute later. So you might want to pull up their directions on HP’s website (or whatever printer you’re looking at) and see how complicated it is, or rather, how easy you can make it, and decide if it’s worth spending the extra money. At work, I did something similar. I set up a scanner that, upon putting the paper in it’ll ask you for a destination. All you have to do is hit the “speed dial 1” button and it’ll drop the PDF on a raspberry pi to which I then put a shortcut on the desktops of the people that will use the scanner. Pretty convenient actually.

You can easily (well, easy if you’re a little bit tech savvy) turn off it’s ability to receive emails and I think you can black list emails (or it might use a white list system, it’s been years since I set it up). Also, don’t quote me on this, but you might also be able to change it’s email address if it’s really a problem.

Not just ‘back in the day’, it’s still going strong. I mean, we used to get 5 or 10 a day and now it’s closer to 1 or 2 a week, but it’s still a problem. Luckily, since we only send out faxes and don’t actually get them from anyone anymore, I finally set up our fax line to be outgoing only. No more junk faxes.

@Tired_and_Cranky I have a suggestion to you. Install RealVNC (server on their computer, client on yours). It quietly runs in the background and doesn’t use up a whole lot of resources. Any time you need to help them with computer issues, you can very easily log into their computer and take control of it. Other than a very small amount of lag, it’s about as good as sitting in front of it as you can get without actually sitting in front of it.
At work, I installed it on all the other computers since I’m constantly being asked to help other people with things. Now, when someone says ‘this excel sheet is printing three pages, but there’s only stuff on one’, I can pull up their screen and fix the problem. The fun part is, the furthest computer from my desk is about 10 feet away. But between not being able to see the screen and not wanting to walk over there, this has worked really well.
In fact, I installed it on my (work) computer back in March when Covid started. That way if I ended up in quarantine I’d be able to pull up my computer from home and still be able to do things like take care of payroll or other bookkeeping things that may not be able to wait for me to get back and would have otherwise required me to walk someone through it over the phone.

TLDR, set up RealVNC and you can control their computer from your house.

As to the remote control software suggestion, here’s a thread from last year where I asked that question and got a lot of useful feedback.

The consensus favored free TeamViewer and I’ve been happily using that to do elder tech support ever since.

But things change so rapidly these days. If you’re not actively keeping up with it, it’ll pass you by. And, don’t forget, 2005 was a decade and a half ago. In 2005 there was no google cloud. In 2005, they were likely running Windows XP. We’ve since gone through Vista, 7, and 8 and we’re now on 10. They probably had hotmail addresses. Youtube had just shown up. And connecting your printer to the network (via wifi even) instead of a big fat serial cable or USB-B, and being able to email directly to it…the only (consumer/home user) people doing that were the ones that lived to always have the latest gadgets and best computers…we were the ones that would go to Best Buy just to ‘look around’ and see all the new stuff.

That may well be better. The only reason I mentioned RealVNC is because it comes preinstalled on Raspberry Pi’s (or at least whichever linux distro I have on mine) so I’m used to it, it’s really really easy and, well, it’s the only one I’ve ever used. But once set up, I assume they all function mostly the same.

You just joined my pantheon of heroes!

I can’t wait til I can take an iPad for Seniors class at my local community college. I was just getting ready to last years when Covid slammed all the doors shut.

Check. I understood it needed wifi but I mistyped “email.”

My in-laws can’t do that. This is unlikely to work unless my wife or I can set it up and that’s not happening soon.

This is a good idea so I can at least guess how unlikely it is that they will be able to set this up themselves.

That sounds great! Can you go set up the scanner at my in-laws’ place :smiley:?

They don’t have a computer and it’s not actually important that this link in any way to their iPads. We want them to be able to scan documents they receive in the mail and for us to print documents to their printer. They don’t even use email. I’m not sure how the remote software would help.

Blushing Please save the praise for real heroes. I assure you, I ain’t them. Good luck on the class. I do one-on-one counseling to teach people how to use iPhones and iPads. People love them when they get the hang of them and they don’t take long to be really useful to people.

Just a thought on deployment. …

You can buy the printer, have it shipped to you, then set up the emailing feature with it sitting on your desk connected to your Wi-Fi. Then box it up and ship it, or hand-deliver it, to your in-laws’ front door. “All” they’d need to do is unbox it, plug in the power, and link it to their own Wi-Fi. I put “All” in scare quotes because even that small task might be too much.

But there’s no reason they have to fiddle with the email/web setup stuff. All that can be done by you at your place first.

If the printer and router are close enough, it would be simpler to use a cabled ethernet connection from the printer to the router so there are no wifi issues to worry about.

If you are having the printer sent to you, you can pre-configure the wifi to automatically connect to your parent’s wifi. Setup your router with the same name and password as your parent’s and then configure the printer to that. When your parents get the printer and turn it on, it should automagically connect to their wifi since it has the same name and password. Check the shipping cost since printers are relatively heavy and may be pricey to ship.

That’s exactly what I was thinking when I read that.
What worries me is this part…

I feel like this is where you’re going to run into problems.

If you find yourself having to go over there on a regular basis or you do need a computer, you might look into connecting it to a cheap laptop (or, even better, a $50 Raspberry Pi) with some remote control software. That makes it trivially easy for you to get into their network and do what you need to do.

Or consider having the GeekSquad from Best Buy go over and do those steps. Buying the printer from Best Buy might make that even more seamless. I’d make sure they knew their wi-fi UN and password before the Geek Squad person is standing there at $80 an hour.

Heck, maybe there is a Doper who lives close enough to them who could do those simple steps in exchange for a contribution to their favorite good cause. Probably don’t want that person to knock on their door though and say “hi, I’m a Doper and I’m here to help”. Must be a better way to phrase that.

Maybe our emissaries to T_and_C’s in-laws could wear black suits, white shirts, narrow ties, dark glasses, and dark fedoras and introduce themselves at the door with

We’re musicians. We’re on a mission from the Internet.

That should calm their fears about strangers in their house.