Sunday, June 03, 2012

Printing Unprintable Web Pages

I like to browse the web in search of useful information and interesting online articles. When I find what I want to keep so that I can print the information or access it when I am not online, I like to convert it to a PDF file, using Nuance PDF Create 7. (Adobe Acrobat would also work, of course, but it costs a lot more money, and I am not just rolling in money at the moment.)

Unfortunately, I sometimes get gobbledegook from the PDF version created by the Nuance program. It's not that the PDF program is at fault, it's that the browser I use sometimes doesn't (or can't) create decent printable files (which can be easily verified by opening Print Preview). Some browsers work better than others, SOMETIMES, but not always.

Print Friendly ( offers a service where you merely enter the URL of a web page you want to print, and they convert the page to a downloadable PDF file, with or without graphics, as you wish.

Just now, the Print Friendly web site enabled me to create a very high quality PDF from a web page and article I really wanted in that form. Ironically, the web site was one pertaining to the use of the Internet for evangelistic purposes. You would think that the web designers responsible for a site specifically pertaining to the use of the web would be capable of creating online articles which could be printed properly, so they could be shared with others. Apparently not. Fortunately, Print Friendly came to my rescue. It sounds trivial, I know, but it can make the difference between a productive online session and an unproductive one.

I'm pretty sure that Print Friendly will make it a lot easier for visitors to all my blogs and blog posts to make prints and PDF files without wasting space on superfluous and paper-wasting navigational elements. But let me know what your experience is when you try to print this blog post or turn it into a PDF file.

NOTE: Some online services (such as PDF Online, allow you to upload files in certain formats (via the form at and get them converted to PDF files they will e-mail to you. But while that's fine for things like Microsoft Word files (as long as they don't exceed the specified file sizes), it's useless for making PDF files from web pages one finds.

PrintFriendly is independent of the computer you're using, so even if you are browsing the web with a public computer, such as one of those found in libraries, you should still be able to make PDFs from whatever web site you find. That should help eliminate the need for libraries to offer printing capabilities to web surfers. What a boon that would have been to me back when I was using the computers at the Harold Washington Library for such research purposes. Back in those days, I ended up spending money I shouldn't have had to spend, just so I could archive the info I found online.

The library should place a prominent link to Print Friendly on the home page for the library's web site. Pronto! It would be the eco-friendly thing to do, and it would be a real service to the poor people who are often forced to use such free public computers.

A MINOR GRIPE: The Print Friendly service generates PDF files which are a different page size than the 8.5 x 11-inch pages which are considered "letter size" in the United States. So I am guessing that Print Friendly was created by a European company, since page sizes in Europe are slightly different from the 8.5 x 11-inch size. Ir's annoying. If one tries to print to the standard letter size page size from the PDF, you can do so, but it sometimes produces text which does not appear correctly in the new lettersize version. I just posted a question about this issue on the support page at, and I hope they answer it to my satisfaction. Otherwise, it's a great web site, and if I never print the PDF files there (which will often be the case, because the reason I want to be able to make PDFs from web pages is usually that I am trying to avoid the need to print them), it won't really matter. The thing is, though, that I would like to be able to make proper printouts from time to time. So they need to offer a dialogue button which specifies what the page size should be when making PDF files. One should even be able to print web pages to non-standard page sizes such as 11x17.

UPDATE: While PrintFriendly can often create some excellent PDF files, that isn't always the case. Sometimes the PrintFriendly PDF shows text which is clearly missing characters, and the best way in such cases can be to just select the actual text, copy it and then paste it into a plain text editor or word processor. Also, PrintFriendly isn't always capable of capturing desired graphic images on particular web pages. In such cases, one may be able to right click the photos and download them, or else do screen shots which can be saved as editable graphic files, usually PNG format. There does not seem to be a universal solution for all web pages, and I wish that the folks at PrintFriendly would figure out a way to make their program work for ALL web pages. But it's still a great option to know about.

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