Okay, okay: you were right and I was wrong. The Printer-Friendly button is back.
This is a slightly different implementation than the previous version, but it should work similarly - please let me know if you have further issues with it. That said, the fancy new File->Print functionality will continue to work as previously described (modified to address the bugs mentioned below) for users who don’t want to click the button.
I appreciate all of our commenters feedback on this feature. I was very interested to see the arguments from the users who preferred browsing using the Printer-Friendly article version. As a user of both a really big monitor and a smartphone, I can understand why it can be valuable to break the article pages out of our page structure to fill your browser screen and to allow your browser to manipulate text sizes.
That being said, using this feature in this way sort of pains me because the Printer-Friendly page isn’t really designed to be user-friendly from a browsing standpoint (it’s missing a bunch of pretty useful navigation elements). Anyway, we hope to be able to do something better for you guys down the line - and it won’t involve breaking what is already here.
Thanks again for your feedback. I’ll keep monitoring comments for a while if anybody has anything to add. If you have technical issues with the new print page, please forward them to Customer Service and we’ll work them out, posthaste.
** Original article text below **
Over the past couple of months, I have been working with BP to add some site features and update the underlying architecture to make things easier to work with in the future. So far, the most obvious feature to come out of these efforts is the article comments that we added to BP and BP:Unfiltered a couple of weeks ago. Typically, these updates are designed to be as seamless and unobtrusive as possible, but inevitably, the changes will sometimes bubble up to the surface. We thought it was probably a good idea if I start documenting these updates on Unfiltered to better explain what we’re doing.
In general, our efforts have been centered around adding new features to the site and re-architecting some of our existing features to make them more flexible and more easily extended in the future. When it makes sense to do so, I have also been going in to existing pages and cleaning up the underlying HTML, to make things more styles-based and less dependent on goofy HTML hacks. The goal here is not 100% standards-compliance (although, given enough time, hopefully we will get pretty close), but lighter markup and easier maintainability.
That said we made some updates to the BP article page last night that I wanted to go ahead and explain further.
Improved markup - not 100% XHTML compliant, but much improved. Baby steps…
Printer-Friendly button is gone - this is the most obvious change that I made, and we have already gotten e-mails about it. What happened here is I implemented a CSS-based print stylesheet for the article page that should eliminate the need for the extra step of asking for a specially formatted HTML page and then printing it out. All you have to do to nicely print out an article page is to select File->Print from your browser menu, adjust the margins according to your preference and then to print as normal for your system. What you should end up with is an article page with all of the normal BP template and navigation chrome removed, and article text that prints cleanly across the entire printed page. If comments are expanded on the page (via the normal “view comments” link) then they will be printed as well.
Going to the CSS based solution for printing makes our back-end system MUCH easier to maintain - there was an awful lot of PHP code dedicated to the Printer-Friendly functionality before that is completely unnecessary now. Plus, it allows us a finer degree of control over how the document prints (for instance, using the old method didn’t work very well on wide, “Hit List”-style articles).
One thing that is no longer possible now that we got rid of the button is you will not be able to click a button to get a “Lo-fi” version of the article in your browser. I’d be interested to hear if anybody has a compelling argument for why that is useful. In general, I think that getting rid of unnecessary buttons is a win, but if this affects usability for you, then we’d like to hear about it.
I’d be interested to know how this feature works for people across a range of browsers - let me know if the print output looks bad.
The only page that uses this print stylesheet right now is the article page, but we can expand it across more pages if people find it useful.
Contact Author button is also gone - this functionality is still available by scrolling to the end of the article and clicking the italicized link that says “B.P. Author can be contacted by clicking here.” Getting rid of that button leaves us more space in the article header to play with in the future, but let me know if this omission causes you problems.
Added Incoming Links section - this is probably not something that people would notice, but it’s kind of cool. If you are reading an article that has been linked to by another article, it will be indicated in a section at the end of the page: you can see an example in this often referenced article by Voros McCracken.
This sort of interlinking is something we are going to be a lot more of in the future. We are pretty excited about the possibilities there.
So that’s what we have been up to. If you have feedback on any of these items, please feel free to discuss them in the comments. We will continue to monitor these over the next few days to see what the consensus is.