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April 12, 2007 8:16 AM   Subscribe

People find printing Web pages too hard. Hewlett-Packard is devising ways to get people to print Web pages instead of reading them on-screen. Last month, H.P. bought Tabblo (previously), whose software creates templates that reorganize the photos and text blocks on a Web page to fit standard sizes of paper. H.P. wants to make the software a standard by making it ubiquitous like flash, java and Acrobat.
posted by pithy comment (70 comments total)

 
Isn't this already possible with print stylesheets or am I missing something here?
posted by twistedonion at 8:20 AM on April 12, 2007


There's a guy in my office who's always printing 10 page posts from crappy sports blogs from ESPN or various news sites so he can read them in the restroom (then leaves them). How wonderful that HP is working to enable him to do this easier so timeless pieces of weblogging can be preserved.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:21 AM on April 12, 2007


Be sure to print some pictures of trees so our grandchildren can see what they looked like.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:27 AM on April 12, 2007 [17 favorites]


I wish someone would work on a better way of reading web pages on screen. Fer real!
posted by Mister_A at 8:31 AM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


If inly there was a way they could help ensure that background colours are printed, to increase print cartridge profits for greater clarity.
posted by Artw at 8:33 AM on April 12, 2007


My then-employer had a representative from Microsoft visit back in, oh, 2000 or so. It was supposed to be a happy-happy thing where they showed off all the wondrous things that came from being a Partner. I chose to ask him why IE couldn't print a web page properly.

He didn't have an answer.

(No matter what you did, 10% of the page was off the right edge of the paper. The only case where it worked properly was when you had a print driver that allowed you to shrink the entire page by N%.

I asked some other questions, too, and even got answers.
posted by dhartung at 8:37 AM on April 12, 2007


Some people just like to have something physical, so for them this isn't a bad step forward.

I created content for a banks knowledge management system a couple of years ago. I followed all the guidelines and advice about writing for the web, but people were still printing off pages and storing them, even though the pages didn't print very well.

I asked them why and they gave two reasons: it was easier to read on paper and they had more trust and belief in what they were reading if they could hold it in their hands.
posted by Nugget at 8:39 AM on April 12, 2007


twistedonion, you are correct, print stylesheets are a solution, but requires each page to have them in place. If HP can come up with something 'ubiquitous' (ugh how I love that word), it would be great.
posted by pretzel at 8:42 AM on April 12, 2007


I'll be interested in printing websites instead of viewing them online when there's an infinite paper supply and a means of pointing to a link on paper and having the paper change to the linked site.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:49 AM on April 12, 2007 [3 favorites]


People print things out because they're retarded and they like to kill trees.

Back in the early 90s, people naively chattered about the "paperless offices," until they realized that all this wonderful computer technology actually made it easier to produce written copy.

The more things change....
posted by Afroblanco at 8:49 AM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Nugget, sure sometimes it's preferable to have something physical, esp. if you're editing or taking notes or something like that.

Come to think of it, though, the only web pages I ever print are ones with instructions/directions, maps, and so on, OR things like journal articles that are just awful to read in HTML or PDF format. So really, my question should have been, how can we improve readability of text-heavy pages and docs onscreen?
posted by Mister_A at 8:49 AM on April 12, 2007


Oh, and how do I get the goddamn white-out off my monitor?
posted by Mister_A at 8:50 AM on April 12, 2007


print stylesheets are a solution, but requires each page to have them in place

Yeah, print stylesheets are only useful if authors use them. But Tabblo is only useful if authors use it, right? Where's the difference?

If HP can come up with something 'ubiquitous' (ugh how I love that word), it would be great.

Other than the catchy name and flashy website, how will promoting Tabblo be any better or easier than promoting the proper use of CSS?
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:55 AM on April 12, 2007


I print every web page I read, and make a copy to forward to Al Gore.
posted by The Deej at 8:56 AM on April 12, 2007 [3 favorites]


People print things out because they're retarded and they like to kill trees.

Insight like this is why I keep coming back here...
posted by SweetJesus at 8:59 AM on April 12, 2007


Some people just like to have something physical, so for them this isn't a bad step forward.

