Daily App: Dell Document Hub Opens Doors For VARs

Dell has taken the concept of printer-as-document-hub to a whole, new level, giving Dell resellers a few new potential revenue streams. The company this week is set to release Document Hub for iOS, the final cog in its three-app strategy that began a few months ago with Document Hub for Windows, and continued last month with the release of Document Hub for Android.

The new apps give Dell printer VARs the ability to monitor and control Dell printers from mobile apps and provide their printer customers increased access to cloud storage, collaboration and printer features.

They also build on and replace Dell Mobile Print, the company's mobile apps that were solid but confined to printing. Document Hub apps, too, will print on-device files from a smartphone or tablet directly to a supported Dell printer. But Document Hub also will be able to scan-to and print-from any of six major cloud-based storage services: Box, Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive and SharePoint. Even better, the tool provides a single sign-on for all of those services, and can perform federated file searches across all six as if they were one.

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To test this capability, we fired up the Android version, which presented a one-time login screen with the option to skip it. Doing so brings up four large buttons labeled Print File, Print Web Page, Print Gmail and Scan. Tapping Print File without logging in brings up a list of on-device file types and then a list of files. To this point, the app functions in much the same way as its predecessors, with print-from web. No Internet or data connection is required to print from a device, and there's a long list of supported file formats: doc, docx, xls, xlsx, ppt, pptx, pdf, jpg, png, gif, tiff, bmp, html, xml and xhtml. It also prints from Gmail.

Next, we created and logged into a test Hub account, which we connected to Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive. Tapping the Print File button showed an expanded list that included all of our files on those services, each with an icon corresponding to its file type and location. Searches can be narrowed to a single provider or to local files, but can't be expanded again without returning first to the startup screen. Searches for specific files look on all connected services at once.

What's more, Dell printer VARs now will be able to monitor printer health and supply levels remotely, simplifying support calls and increasing access to supply revenues. The Windows version also incorporates OCR capabilities, which can save scanned documents as editable ones. Hub also includes a print service plug-in for devices running Android 4.4 and later, which enables some apps to print natively from Android's new print dialog. In every case, a preview of what's about to be printed appears on the left along with printer settings and page thumbnails, if needed. Editable printer settings include those for range, copies, paper size and others, as appropriate, for the selected output device.

In every scenario we tested, this app just worked. If no printer is selected when trying to print, an obvious message is displayed. Tapping on the message scans the LAN, and after a few seconds displays a list of printers. For long lists, printers can be sorted alphabetically, or by favorite or recently used. Document Hub is accessible from computers, mobile devices and Hub-enabled printers, and offers VARs new avenues into the enterprise.