Alternatives to printing web pages

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Save paper by using OneNote, Word or other methods or saving pages for later reading.

I know it’s old fashioned but I like to print out web pages that interest me and refer to later. But now my printer is broken and while I wait for repairs I have a backlog of open browser windows and links waiting for a paper page. That got me thinking that there should be a paperless alternative – do you have any suggestions?”

There are a few possibilities available, which one you choose depends on you and the way you work.  Here’s some ideas that occur to us.


OneNote comes with some Office bundles and will be in more with Office 2010. One part of the software is ‘Print to OneNote’. If you go to your Printer options in Windows you’ll find it setup as a ‘printer’. You can ‘print’ any page to a page in OneNote.

The location of these new ‘printed’ pages in OneNote is controlled from Tools | Options | Send to OneNote. Once in OneNote you can move them to another notebook or section.

Alternatively, select the web page text and paste it into OneNote. A nifty default option is that the source link is appended to the pasted item.

You can paste text and images into OneNote.

Some advantages of using OneNote are the in-built indexing / search as well as the ability to annotate or organize the text. For example you can group similar articles together or just leave them in one ‘Unfiled Notes’ notebook – which you can rename to something less formal like ‘Stuff’.

The tabbed collection of web pages ‘printed’ to OneNote is a replacement for the pile of printed pages on your physical desktop.

If you have OneNote as part of your Office bundle, this is a good excuse to try it out.


Of course you could simply create a Word document/s and paste the web pages into them instead. It lacks the organization and structure of OneNote but you have Word already.


In both OneNote and Word you’ll lose much of the formatting of the original web page, if that’s an issue then get one of the many ‘Print to PDF’ utilities that will take any print output and save it to a PDF file.

We prefer PDFfactory which is one of the products that will let you join several print jobs together into a single PDF file.


One big advantage of saving files in any of the above formats is easy searching.  Any file saved in OneNote, Word or as a PDF will be indexed and quickly found using a desktop search tool like Windows Search or Google Desktop.

The Desktop Search Handbook has complete coverage in this important feature.


There are other possibilities, too many for this short article.

Some readers have suggested Favorites/Bookmarking as a possibility but that doesn’t help if you are offline nor can it cope with web pages that are later changed or removed.  Too many people have overflowing lists of favorites they never return to.

There are also ‘Save As’ options in most browsers but they have their own issues such as compatibility.  Internet Explorer has a page ‘Save As’ option which is best used with the Web Page Complete (mht) option.  In our opinion ‘printing’ to PDF is a better choice because PDF is a common format and not browser specific.

Internet Explorer 8 also has an option to email a web page (as opposed to just the link).  you could use this to email the page to yourself.  The emailed page then appears in your email client and should be searchable.

Instapaper is a great little online service you’ve probably never heard of, but is essential here at

We started using as a way to tag longer web page articles for later reading offline on an Apple iPhone or iTouch.

Web pages can be marked for later reading using a simple ‘one-click’ button on your standard browser toolbar. Later you can catch up with your reading on a plane or bus whether you’re online or not.

Instapaper cleverly removes much of the ‘excess’ links and images on common news web pages, leaving the main article to read on the smaller screen.

Of course, you can go to your account at and read the article in your browser at any time.

Once you’ve read an article you can delete it from your Instapaper list or archive it.

The developer, Marco Arment, has been quietly adding features to make Instapaper available to non iPhone/iTouch users with more offline options.

Ebook users – the Amazon Kindle and others can download all their tagged web pages in an ebook format (either amz/mobi or EPub) that most readers can handle.

There is also a printable format available though this is in early beta and might not work well.

Tip – Instapaper is integrated with that essential free tool for all ebook users – Calibre. Under ‘Fetch News’ there is a recipe for . Once you setup an Instapaper account you can schedule regular Instapaper updates to be added to your ebook reader.

Instapaper is free / ad-supported while the iPhone/iTouch application ‘pro’ edition costs only $5. An iPad version should be available on release of the new device or soon thereafter.

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