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If you were to try to print out a web page exactly as it appears on your screen, chances are you would end up wasting a lot of ink and paper printing unnecessary page elements, or worse yet, the content you printed would be illegible.

That's why links to "printer-friendly" versions of web pages are all over the Internet, especially on news and business sites. When you click this kind of link, you are given a web page design or shell that contains the same text as what you see on your screen, but in a minimal version that is, well, friendlier (or easier) to print.

To create this printer-friendly version of the text, you traditionally would either have to manually convert the web page content to a new, stripped-down page, or use a script dynamically to generate a separate page design. With CSS, however, you can "automagically" redesign documents when they are printed, thereby eliminating the need to code a separate, printer-friendly version as well as saving on server resources typically required to generate the page.

Support for print-media CSS is fairly commonplace these days. Currently, the browsers that support this aspect of the technology include Internet Explorer 4+ for Windows, Internet Explorer 4.5+ for Macintosh, Navigator 6+, Safari, and Opera.

There are print-only properties associated with CSS. However, these properties have limited support among the browsers on the market; Opera 5 and 7 are the only browsers that support more than two of these kinds of properties (15 printing properties out of the 16 in the specification). Because of this reality and the nature of this book to focus on practical, cross-browser nature of CSS, the recipes in this chapter are geared to styling the contents of the page rather than dealing with the theory of CSS printing properties. For more information on CSS printing properties, see Chapter 14 of Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide (O'Reilly).

This chapter teaches the basics of how to tell the browser which style sheet to use when sending a document to print. It also discusses how to switch graphics from web to print CSS, as well as how to develop a document for printing.

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