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How to Save Ink and Make Web Sites Print Better

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Printing out web pages you want a hard copy of can be a little hit and miss. Unlike other documents, it is not easy to tell exactly how many pieces of paper will be needed, and whether or not there will be any awkward clipping. Add to this the problem of wasting ink by printing out unwanted images and ads, and it is little wonder that many people resort to copying and pasting into a word processor. But by using browser add-ons and bookmarklets, you can gain control over what you are printing.

There’s nothing to stop you from using the Print Preview option of your browser, but if you find that you’re going to end up printing out an extra page of ink-heavy paper because of a banner ad, there’s not much you can do about it. By turning to one of the following tools, you gain the ability to edit pages before you print them.

This not only means that you only print out what you are interested in so there are no unnecessary distractions, but also that you can save ink, paper and money in the process. It does not matter which web browser is your weapon of choice, there is a solution for you out there.

Chrome – Print Friendly

If Chrome is your browser of choice Print Friendly could be the addon for you. Printing is immediately made easier thanks to the fact that a toolbar button is added so you no longer have to navigate through Chrome’s menu.

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There are a few ways in which you can improve web page printing. A quick and easy way to save paper and ink is to tick the Remove Image button, but you can also use the Text Size drop down menu to cram more onto each page.

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In the print preview window, you can click on any page element to remove it – so you can easily cut out advertisements and boxes you don’t want. As soon as you hit the print button the usual print dialog will spring into action so you can choose to print at a lower quality to save even more ink.

Firefox – Print Edit

Print Edit is another addon that can be accessed through a toolbar button – although, oddly, this is a multi-function button that defaults to regular printing. Click the arrow to the right of the button and select Print Edit to get to work.

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You’ll find that the addon does a great job of stripping out unnecessary content without you having to do anything. An algorithm is used to identify navigation bars, banners and advertisements that should be removed, but you are then free to start editing the remaining content.

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Click any page element – be it text or image – and you can then use the top toolbar to choose what to do. Click Delete and the selected element will be removed and the remainder of the page moved to fill up the vacated space. You can also use the Hide option to opt not to print a particular object but leave an invisible object in its place to retain formatting.

The Format button can be used to remove styling from text, adjust font size and much more. If you select several blocks of text at the same time, they can also be styled in the same way simultaneously, but you also have the option of styling different areas individually.

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Internet Explorer – Smart Print for Bing Bar

You may have decided to stick with Internet Explorer for browsing the web, and if this is the case you can take advantage of Smart Print for Bing Bar. Head over to the tool’s page and click the Activate Smart Print Now button to start the installation.

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When you want to print a page, click the button in the Bing Toolbar that has been added to Internet Explorer. You’ll find that the addon does a decent job of determining what you’re likely to want to print, but you can easily make adjustments if necessary.

Click the fourth button in the Smart Print toolbar to switch to manual mode and you can start drawing boxes around different parts of the page. The first time you select a section of the page, it will be outlined in green indicating that it will be printed, but you can also draw around other elements within this green box to remove them from the printout entirely.

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All Browsers – Print What You Like

If you use a different web browser, or you use multiple web browsers and want to be able to use the same print editing tool in each, look no further than Print What You Like – the name says it all, really.

The service can be used in a couple of ways, starting with visiting the site and pasting in the URL of the pages you’re looking to print. The alternative – and something that’s going to prove more practical for long term use — is to drag the bookmarklet to your browser toolbar.

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Whichever way you approach Print What You Like, it works in the same way, allowing you to edit the current webpage in your browser. Quick settings to the left can be used to strip out a background image, all images, or remove margins.

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The Page Properties section of the sidebar can be used to adjust font size and style. You can also click on any page element and use the popup toolbar that appears to remove anything you don’t want, or adjust its size.

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So however you access there internet, there are plenty of options for ensuring that you only print out what you need.

Printing web pages should be about more than just clicking print and dealing with reams of paper. Using a dedicated tool to manage what is pumped out by your printer, you can do your bit not only for the environment, but also your wallet.

Mark Wilson is a software fiend and a fan of the new, shiny and intriguing. Never afraid to get his hands dirty with some full-scale geekery, he’s always trying out the latest apps, hacks and tweaks. He can be found on Twitter and Google+.

  • Published 02/24/13

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