Some people just like to have something physical, so they print stuff when it isn't necessary, and I think we're finally coming to the point where we can collectively call that action immoral.

<looks at 3D perspective chart printed yesterday because it was pretty and would impress boss; sheds silent tear>
posted by gurple at 9:07 AM on April 12, 2007


People print things out because they're retarded and they like to kill trees.
That's false. In my field, we print from the web all the time. Why? Part of what I do is produce compilations of training documents for a large group of history interpreters. They work onsite in period historic buildings, and they don't have computer workstations. But they're responsible for the information we provide. We print articles from journals, timelines, lesson plans, content from history websites, things from JSTOR and the National Park Service - all useful information, and all not portable. Our budget allows paper, but does not allow for 50 roving laptops.

Teachers, field workers, and experiential educators of all stripes do this, too. Even in this day and age, not all jobs and workplaces involve sitting in front of a screen at your own workstation. Incredible learning resources and lesson plans are on the web, and we want to use them. Information has to follow us into the field, and paper is still the finest technology for that, especially on a cost basis. An application like this would help us save trees by not alternating twenty pages of useful text with 20 pages of borders and ads printing that 10% space. It might be possible to maneuver settings to avoid that, but it's not transparently easy yet, so I applaud efforts to make it so.

Besides, our server is down at least once a week, so there are some things (budget, contact numbers) I just need to have on paper because I can't count on access to it. But that's another issue. Nonprofits.
posted by Miko at 9:08 AM on April 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


I do like saving a copy of a web page, be it on paper or on my hard drive.

Between Safari's Print to PDF option and this nifty little piece of freeware (Paparazzi!), I have little need to actually print a paper copy.
posted by bhayes82 at 9:11 AM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


People find printing Web pages too hard as stupid as faxing a dollar bill.
posted by Plutor at 9:15 AM on April 12, 2007


What ever happened to the paperless office?
The dream seems to recede further into the future every year. But now sales show that offices may finally be turning the page on paper use.

posted by gwint at 9:20 AM on April 12, 2007


What's wrong with CSS media types?
posted by delmoi at 9:20 AM on April 12, 2007


I'm working in a paperless office right now. It's a paperless office because we just made triplicate copies of a 600-page filing, and nobody's gone to Office Depot to buy another case yet.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:26 AM on April 12, 2007 [4 favorites]


People print things out because they're retarded and they like to kill trees.

People eat french fries because they're retarded and they like to kill potatoes.

Goddamn it, when will it end! Our grandchildren will live in a world without potatoes, unless we stop this madness!
posted by jbickers at 9:28 AM on April 12, 2007 [4 favorites]


Trees=A truly renewable resource.

Timber!
posted by tadellin at 9:32 AM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Printing web pages is too hard. And I print a lot of them, mostly for research. The web isn't permanent; I still shudder about the time the Smithsonian sent me to northern Norway to write an article, and I didn't take nearly as many notes as I would have because the air museum there had an intricate, detailed website. Then when I got back home, they'd taken it offline for several months for redesign, right when my article was due.

Anyway, I was happy to discover the Firefox add-on Nuke Anything, kind of an extreme name, but it takes anything off the page that you don't need while you're printing, to save space, ink, etc.

You only end up killing half the trees.

(on preview — thanks for the reminder, jbickers. French fries for lunch!)
posted by LeLiLo at 9:36 AM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


I used to have trouble reading things like Gutenberg etexts onscreen; now I'm thinking of scanning my library books into PDFs so I can finish them before they're due the first time. When I have to print out a web page I do that reduce size by N% thing. So this software would be wasted on me. Does HP need to increase sales of its printers and printer supplies?
posted by davy at 9:44 AM on April 12, 2007


The idea itself probably has some merit, but if it's anything like the other software from HP I'm forced to use, it will be semi-functional crap. I find this company's products annoyingly subpar. Sorry to rant, but this seemed like an appropriate place to do it.
posted by greasepig at 9:47 AM on April 12, 2007


Well, the town I live in literally lives and dies by how much paper people are buying (like many other northern-ontario mill towns), so I say print away.

