Sometimes you just want to print out the internet — well, not the entire internet, but perhaps a recipe to scribble on or an online article for a friend.
Instead, you waste paper on printouts of banners and ads or sometimes the frame for a page rather than what you really need. Here are a few methods, explained for the four most popular browsers, to help you get what you want in a way that conserves paper and printer ink.
1. Reader view cuts the clutter
If words are more important than photos for your printout, check out your browser’s reader view. Reader mode, which Apple created for its Safari browser in 2010, has expanded to Windows computers and other popular browsers.
It isn’t available for all web pages. But when it is, usually for article pages, reader view strips out advertisements and navigation to give you a clean page for reading or printing.
Some, but not all, photos and illustrations are kept, but sometimes boxes with additional material are filtered out. So when you’re in reader mode, make sure the material you want is displayed before you try to print it.
Google Chrome, the leading web browser as of September 2021, with more than 60 percent of the U.S. market, introduced but then took away a reader mode about two years ago. The feature survives as a Chrome Extension, and at least a dozen are available free in Google’s Chrome Web Store.
To download the browser extension for Chrome, click on the Apps shortcut in your bookmark bar. Click on the Web Store shortcut on the page that opens. In the Search the store box, type reader view or reader mode.
Look at the reviews, comments and privacy practices as you decide on what you want. When you’ve made your decision, click the Add to Chrome button. We chose a free, highly rated English-language extension with hundreds of thousands of users.
Now that you have your extension in place, go back to the web page you want to print. Click on the icon to the right of your web address that looks like a puzzle piece. Choose the name of your extension from the list.
When you click on it, the web page will transform into reader view. (To restore your previous web page, either hit the back arrow or go into the puzzle piece icon again and click the name of your extension.)
In reader mode, then print: File | Print | Print. As a shortcut, simultaneously press the Control and p keys (Ctrl-p) on Windows machines or the Command and p keys (Cmd-p) on Macs. Hit Enter or Return as a quicker way of clicking on the Print button.
Apple Safari. Almost 1 in 5 people use Safari when browsing the web, according to Statcounter, a Dublin-based company that tracks visitors to websites. While the browser is the default on Macintosh computers and other Apple products, it also is available for Windows PCs.
You can toggle in and out of reader mode in Safari by clicking on the icon with three long horizontal lines and a half line to the left of the web address at the top of the page. Be aware that reader mode can be especially finicky with recipes because of the way web pages format them. Safari’s reader mode saw only one of four recipes in Exciting Holiday Desserts That Go Beyond the Expected. The other three browsers’ reader modes captured all four.
Microsoft Edge is already on all computers running Windows 10 or 11 and available for Macs. Nearly 1 in 8 users cruise the web using Edge.
Its immersive reader is the icon to the right of the URL that looks like an open book and the well-known icon for sound, speaker or volume. Click on it to get into reader view. Click on the icon again to return to your regular web page.
The tool allows you to experiment with text size, spacing, font and column style, but those settings will work on your screen only. You’ll be able to adjust your printed-page margins in Print | More settings | Margins, but the type size will always be the same no matter what you choose on screen.
Mozilla Firefox, a free browser that has privacy protections in place by default, is used by about 1 in every 16 web surfers. Its reader view icon is to the right of the URL and looks like a printed page.
Click it to get into reader view. When you play with the type control settings on your screen by clicking the Aa icon, the result will appear on your printed page as well. To get back to your web page, click the reader view icon again.
2. Print preview can save paper
If reader mode isn’t available or you want additional material on the page that reader view eliminated, you still can print what you want more efficiently. The key is using the Print Preview function before hitting the Print button. File | Print, or your keyboard shortcut, will pull up the print option if you have a printer associated with your computer.
Chrome automatically shows a preview of what it will send to your printer. If you like what you see, you can hit the Enter or Return key on your keyboard to print it all out. However, on a lot of websites, you’ll end up with comments and other information that you don’t need.
The story above, Can a Robot Be a Good Companion for Your Older Loved One?, will print out at 16 pages if kept in default mode, but the article ends on page 7. Look at the Pages section of the Print menu at the right of your screen. Choose Custom and the pages you want to print out, in this case 1-7, using the punctuation your browser prefers. You will save nine sheets of paper.
