Printing on the web is still a chore. While CSS offers rich print output via the CSS print media type, both browsers and websites still (mostly) do a lousy job of them. Here are two suggestions for browser makers.
Suggestion 1: as far as I know, there’s still not a single browser which lets you know in any kind of way that there’s a print stylesheet associated with a website. This small feature would greatly increase print usability – let readers know that a website is printerfriendly so they don’t have to hit “Print Preview” as much.
Suggestion 2: if there’s no print stylesheet, it should be possible to print a website with a browser built-in (and user-customizable) print stylesheet. Hiding things like banners, putting it in black on white with decent fonts is enough for most websites. Auto-extraction of content is only possible with decent (and common) semantics, but a simple browser selection tool which lets you hide table cells or divs should suffice as well (of course, that may not be so simple to build). I’m also very happy with the efforts the IE team has made in 7 to make printing friendlier.
Browser support for printing can be much better. Too often, browser makers rely on website authors to create print stylesheets. However, in the interest of users, they can do a lot more to make it easier.
The reason for this rant, by the way, is a wonderful article on the AIGA design forum, Typography and the Aging Eye, which is unfortunately laid out very poorly (no inline images???), doesn’t zoom the text width (huge gaps on my 1600×1200 monitor) and has no printer-friendly version or even a printer stylesheet!
(This is also a reminder for myself to finally add a print stylesheet to this website…)
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