It's really tough here right now, and in fact any mention of paper conservation is usually met with an only half-joking "Don't save paper! We need to keep our mill running!".

As far as the killing all the trees crew, trees are a 100% renewable resource - we've got lots of them and they keep growing more.
posted by davey_darling at 9:58 AM on April 12, 2007


What's wrong with CSS media types?

It's not sexy enough to attract venture capital.

Now, if the W3C called it CSSr 3.0 Theta and allowed you to do this with it:
body {
background-gradient: yes;
mintiness: extra-fresh;
sexiness: sexxy;
color: something-pastel;
logo: reflective-like-on-wet-floor;
AJAX: overused-but-completely-useless;
accessibility: off-because-it-is-not-sexy;
}
THEN we'd have a product the world would use and would have the VCs of the world emptying their wallets.

Until then, CSS and XHTML are useless and aren't worth a hill of beans. Just save your entire site as a Word doc and put a link to it after your site's 15 minute Flash intro.
posted by dw at 10:00 AM on April 12, 2007 [9 favorites]


One wonders why the authors of browsers don't think to include setup options to better handle the printing of webpages.
posted by Dave Faris at 10:01 AM on April 12, 2007


Why don't we see more paper made from recycled materials like, oh, lumber scraps, rags, trash, grass clippings and tomato stems anyway? Paper wasn't always made from freshly cut trees; it can be made from damn near anything fibrous. Chop it up, boil it down, bleach it a bit and roll it out. It'll also give the old guys who rummage through the alleys something besides beer cans to recycle. I don't always need bright shiny white printouts, and supermarkets can use "lower-quality" paper for cash register receipts.

And greasepig, maybe the free software types will put out a GNU version.
posted by davy at 10:03 AM on April 12, 2007


People print things out because they're retarded and they like to kill trees.

People like me print things out because I'm taking the family to the zoo, need a map, and don't want to be looking at my laptop as I drive around looking for parking.

People like other people in my office print things out because there's an event where they want a 2-page fact sheet about the school and I can point them straight to a PDF of the fact sheet on the website.

People like my boss print things out because they like having something to read on the bus ride home and Wi-Fi on Seattle buses is still spotty and sketchy.

There are still many reasons to print things out. It's part of why our "paperless" offices are still going through more paper than before the rise of personal computers and desktop publishing.

(I just think that media="print" works just fine for text and PDF works just fine for brochures and maps, thankyouverymuch.)
posted by dw at 10:08 AM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


It would be more interesting and effective if HP did a lobbying/marketing campaign in conjunction with major web sites, getting them to create good print style sheets then promoting that enhancement on the sites. They usually only take a few minutes to put together (hide the navigation, adjust widths, tweak colours).

"And I print a lot of them, mostly for research. The web isn't permanent;"
The unstable nature of the web isn't in itself a good reason to print, though; you can create a PDF, or copy and paste the content into a document, or put it into a database. Any of those is more flexible than converting the data to dots of ink/toner on paper.
posted by malevolent at 10:09 AM on April 12, 2007


You know how it is sometimes recommended to write things out longhand in order to better remember and comprehend them? Sometimes I feel that way about printing things out. Just hearing the printer run and knowing the hardcopy is in the room changes my comprehension a bit.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:11 AM on April 12, 2007


What davy said: I think a significant hurdle is getting Americans to accept paper that isn't pure white, and therefore doesn't require all the bleaching that white paper does (and all the pollution that comes with it). I'm really not sure why every silly piece of paper I get in my electric bill ("this page intentionally left blank") needs to be of such a pristine, snowy purity.

disclaimer: I no longer get any paper bills.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:12 AM on April 12, 2007


If you don't need a dead-tree version, but do need an local copy of a webpage or website, the firefox exstension
ScrapBook works well and is very popular.

Previously mention on the green:
What are your favorite extensions in Firefox?

