Printability: It’s not just for Firefox anymore

The current Cites & Insights begins with a brief Bibs & Blather (the secret real name for C&I, but you already know that) grumping about bloggers who use Six Apart software, write posts more than a few hundred words long, and don’t realize (or care) that, without some tweaks to the templates, Firefox users can’t print the posts except by copying the text into Word or some other program. I questioned whether such writers really didn’t want to be taken seriously…and noted that, of course, one solution was to mark-as-unread and once in a while use IE instead.

Whoops. Along the way, I ran into one interesting blog where that doesn’t work–where, apparently, the width of the banner (or some other setting) causes printed lines in IE to be about half an inch wider than the margins of the paper. And you typically won’t notice that th enough missing every s in the text (sample of phenomenon: “that there’s just enough missing every so often in the text” is what should be there) so as to make the document useless until after you’ve printed it off.

It’s happened again, this time on a very long post with loads of comments (pointed out by StevenB at ACRLog).

I did print preview in IE: 15 pages. Then I looked closely…at the missing ends of lines. Sigh. Mark, copy, paste to Word, print the resulting 17 pages. (8 for the post, 9 for the comments).

I really, truly don’t get it: Do these bloggers never actually look at their own pages? Do they assume that eight-page posts won’t ever be printed out? That advice that’s clearly been thought through and carefully worded isn’t worth printing and saving/savoring?

Of course, Six Apart’s mostly at fault. TypePad doesn’t have to work this way. WordPress certainly doesn’t (although, sigh, I’m seeing more bloggers who manage to screw up tweak their templates sufficiently that the text of a printout won’t start until the second or third page).

End of followon grump.

By the way, I thought I’d start my series of posts commenting on presentations at Internet Librarian, based on what I see in the blog postings on those presentations.
And now I’ve finished my series of posts doing third-hand commenting. Live and learn.

9 Responses to “Printability: It’s not just for Firefox anymore”

  1. Steve Lawson Says:

    >And now I’ve finished my series of posts doing third-hand commenting. Live and learn.

    Shame, really. I had planned to do a series of posts commenting on the comments on your posts about other bloggers’ posts on Internet Librarian.

  2. walt Says:

    Feel free. Just make up what you believe I would say about what other people said about what people actually said at IL. (Or did I leave out a metalevel there?)

    Just say, “If Walt Crawford still had any cojones, he would have said…” and go from there. Or, equally good, “Walt Crawford undoubtedly believes..”

  3. Peter Murray Says:

    For what it’s worth, I had a completely different experience. When I printed the page in question using Firefox 1.5.0.7 on MacOSX, I get exactly four pages: one with the top half of the banner graphic [yes -- only half of it]; a second with the left column — just the left column — about 100 pixels wide and overflowing the bottom of the page; a third with the post content — again fixed width and just enough to fill the page; and a fourth with the right column [you guessed it -- fixed width and filling the page vertically].

    Something is horribly broken with that site. We can start with the fact that the HTML doesn’t validate. The root cause of the problem, though, is the dreaded Fixed Width:

    #container {
    * line-height : 140%;
    * margin-right : auto;
    * margin-left : auto;
    * text-align : left;
    * padding : 0;
    * width : 900px;
    * background-color : #ffffff;
    }

    By forcing the width to be a specific value, the web designer (using that term loosely in the case of this page) overrides the browser’s rendering engine to fit the page as best it can to the width of the browser window or the width of the printed page (or the width of your PDA).

    I tried your site and was pleased to find a nice print media CSS declaration. (Or, in the case of WaR, I think what is happening when the page is printed is the absence of a CSS declaration because you are using media=”screen” attribute.) How your page appears when printed (and given your typography interest, this comes as no surprise to you) is very important. I worked for a number of hours to make sure it came out right on DLTJ as well. Try printing a random posting on DLTJ and you’ll see what I mean.

  4. walt Says:

    Peter, What you got with Firefox is about what I’d get–that’s why I was using IE. On most sites with Firefox and Six Apart tools, you either get the first page of the post and another page with some footer material, or you get the banner on its own page, then the first page of the post, then another footer page, or you get something like you mentioned.

    Saying “I’m” using the media attribute overstates my involvement. I did modify the template I selected (LetterHead) to use different typefaces and trim a few settings, but I don’t know enough HTML and CSS to get fancy. Most WordPress templates apparently do distinguish between screen and print, and produce a really nice clean print version. I was pleasantly surprised when a reader noted the typography in WaR. I don’t notice it because, ahem, I force all web pages to use my own choice of typeface. But for other users, Book Antiqua/Palatino is a nice, classy choice. I hope you get Palatino on the Mac, not something like Helvetica!

