One of the most common type of consult that I’m faced with is setting up a home network that supports printing from multiple computers to one household printer. While this used to be the type of setup that only businesses used, with multiple computers being commonplace in most modern households it’s become a very regular scenario.

I’m constantly surprised by how many homes still go through the rigamarole of emailing documents to themselves, or popping them on a flash drive just so they can walk across the hall and print out a document from the one computer that they have connected to a printer. It’s especially easy now that all Apple wireless routers (and many third party routers) support wireless printing with just about any USB printer, regardless of what platform you use.

Say hello to “Bonjour” (redundant, I know, but I had to say it). Bonjour was first introduced in Jaguar (OS 10.2) under the name “Rendezvous.” Also known as “zero-configuration networking,” Rendezvous became an easy way to quickly find and configure network devices, including printers. While the name “Rendezvous” made a little more sense, since the protocol really is a “meeting” of two or more devices, Apple changed the name to “Bonjour” with the release of Tiger (OS 10.4) as part of the settlement of a trademark dispute with Tibco Software in 2004. Regardless of title, the technology behind Bonjour is pretty darn cool. When Bonjour for Windows was released, it got even cooler!

Bonjour for Windows allows Windows computers that share a network with Macs to participate in file-sharing, printer-sharing and a variety of other peripheral-sharing. I commonly use it when setting up an AirPort Express, Extreme or Time Capsule in multi-platform homes. Simply plug your USB printer into the USB port of the Apple wireless device and Bonjour automatically makes it visible to the network.

That means that when Macs go into their System Preferences > Network Preferences and hit the “+” button they can automatically see the shared printer attached to their router. As long as the printer driver is installed they can print wirelessly to it! It should be noted that not all USB printers are supported (though most are) and that all-in-ones can only print wirelessly, not scan wirelessly.

For our PC friends on the same network, they just need to download and install Bonjour for Windows and then use the Bonjour for Windows program to locate and add the printer to their printer list and they too can wirelessly print! I’ve also found that Bonjour for Windows can be a great tool for those having printer headaches in their Parallels or VMware Fusion virtual machines. After installing Bonjour for Windows and running the application, one can see the same printers that were visible on the Mac side and wireless printing is a breeze!

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