[thelist] Exact Printing of Sites (long-ish)

Jeffery To jeffery.to at gmail.com
Wed Dec 21 04:15:11 CST 2005

Hello Listers,

I work for a company whose main business is building websites for
other businesses. Intranets, corporate sites, e-commerce sites and
whatnot. Everything's fine and dandy except for the printing
requirement: sites have to print exactly, or as closely as humanly
possible, to what appears onscreen.

In a way, I can see why exact printing is desirable. Clients pay for
fancy graphics and would like to see them when they print. Sometimes
the graphics are worth keeping more than the content (sad but true).

There's been some discussion on the ol' blogs about printing and user
expectation, but it doesn't seem like anything concrete came out of
it. I've banged my head against the desk many times trying to get a
float layout to print properly. The company uses tables, yes, tables
for layout. (There are other standards infractions that my company
participates in, but this is the one that keeps me up at night.) My
rationale for following suit is because tables print reliably, more so
than floats anyway.

So, mine is a two-part question. First, if exact printing is possible,
what styles do I need to make it happen? I can't wait for upgraded
browsers that print floats and absolutely-positioned elements
properly; we support older browsers like Netscape 7 and IE/Mac 5.2.
(Ironically IE/Win seems to be the most reliable when it comes to
printing.) I'm not above semantic garbage or CSS hacks. Anything's
gotta be better than tables.

Second, is there a business case against exact printing? I have a
feeling that people only print webpages when they need to read the
content offline, but are there any statistics or studies on this? If I
can't make browsers print perfectly then I'm going to need numbers to
convince management.

Many thanks,

Jeffery To

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