    I tried a couple of those links and Print Preview. As you say, DLTJ now has a clean print version–lacking the sidebar and formatted for print. But you’re not including comments in the printout. Not to make more work for you…anyway, it looks great other than that.

    I was pretty sure the dreaded fixed width was the problem on another liblog. It took me by surprise here.

    Oh, by the way, you got trapped as spam because of the number of links–but mostly because w3.org is a blacklisted domain!

  5. Peter Murray Says:

    But you’re not including comments in the printout.

    Whoops! A misplaced ‘div’ tag. Thanks for pointing that out; I can’t believe I’ve missed it for the past three months.

    Odd that w3.org is blacklisted. They are supposed to be the good guys, after all!

    Palantino comes with the operating system, but I enjoy you in Book Antiqua — I must have picked up that font somewhere along the line.

  6. walt Says:

    Yeah, I thought w3.org being a blacklist site was a little odd as well–but it appears to be a “mild blacklist”: All by itself, I think it would just put a comment into moderation.

    The topic of Book Antiqua and Palatino has risen elsewhere in this blog, but this time I did a little “research.” I know Hermann Zapf designed Palatino (and have heard, but can’t confirm, that he actually designed it as a heading type), and that it was by far–BY FAR–the best serif type included with the original Postscript laser printers from Apple. (“The only decent” is a phrase that comes to mind, but that may be too harsh.) Subsequently, Palatino–which had Zapf-licensed versions from both Linotype and Adobe–was distributed with every Mac.

    Book Antiqua is Monotype’s interpretation of Palatino. You can’t copyright a type design (although you can trademark the name of the typeface), and both Monotype (Book Antiqua) and Bitstream (Zapf Calligraphic 801) produced their own digital interpretations of Palatino. Microsoft started distributing Book Antiqua widely, both with Windows and with both Windows and Mac versions of Office. So you may have it as part of Office.

    Theoretically, I should switch back to Palatino as the preferred version to honor Zapf’s creation–but I won’t, for two reasons: First, the TrueType version in Windows is called Palatino Linotype, which is on the cumbersome side (the Palatino is a system font that’s just wrong, with the capital J and Q apparently from some other typeface entirely). Second, comparing Palatino Linotype and Book Antiqua directly, the first (on my PC at least) is heavier, not spaced as well, and feels like a heading type, where the second has the openness and lightness of a good text face. So, pace Hermann Zapf, who’s definitely a master designer, I’ll stick with Book Antiqua as the first choice.

    For print work, my current fave rave is Berkeley Oldstyle Book, designed by Goudy for my alma mater (which isn’t the reason I love it)–but that doesn’t get distributed with anything, as far as I know (i paid cold hard $ to obtain a legal copy, either directly from ITC or from a distributor), so I use it in the PDF version of Cites & Insights, but use the Book Antiqua/Palatino/serif options for the HTML essays.

    And that’s more about typefaces than anyone probably cares about–without mentiong Arrus BT, which is how I look at pretty much all web pages, and which I used in several books (before First Have Something to Say, the text of which is in Berkeley Oldstyle Book)

  7. Mark Says:

    You’ve got me looking at the fonts on my PowerBook (guess I should for the PC too.) I have all of these fonts except the Berkeley, of course, on both platforms, oh, or the Arrus BT.

    I should be reading you in Book Antiqua based on my installed fonts and your stylesheet, Walt. That is, since you are one of the few (only?) people I automatically go to the post and read natively; not in Bloglines. Any idea if, how, I can verify my browser is doing what it is being told do do?

    By the by, I’ve now installed Firefox on both machines. Seems to have gone without a hitch. I had a few extensions that haven’t been upgraded but they were inessential to not used. The Web Developer tool bar came through beautifully, along with everything else, on both platforms.

    I, at least, appreciate your font discussions. I have no doubt others do, too.

  8. walt Says:

    Mark: Setting aside the kind words (for which I’m grateful), I’m not sure how you would do that. Maybe Peter will drop by and knows some secret for finding out what typeface is actually being displayed on a web page.

    (The one suggestion I might have is a little intricate: Copy some of the page into a post on another blog and look at the HTML version. That might work, depending on the blog software: It might show a Font assignment. )

    In any case, if you have Book Antiqua and you haven’t overridden page-assigned typefaces, it’s extremely likely that you’re seeing Book Antiqua. Extremely.

  9. Mark Says:

    I think so too. Doing a quick eyeball of the fonts in Font Manager and whatever it is on the PC, the post looks like it matches them.


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