Saturday, 24 December 2011

PHP to Paper..........The Introduction to Printing

Well I'm sure if you have found this blog entry, it's not because you need to be taught how to suck eggs! I recently ran into the brick wall that is, getting a PHP web application to print directly to a printer, no user dialogs, and the printer a sitting on the opposite side of the world to the server, I'm guessing if you have found this, you are looking for a solution to the very same thing.
Google Cloud Print
Imagine this for a situation, you run an online shop, the server is online in a far away place, the office is in one location where workers maintain the shop and your items listed, in another location is your warehouse, every day someone in your warehouse has to log in to print out a picking note and a delivery note.
Now how much easier would it be if every time an order came in, the printer sitting in the warehouse churned out the paperwork the minute your customer confirmed their order?!

Well this was a challenge I had been tasked with, allowing a PHP based back office system to print, no dialogs, no questions asked. So where to start, I wanted a solution which was both simple and easy to maintain. As printers come and go, I wanted a solution that was somewhat future proof and didn't need much code work to change or add printers and the possibility of printing to more than one location.

After a little thinking and a little bit of trawling, I kept coming back to one possibility which the more I thought about the more I thought it's got to hold the answer.
If you haven't heard about it yet, you soon will, the awesome giant that is Google have come up with an excellent new beta product, its called Google Cloud Print, and while at the moment I don't really think it's intended to be an answer to the problem, the more I thought about it, the more I thought it was going to be the answer. Over the next few blog posts I am going to share my findings, and show you how I've used Google Cloud Print to get my PHP system to print directly to my printers, that's the server (in this case) stateside printing directly to a printer roughly 2500 miles away from it!

So a final word to end the introduction, before I get stuck into the nitty gritty: What is Google Cloud Print I hear you ask:

Print anywhere, from any device.
Google Cloud Print is a new technology that connects your printers to the web. Using Google Cloud Print, you can make your home and work printers available to you and anyone you choose, from the applications you use every day. Google Cloud Print works on your phone, tablet, Chromebook, PC, and any other web-connected device you want to print from.
A diagram showing the workflow of Google Cloud Print

Looking for the official help? Click Here for the developers doc's, but be warned as at the time of writing this, the doc's are somewhat limited due to Google Cloud Print still being in beta.

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