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Google Cloud Print is very confusing, not ready for students

Several months ago, Google announced Google Cloud Print. I was excited: finally, a solution to my students’ printing woes!

You probably know what I’m talking about. My students, most of whom have computers and Internet at home, don’t have printers or ink. That means tons of excuses and a flurry of printing right before essay assignments are due.

Sure, I could go paperless. After all, our school uses Google Docs. But there’s something about a hard copy that tells students that this is their final draft.

A few years back, I tried PrinterShare, which promised free remote printing. I even recommended the service to a few students. Unfortunately, PrinterShare is no longer free.

That’s why I was so excited about Google Cloud Print.

Too bad GCP isn’t quite ready. Even though Google offers a support page, I’m still confused. Here’s why:

1. GCP doesn’t print from a lot of apps. You need to use Chrome. That’s fine. But then, in order to print a Google Doc, you need the Google Cloud print extension. But even after I installed the extension, I couldn’t print my document.

On my phone it’s no less confusing. Because I don’t have an Android phone, I’m told to go to m.google.com to find the appropriate mobile version of Docs. But then it turns out that I need a desktop version to print from my phone.

2. It’s not easy to set up a printer. First, you have to enable GCP on your Options in Chrome. That’s not so bad. But then you have to be logged into your Google profile at the computer to which your printer is connected. If your computer is off, or if you’re not logged in, your print job stays stuck in the queue.

Confused yet? Here’s another step: If you’re using Windows XP, which is all of the computers at my school, you need to download the Microsoft XML paper specification pack.

Note: Apparently, using a cloud-ready printer is much easier than a local one. But unfortunately, my school doesn’t have any yet and likely won’t for years to come.

3. It’s hard to explain to students. I can share my printer with my students (one by one), but then I have to explain to them how to print to it remotely. There are three ways to print a Google Doc: from the wrench, from the File menu, and from the printer icon. But will these work interchangeably? On my latest attempt, I didn’t see my GCP printer come up as one of the choices.

I’m happy that Google is trying to get printing into the cloud, and I’m sure they’ll get it right soon. But right now, it’s still too early to recommend Google Cloud Print to students.

Please share your brilliant insights!