I find Scrapbook much more easier than having to scan in old printed-out webpages.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:15 AM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the scrapbook link and Askme pointer!
posted by davy at 10:31 AM on April 12, 2007


Trees, Schmees. My own unenlightened self-interest heads toward the same goal:
Save a Link and Save the Ink.

I use social bookmarking, or, as I call it, "Refer Madness"
posted by hal9k at 10:32 AM on April 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


CTRL + A

CTRL + V into word processor

on a windows box anyway...
posted by goldism at 10:34 AM on April 12, 2007


Print preview in IE7 works pretty good.
posted by Artw at 10:53 AM on April 12, 2007


Semi-interesting anecdote: if you've ever watched a high school / college policy debate round, you know that those kids use ungodly amounts of paper. Literally every team will carry around 5 huge Rubbermaid tubs filled with papers, thousands and thousands of pages. It's hard to write the briefs, it's expensive to copy them, it's bad for your back, but that's what you do in order to have the evidence you need to go into each round.

A couple of years ago, the Whitman debate team started doing all their research electronically: they'd scan their books and OCR them, and then use macros to just attach sources to everything and organize the evidence (very time-consuming process on paper). Last time I checked, they'd gotten very efficient at this.

Now they just carry around most of their files on a CD. With a laptop and a cheap laser printer, they have instant access to literally years worth of backfiles. They're more productive than teams three times their size, and each year those benefits grow because they can carry around all their previous research rather than having to make strategic choices about which files to throw away.

Astonishingly, few other teams seem to have caught on. I ran the numbers a few years ago on the cost/time savings if done right; it's mind-boggling.

The paperless office stuff is no joke, if you can make it work, and there's a lot of problems with it, not least of all getting everyone on board with the minimum amount of tech expertise needed. And it requires an all-in commitment -- having mixed paper and electronic files is a nightmare. But I'm confident that paper-intensive offices that can make this happen gain really serious advantages over their competitors.
posted by spiderwire at 10:57 AM on April 12, 2007 [5 favorites]


I'm skipping the whole deal and distributing my next site on paper only.
posted by autodidact at 10:59 AM on April 12, 2007


Man, I found me a few killer FF add-ons here. Thanks y'all.
posted by Mister_A at 11:09 AM on April 12, 2007


I prefer to distribute my blog by telepathy and command my audience to piss it in the snow.
posted by CynicalKnight at 11:29 AM on April 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


Awesome. Now I can print out the internet and carry it with me. So long Verizon Wireless data plan!
posted by Ynoxas at 11:33 AM on April 12, 2007


Hewlett-Packard? You mean the company that sells you a printer but doesn't include the data cable?
posted by NationalKato at 11:43 AM on April 12, 2007


Hewlett-Packard? You mean the company that sells you a printer but doesn't include the data cable?

You're supposed to transcribe it into the printer RAM by hand, you technophile.
posted by spiderwire at 11:46 AM on April 12, 2007


I prefer to distribute my blog by telepathy and command my audience to piss it in the snow.

So that's why I keep waking up thirsty in the neighbor's backyard.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:49 AM on April 12, 2007


People print things out because they're retarded and they like to kill trees.

In our office, we print out webpages because the web is full of transient comment, and when public officials say stupid things on their own websites or in blog postings or comments or whatnot we like to have a permanent record of those stupid things.

(Ok, actually we take screenshots and then print them off as needed, but there is a lot of printing going on...)
posted by anastasiav at 12:31 PM on April 12, 2007


I was trying to print a rebate form from a website and every way I tried it, the key information (my address etc) got cut off because of the navigation bar and other elements. So I tried printing just the "selection" but somehow it kept the spacing and even though the nav-text didn't print, the key information was cut off. I wasted at least half-a-dozen pages trying to get it right...if there was an application where I could easily pick what I needed printed I'd SAVE a lot of paper...

plus, I hate it when I print out a web page and the last page is the copyright or one line of text...this could be eliminated by increased use of print preview, but because it isn't a standard step in my web printing process (which is, click print), pages get wasted all too often.