To save even more paper, print on both sides of a sheet. Click More settings, and make sure the box before Two-sided | Print on both sides is checked. Under More settings, you also can change your margins. In this case, choosing Margins | Minimum saves an additional sheet of paper, so you can change the number under the Pages | Custom section to 1-6 and still get what you want.
Safari. If you printed the same story using the Safari browser, you would use 13 pages of paper. Scroll through the pages using the > arrow to see where the article stops. In this case, it’s at page 8.
Change the Pages designation from All to Range and type 1 and 8 in the boxes. On the Copies line, make sure that Two-Sided is checked. Safari doesn’t give you the ability to change the amount of white space around the story on a printed page, but this method does allow you to use four pieces of paper front and back.
Edge. The print interface for Microsoft Edge is similar to Chrome, except you’ll see the print options on the left side of your screen and the preview on your right. Choosing More settings not only allows you to adjust the margins on your pages, it will also save on printer ink. Under Quality, change the default from 600 dpi to 300 dpi. These settings can vary depending on the type of printer you have working with your computer.
Dpi stands for dots per inch. The more dots per inch you choose, the better the quality of the printout. But if you're printing out a web page on a piece of typing paper, you won’t notice a great difference between 300 dpi and 600 dpi. Most photos on web pages are uploaded at 72 dpi to make them quicker to display. Save the higher dpi and better paper for printing out your favorite photos.
Firefox. The latest versions of Firefox have restored Print Preview, which disappeared earlier in 2021. It functions similarly to Safari but goes into more detail about options for printing your pages.
Two-sided printing | Flip on long edge gives you a printout more like a book. Flip on short edge, when you're in Portrait printing mode, acts more like a notebook with the spiral on top. You also can adjust your margins to Minimum or even None. With the robots story, all three options produce seven pages of story, including the ads within the article.
Another alternative for those with good mouse skills: Click on your left mouse button — or your only mouse button if you’re using a Mac — and drag to highlight the section of a web page you want to print. Lift your finger when you get to the end of the material you want.
In Chrome, hit Ctrl- or Cmd-p. Go under More settings | Selection only and make sure the box is checked. Then click Print. Your printout will contain only what you want.
In Safari, you won’t find an option to print out only your selected text. But a workaround will get the highlighted material into an email message that you can print. In the Safari pull-down menu, choose Services | New Email With Selection. If you’re on a Mac, your selection will appear in an Apple Mail message. Instead of sending it, hit Ctrl- or Cmd-p and click the Print button to send it to your printer.
In Edge, hit Ctrl- or Cmd-p | More settings. Scroll down to Options, check the box beside Selection only and click the Print button.
In Firefox, hit Ctrl- or Cmd-p | Options: Print Selection Only, and you’ll check the box for that option. Then click the Print button.
A tip for any browser: If you see a white box obscuring the top of the story, hit Cancel. The problem happens more often if you are selecting a certain section of type to print. Go back to the web page and scroll back to the beginning, keeping the highlighting you have selected. Choose Print again and the box will likely be gone. Then you can proceed with the other changes to the default settings.
3. Your word processor can help
If you want to spend a little more time to make a prettier printout, you can use Microsoft Word, Google Docs or any other word processing program. WordPad comes free on Windows computers. TextEdit and Pages are both installed free on Macintoshes.
Highlight the material on a web page that you want to print. Copy it onto your clipboard. Ctrl- or Cmd-c is the quickest method, but choosing Edit | Copy from the browser menu accomplishes the same thing.
Next create a new document in your word processing program. Use Ctrl- or Cmd-v to paste in the material from your clipboard. If you don’t like the way it looks, hit Ctrl- or Cmd-z to undo it and try pasting in text only without formatting. Each word processing program brings in text without formatting a little differently, but you’re likely to find the option under the Edit menu, and some will have a keyboard shortcut.
In your word processor, you can adjust margins, change the size of the type, cut any advertisements that were placed within a story, and shrink or eliminate any photos. You might want to copy the web address of the source of your story and insert page numbers if the article or recipe spans several pages.
When it looks like you want, send it to the printer. Don’t forget to use Print Preview here, too, to print on both sides of the paper, give you an idea of the number of pages you’ll have, and show you how it will look. You can always choose Cancel to go back to your document and make changes.
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Linda Dono is an executive editor for AARP. Previously, she served as a reporter and editor for USA Today, Gannett News Service and newspapers in four states, including The Cincinnati Enquirer.