Print-friendly web links; do you use them?
May 26, 2004 11:25 AM   Subscribe

Informal survey, preferably of non-web developing users: Do you use "print-friendly" links on web sites? [mi]

If you use them, do you miss them when they aren't there? If the link wasn't there, but it printed in a user-friendly fashion anyway (thanks to CSS), would it bother you that you weren't given a choice before the page was reformatted?

(These may seem like stupid questions, but they come from real-world arguments, believe me.)
posted by o2b to Computers & Internet (28 answers total)
I use print-friendly links if I think there is going to be some weird formatting, or if the page is cluttered with ads. But as long as it prints cleanly, I don't really care.

(I only ever print receipts, order confirmations, etc.)
posted by JoanArkham at 11:31 AM on May 26, 2004

I print from the web frequently, and a lot of pages are printer-unfriendly. Only when I print out something from one of those pages and it turns out badly do I wish for a printer-friendly option. If I believe that a page should print out just fine as is, but am offered separate printer-friendly formatting, I take it.
posted by blueshammer at 11:33 AM on May 26, 2004

Phooey on printing. If there's a print-friendly link then that's the page I view. They're always better designed than the print-unfriendly pages they mirror. If a page is printer-unfriendly, I guarantee you it's also eyeball-unfriendly.
posted by jfuller at 11:37 AM on May 26, 2004

I often use the printer-friendly links. When I find an article online that especially want to keep, I will bookmark it, but I will also print a copy to pdf to archive. This is especially useful on sites that have pay archives, like the NYT. I also use this bookmarklet to add footnotes with the urls of links.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 11:39 AM on May 26, 2004

I use the print friendly links for important things like maps and reservations and receipts...come to think of it, that's what I print from the internet!

So..I basically use them whenever I can.
posted by taumeson at 11:44 AM on May 26, 2004

I use the print-friendly link to read online. The format is usually less cluttered. Too many sites are designed around small pages too. There are maybe 3 paragraphs of text and a link to the next page. I find it really tedious so if they don't have a print-friendly version I will not read the article.
posted by substrate at 11:47 AM on May 26, 2004

I use them for printing. I also use them for permalinking so that I can send people pages with information on them, not pages with banner ads, tons of useless geegaws and a lot of extraneous crap. If there's a print-friendly link, I'll generally use it for reading myself as well. I'm not sure I miss them when they're not there, but if a site USED to have them and now does not, I'll send nasty email about it.
posted by jessamyn at 11:51 AM on May 26, 2004

I use them all the time, particularly for long tests. When I'm reading, I don't want to face the designer's design.

I want a clean stream of text, not a two or three columns of blinking ads and brightly-coloured links with an inch-wide dribble of text down the centre.

I want to be able to read the text---too many websites use too small a font for my tired eyes. The font-nazi's aren't always vigilant about the "printer" pages, so I get a chance to read them in comfort.

I want the whole text, not fragments I have to page through at arbitrary intervals. This is the web after all, not a space-limited newspaper page. I understand ad-views, blah-blah-blah, but I don't have to like it.

I like printer pages which are clean, don't force a font choice on the viewer, and which have the whole text (and illustrations) on them. The NY times does this pretty well. Wired used to, but they seem to have turned evil. Printer-friendly pages which pop up a tiny window that will not allow a resize are particularly irritating, a nasty taunt from a too-too designer.
posted by bonehead at 11:51 AM on May 26, 2004

I use print pages the same way as described by substrate. They're especially helpful when reading a long article at's much better to have a little square filled with text on your screen, rather than some screen of blinking ads and enormous bolded headlines.
posted by arielmeadow at 12:05 PM on May 26, 2004

I'm with substrate et al. I won't read something if it's broken into chunks of 2 paragraphs followed by [next page].
posted by Zonker at 12:09 PM on May 26, 2004

I definitely appreciate printer-friendly pages, and the main reason for me is the ink! I don't want to use the ink to print a bunch of banner ads and such crap. This is for printing from home, of course. From work, who cares?
posted by bingo at 12:21 PM on May 26, 2004

I don't really ever print from the web, but add me to the chorus of users who prefer the non-paginated, clean, sparse pages filled with text in the browser itself. If you're designing a site, take whatever you were going to use as the "printer page," and make that your actual page page instead.