CSS print styles are great, and I wish more websites woudl integrate them, though I can imagine that some web users would get confused by not everything on screen printing...still is is simpler than a "printer friendly" page and probably reduces server loads that those cause...wouldn't it?
posted by pithy comment at 12:40 PM on April 12, 2007


Didn't google/gmail have an April fools day page that went something like this?
posted by edgeways at 12:46 PM on April 12, 2007


I would have such an easier time NOT thinking this was HP dreaming up more ways to sell ink. You can only buy so many printers, but ink is Underwear Gnome territory --

1. Sell crap, cheap inkjet printers that suck ink 1
2. ???
3. Profit! 2

Figure out way to sell more ink? #2 solved!

1) I have an Apple printer I bought in 1996. NINETEEN NINETY SIX. It still works fine, even if I did have to buy a printer bridge to hook it up to USB/Firewire. Between my mom and I, neither of us very print-y people, we've had at least 5 or 6 non-Apple printers since then. Probably more. Makes the several hundred dollars I spent on the Apple seem almost reasonable.

2) I have no problem with corporations making a profit. I'm not gonna chain myself to the front gates and protest. But for heaven's sake, HP's products have gone steadily downhill over the past 10 years, depressingly so, and figuring out a way to increase the profit margin by encouraging people to print crap they don't need is just painful to contemplate.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 12:51 PM on April 12, 2007


Here's gmail's April Fool's Day joke
posted by pithy comment at 12:58 PM on April 12, 2007


I feel like, with added embedding abilities in every revision, PDF is becoming full-featured enough that it will eventually become a viable way for static web pages to be formatted. And now that Adobe has turned the PDF standard over to the public, we'll see even more capabilities.
posted by mortimer at 1:03 PM on April 12, 2007


"And now that Adobe has turned the PDF standard over to the public, we'll see even more capabilities."

Good, then finally someone will build the damn thing straight into the browser, so it doesn't have to spend 18 seconds loading up Reader so I can read the PDF. Yes, even with the plug-in it takes forever. It should be browser-native to just go ahead and render PDFs.

I think the only reason PDF has taken so long to become a standard is that bandwidth is still mostly awful here in the USA. Isn't something like half the country still on dialup? Sheesh.
posted by zoogleplex at 1:32 PM on April 12, 2007


Ooops. Accidentally became what I hate. Sorry guys. I'll try harder next time.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:34 PM on April 12, 2007


People print because they don't know how to bookmark.

[excluding documents needed away from PC (maps, directions requiring reboot, recipes)]

My wife drove me crazy on our networked printer when she first went online. Printed everything. We went through ink and paper like a monk scribe. Now that she knows how to bookmark I can use the printer to print pictures as intended. However, once more people in our family have a PC and/or a digital picture frame I won't even need to do that anymore.
posted by HyperBlue at 1:37 PM on April 12, 2007


goldism: "CTRL + A

CTRL + V into word processor

on a windows box anyway...
"


Might work better with a CTRL + C thrown in somewhere...
Also, when you do this, be sure disable Smart Cut'n'Paste or use the "paste contents" option of your word processor (SHIFT + CTRL + V in OpenOffice) or else you'll end up with a probably useless approximation of the web site's formatting.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 1:55 PM on April 12, 2007


In our office, we print out webpages because the web is full of transient comment, and when public officials say stupid things on their own websites or in blog postings or comments or whatnot we like to have a permanent record of those stupid things.

(Ok, actually we take screenshots and then print them off as needed, but there is a lot of printing going on...)


Are you kidding? If you're already taking a screenshot, why not just save the screen shot on your desktop and make regular backups?

You can also actually save the web page on your desktop in which case it will never change...
posted by delmoi at 2:10 PM on April 12, 2007


HP can suck my ass.

Two days ago, I bought an HP to replace my broken one. The new one is a (slightly) different model from the old one, but it uses the same inks- which is why I chose it.

First, the new driver install put a 150 fucking megs of shit on my computer without ever giving me any options.

Second, to add insult to injury, it would not allow me to use my old - and still full of ink - cartridges. It kept saying that the "new introductory cartridges" must be inserted for the printer to work.

