Print Style Sheets and URLs
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Print style sheets are awesome. They’re easy to write, too. Site owners and developers who care about print typically know what to do. Alas there’s one thing that’s done rather the wrong than in any right way: printing URLs, typically via the
Figure: I’m (https://example.com/) so glad (https://example.com/happiness) we’re talking about this (https://example.com/present).
Not obtaining any data on how many users actually print out documents and go to the length of memorizing or writing down URLs they saw on the print-out to then type those URLs into the next machine they find. (There may be neither users who do that nor data to prove it.)
Displaying URLs in the wrong context, namely copy text (see the figure above). While one may maintain some optimism that URLs are actually accessed later, expanded in regular text they do but one thing—disrupt the reading flow.
In other words, don’t expand URLs in print because you can. Then, as always, exceptions prove the rule: Special forms of content like link lists, for example, can still benefit from expanding all URLs in print; important URLs may even want to be shown on screen. We just need to exercise caution.
I’m Jens, and I’m an engineering lead and author. I’ve worked as a technical lead for Google, I’m close to W3C and WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly. I love trying things, sometimes including philosophy, art, and adventure. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.
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Yes, it’s always a disappointment to find a site which consists of lots of articles neglecting print styles; as you say, it’s not difficult to implement.
Still, if you do find such a site, I’ve found the readbility plugin useful. It has a print button and produces a nicely formatted document.
On June 14, 2011, 16:57 CEST, a Mint.com user who wishes that site used print style sheets said:
if you wanted a project that unhappy users would probably kick in some money to pay for, the Mint.com money management site (owned by Intuit) doesn’t have a print style sheet, an epic fail for a personal money management site where people will want to print out reports.
At a previous job a coworker came up with a solution that created numbered footnotes with the URLs. It’s a nice balance between losing the data and making the text hard to read.
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