On the other hand, I used to be a web developer, I also aggressively filter advertising, and I am notoriously cantankerous about the pervasiveness of overdesign on the web, so maybe I don't really count.
posted by majick at 12:37 PM on May 26, 2004

I only print long articles (usually on sites that have a print entity, like nytimes, etc) and receipts. In both cases, I do appreciate a printable version. It's just one more template, and a simple one at that. If you're flat-filing a site, I guess it's a lot more work.
posted by scarabic at 12:39 PM on May 26, 2004

Add me to the print-friendly-page-users. For the reasons of a) less clutter, particularly ads b) an easy way to read straight through an article c) bookmarking. I rarely ever print from the web, but if I did, would use the print friendly page for that, too.
posted by whatzit at 12:44 PM on May 26, 2004

If the link wasn't there, but it printed in a user-friendly fashion anyway (thanks to CSS), would it bother you that you weren't given a choice before the page was reformatted?

A note on that - I'm not sure I would know that it would print out nicely. If that button isn't there, I expect it to print out what's on my screen.
posted by whatzit at 12:47 PM on May 26, 2004

Thanks all, I appreciate it.

(the following emphasis is only so that this gets read, not because people have been answering wrongly)

Let me rephrase one of my questions:

If a page printed in a "print-friendly" format, without your intervention (you just clicked Print, you didn't click a print-friendly link), would it bother you? Ie, would the fact that the printed version was different than your expectations bother you?
posted by o2b at 12:49 PM on May 26, 2004

As long as it printed nicely, I'd be okay with it but I'll bet less tech savy printers would wonder why their printer was broken (ie, not printing the page they saw on their screen).

Don't laugh. I work with three people whom I could easily imagine coming to me in a hysterical flurry about this very same issue.
posted by jennyb at 1:41 PM on May 26, 2004

Bother me? Yes it would. Tweet! Violation of the Principle of Least Surprise. Ten yard penalty, first down.
posted by majick at 1:52 PM on May 26, 2004

would the fact that the printed version was different than your expectations bother you?

I work in a rural public library. This would confuse the crap out of a large number of my patrons many of whom have a hard time even finding the print button on the browser. Also, sometimes it's tough to tell why people want a page printed. "Print-friendly" might mean no ads, no layout, or no colors, and maybe that's what Patron X was trying to print.
posted by jessamyn at 1:54 PM on May 26, 2004

Huh. I was all set to chime in with the chorus of "Yay printer-friendly version!". But after having read your rephrased question, I can think a couple of situations where this has happened, and I actually wanted some of that extraneous stuff (don't ask, the aggravation remains more in my mind than the actual details). So, much like my politics, I vote pro-choice.
posted by vignettist at 1:55 PM on May 26, 2004

Thanks to all, all your comments were helpful, but please feel free to continue commenting -- I'll continue to check.
posted by o2b at 2:50 PM on May 26, 2004

majick: While you're ofcourse correct that user-interface design-wise it's bad, the problem is really with the browser (that being all browsers, can't think of one that does it right): It should be giving you the option to print "as on screen", while defaulting to the standard print layout. That way nobody would have to make double pages and the principle of least surprise is abided by (or at least pretty close, the checkbox "print as on screen" being there should inform people it's not going to be printed as on screen if it's not checked).
posted by fvw at 2:58 PM on May 26, 2004

I use printer friendly links regularly for printing, though not for reading (I generally find the wide column width on them annoying). I would be irritated, however, by having something print differently than what is displayed on my screen.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:10 PM on May 26, 2004

Count me in as one who would heartily welcome printer-friendly links available by default. In my high school library, students print out reams of stuff daily and it would be wonderful if they didn't have to print the dumb headers, footers, ads, etc. that just waste ink to print what they do need.
posted by Lynsey at 4:40 PM on May 26, 2004

I do not use the print-friendly version. If I need to print, I usually just highlight what I need and use "print selection" from the print menu.
posted by Hildago at 5:28 PM on May 26, 2004

Anything over 2 pages gets printed for me. Sad, but true. I do love to read on the web, but longer articles are printed so I can highlight, comment in the margins, share with friends, etc.
posted by gen at 6:43 PM on May 26, 2004

I use the print-friendly links for printing, but seldom print anything other than receipts and such. From what I read here, I should be using them to read, too! I also always check the print-preview, to keep from wasting a sheet of paper to print 2-lines of bullshit.

What I hate the most on websites these days, are pages that don't let me enlarge the font for reading on my monitor.
posted by Goofyy at 11:07 PM on May 26, 2004

A lot of pages are too wide to print easily and have too many ads, so Print-Friendly it is. Sometimes the text is smaller on Print-Friendly, which saves paper.
posted by ALongDecember at 7:59 AM on May 27, 2004

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