Any college student is well acquainted with the evils of printing web pages. Many web sites don’t offer printable versions of their content, or when they do, the printable page still has ads, full color pictures, or other ink wasters. Or, they’re so poorly formatted that they take up more sheets of paper than they should.
Worst of all, printable versions of web content are usually automatically created with no thought given to how the content will actually print. I can’t tell you how many pieces of blank paper I’ve inadvertently turned into scrap over the years when a printable version of a web site printed just a web page’s footer text on an entire sheet of paper, or just a footer advertisement.
Some content, of course, doesn’t offer a printable page option at all. In that case, people usually have to copy and paste content into a blank Word document and print from there — a clumsy process that often leads to wasted time spent formatting copied text so it is readable after printing.
Enter PrintWhatYouLike.com, a Google App Engine-hosted service that lets users strip out only the textual or graphical content that they want to print from any web page, do some light formatting, and ultimately save ink and paper as a result.
Users enter pages they want to print on the PrintWhatYouLike.com home page (or via a bookmarklet) and the site loads up the page along with a tool bar in a frame on the side. Users then select and remove text they don’t want (or isolate text they do want), remove images or background images, and can even change fonts, font sizes, or change the column width of the content. The idea is that users can print only portions of articles that they like and format any page for printing, regardless of if a printer ready option is offered. The site executes very well on that concept and worked well with every page we tested.
PrintWhatYouLike.com is a very simple, but extremely useful service. We’d love to see them build upon it, and add some additional features, such as the ability to save bits and pieces from multiple different web pages to a clipboard for printing on a single page. Or the ability to save information (title, URL, author) about any page you print to a user account area for reference purposes. We wager that would be a service some people would pay for.
According to a blog post, the site’s creator is already planning a couple of cool additional features, including the ability to save print settings so that if you print a lot of articles from a specific web site, you can just apply saved rules to each new article (that feature was live but was turned off after its initial implementation hogged too many resources and caused the site to go over quota at Google App Engine; it is currently being reworked). And an “odometer” that measures how much paper you’ve saved using the service.