Fuck HP sideways. As soon as the new Kodak printers come out this summer ( Kodak's promising archival, unchipped ink cartridges for half the cost of HP), the HP printer is going in the trash.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:58 PM on April 12, 2007


spend 18 seconds loading up Reader so I can read the PDF

UI, ROT13'ed:

uggc://jjj.sbkvgfbsgjner.pbz/cqs/eq_vageb.cuc
posted by kurumi at 4:42 PM on April 12, 2007


I print out web pages at work. The county web site says that taxes on a property were paid, I need proof of it in the file (or to give to someone who doesn't have internet access), I print it out.

I print out web pages at home. I find a knitting pattern I like, I want to work on it somewhere other than when sitting next to my computer, I print it out.

And I love trees very much. Mwah! Kiss the trees! Hug them! love them!
posted by Lucinda at 4:55 PM on April 12, 2007


kurumi, when they make that for OSX I'll grab it right away. :)
posted by zoogleplex at 5:14 PM on April 12, 2007


Screw HP. They went from being the A-1 extra good shit when it came to network and desktop printing and scanning - not to mention world class engineering in many areas - to some kind of Ikea-fied tinkertoy producer of blobs of overstyled plastic bullshit.

It's like watching Bell & Howell all over again.

You can bet every last dollar that this is about using more ink and HP further trying to lock-in consumers into their bullshit. I will never buy an HP printer ever again.
posted by loquacious at 5:27 PM on April 12, 2007


Text is better read on paper than on a 90-something dpi CRT, that's for sure. I've been waiting for "electronic paper" for years, and companies have been pushing that stuff, but if you ask me, they have it all backwards. They're trying to sell "e-book readers" and whatever fancy-pants devices to "replace the newspaper".

I don't want to replace the newspaper. I want to replace my computer display with a cheap, high-resolution, reflective-not-emissive one. That'd be the killer app for this little niche of people who, you know, read a lot of stuff on their computers. You could even take your laptop out on a sunny day and not squint your eyes to death.
posted by Anything at 7:33 PM on April 12, 2007


I don't want to replace the newspaper. I want to replace my computer display with a cheap, high-resolution, reflective-not-emissive one.

I'm holding out for the OLEDs which Sony says will come out next year and probably cost seventy-bajillion dollars. I don't need a house anyway.
posted by spiderwire at 8:26 PM on April 12, 2007


I know how to bookmark, I just ain't learned how to organize and categorize my bookmarks. The best I can do is forced myself to spend however long it takes to "Manage Bookmarks..." -- then I can't manage to keep them managed.

I can save JSTOR articles in PDF by the dozens. Who wants online tutoring in medieval Islamic heresies?
posted by davy at 8:38 PM on April 12, 2007


Tofu.app is the best thing to ever happen in the history of ever for reading large amounts of text on a screen. It's worth buying a Mac. It's worth spending a week rewriting it for another OS (If you're a glutton). It is that fucking good.

I've read easily a million words in it. I mostly use it for reading long articles and books. It's main trick is that it formats text in well-justified columns, works in full-screen mode, and scrolls horizontally. The fonts and colors are customizable, but more importantly, so are the size of the margins and columns. That means I can customize it to set text in exactly three columns on my screen, and then I can scroll a single column or a full screen at a time. It is so goddamn awesome you can barely stop looking at it. It is comfortable to read text on the screen for hours at a time. I now prefer it to paper books, something I never thought I would ever say about anything with a LCD.
posted by blasdelf at 1:13 AM on April 13, 2007


This is clearly a stupid idea. If you browser can't print a web page, may you just need a different browser. I rarely have to print a web page but when I do, Safari handles it without me even having to modify the print settings.

As for bookmarks, I stopped organizing them long ago. Whenever I bookmark a page, I just make sure to put keywords in the title and search for the keywords when I need it. For the anal retentive bookmarker, there is also this.
posted by a_day_late at 4:09 AM on April 13, 2007


you browser = your browser
may you just need = maybe you just need

It's early still. No coffee yet.
posted by a_day_late at 4:11 AM on April 13, 2007


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