I’m always on the lookout for interesting applications that combine print and the internet in unique ways. There are many unique web 2.0 applications emerging, adding value to both the web and print. I recently stumbled upon a cool site, called Printfriendly.com, and I tried it out.
With Printfriendly, you can create a nicely print-formatted version of a web page, and instantly print it or turn it into a PDF. Making PDF files isn’t all that hard these days, but formatting Webpages for print has significant challenges. You generally cannot just file-print web pages and have them output without garbage. Printfriendly solves this problem by analyzing the page, and removing "junk".
You simply hit the website, and type or paste the URL of the page you want to print into the browser. You can then print to an attached printer, or generate a PDF.
Printfriendly even lets you do simple editing of its generated version of the page, by allowing you to delete things—this can help you format the page better, and also remove unwanted content.
This made me a fan pretty quickly, so I contacted one of the principals of the company, Taylor Norrish, to get some background on what they are doing. Taylor has been building sites “since web 1.0”! He told me he was frustrated with the waste and quality when he would print webpages. It's expensive and bad for the environment. So he spent six months building PrintFriendly.com.
Says Taylor, “Our number focus is to just make something that works. So the most important features are: the algorithm that finds and removes junk, speed, and reliability.“ I can vouch for the fact that it is very fast, removes the junk “smartly”, and is very reliable. Printfriendly generates good PDF pages. They loaded into Mimeo and printed in color with no issues whatsoever.
Adds Taylor, “If you looked at the site/service two years ago, it wouldn't appear that different visually (features). However, it's faster, more reliable, and works on many more pages. We've completely rewritten the application 3 times and making constant iterations. For example, we just launched localized/ international versions. If you speak French, you'll see "Imprimer" instead of "Print" in the controls.
Printfriendly runs on Ruby On Rails (a popular language for Web2.0 applications), MySQL (the venerable open source database), and is hosted on a CDN (Content Delivery Network) for performance and availability. And, Taylor tells me Printfriendly is actually a nice business. He says printing and PDF generation has tripled since last year, and they are generating over a million prints/PDFs every month. The button is featured on thousands of sites like hubpages.com, socialmediaexaminer.com, skinnytaste.com, and makeuseof.com. They also have a Browser Tool/Bookmarklet.
Some great articles have been written about PrintFriendly on Mashable, LifeHacker, and the Sunday Times (print edition). Further evidence there is life after web for print media!