I was recently bemoaning the fact that Google Chrome, while a fantastic web browser, doesn’t offer the ability to print a selection from a website. In many browsers, you are able to highlight the text you want to print, then hit the Print button, and on the print dialog window, choose the “selection” option (generally a radio button), and only the highlighted text will be printed. This is how it is in Firefox, but not Google Chrome; Google Chrome has no “selection” option to speak of. I was happy to find a Google Chrome extension that offered similar, although not identical, features, called Printee (link found below, for those who are interested). I decided to go looking for something like this for Firefox, a web browser that still gets a lot of use on my system, and was happy to find something nearly identical, called Print Edit.
Print Edit is described as follows on the Firefox Add-ons page:
“Allows editing of the web page content while in Print Preview mode. Editing the web page prior to printing can compact the layout and remove unwanted content such as adverts, sidebars and blank pages. Any element can be formatted, hidden or deleted.”
What that means is that when you come to a page you like, but want to get rid of some of the extras the page has (such as sidebars, navigational elements, ads or other graphics), you can. You can do this in a couple ways, by either hiding the element or by deleting it.
The two sound similar, but actually affect the page in two distinct ways. When you hide an element, it’s still there, but won’t be printed. Hiding an element leaves the formatting of the page intact, so if a picture took up half the width of the page, and you hid it, the text will still behave as if the element is there. Deleting an element, on the other hand, removes it completely. So in the same situation, after deleting a picture, the text would reflow to fill the entire width of the page, and you’d never know something was missing.
Using Print Edit is simple. When you come to a page you want to print, select the Print Preview option in the File menu. Once the preview image has been created, you’ll see the normal Print Preview window, with one addition: an Edit button, right beside the Close button. Click this button to go into editing mode.
When the new page loads, you’ll see the original page, but now when you mouse over it, certain elements become highlighted. These are the different sections, tables and columns that make up the web page, plus other elements such as internal links. Hovering over an element will highlight it in red. Click and the highlight will become dotted, meaning that you have selected it. You can continue to do this, selecting different items (either items you want to save or those you want to get rid of), until you’re ready. Once an item has been selected, more options in the toolbar are available. You can hide an element or delete it, or choose the “hide except” or “delete except” buttons, which will hide or delete everything except what you have highlighted. These two options are great when you want to get rid of almost all the page except for a couple things, and is much quicker than highlighting everything you want to get rid of instead.
There is an options menu available, which includes preferences for formatting text, the color of the highlight “band” around blocks of text or images, and some Hide & Undo options as well. When you’re finished arranging the page to your liking, simply click the Preview button to return to the normal Print Preview page and click Print (or choose other options).
At the moment, I think Print Edit is practically perfect. I love being able to get rid of stuff I don’t like (things like the superscript footnote links from Wikipedia articles, for instance, which I don’t need since I usually get rid of the footnotes when I just want to save the text of an article), but wish Print Edit had one more feature. Firefox as a regular web browser offers the ability to print a selection. But sometimes that selection includes elements I’d actually prefer to get rid of (like those footnote links). It would be very nice if the Print Edit extension was able to do basic text editing (just deleting text I don’t want would be enough), so I could first choose what I wanted to edit, then edit it, as opposed to having to start with the entire page. Still, it’s pretty darn good right now, and is – in my view – a must-have extension if you do a lot of printing straight from the Web.
Print Edit (for Firefox)
Printee (for Google Chrome)