I love your newsletter, and want to print out portions that I might need and
keep those in a binder instead of in a computer folder. How do I print just a
Here I’ve been trying to go paperless, and save everything possible to disk.
I know, I’m a geek, and most people still find plain old paper the easiest,
quickest and most portable form of data storage for many things.
Rather than print out the entire document when you might want just a
portion, there are a couple of common techniques to capturing just the information you
want. Neither are pretty – in fact each leaves something or other to be desired
– but both can work.
One way or another.
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Since you mention my newsletter,
your question is most likely about email, but the general tools I’ll talk about
here apply equally well to email, web pages and other forms of document
presentation where you don’t have obvious control over everything.
I’m also going to assume that the email program, browser or other tool
you’re using doesn’t have a “Print Selection” function, or that the function is
not enabled for some reason. As reader Eric pointed out after this article was
first published, some programs allow you to simply select the portion you wish
to print, hit File, Print, and indicate that
you just wish to print the current selection.
My experience is that the function is not as ubiquitously available as we’d
like, and as we’ll see below, not enabled in Microsoft Outlook when viewing
HTML Formated email – like my newsletter.
Without “Print Selection”, there are two basic approached: printing specific
pages, or copy/pasting what you want to a different application to print.
Printing Specific Pages
Almost all programs that let you print will allow you to specify which pages
to print. By that I mean that if you have what would be an 8 page document, you
can typically choose to print only certain pages. When you select
File, Print in most applications, you’ll
typically get a print dialog that includes something like this:
This example is from Outlook, but other applications are similar. (Note the
option to print a “Selection”, which is greyed out for HTML formatted
pages, or copy/pasting what you want to a different application to
The trick is knowing which pages to print. The easiest way to do that
usually is to use Print Preview – this will display the entire
document as it would be printed, and you can determine which pages are
interesting. Once you know that, you can return to the normal
File, Print, and specify that only those
pages be printed.
Unfortunately, Outlook doesn’t support Print Preview for HTML Email, and
Print Preview isn’t available in all applications. What then?
I’ve come to really like PDFCreator, a free, open source PDF creation tool. Once installed,
it creates a virtual printer on your system. When you print to that printer,
instead of physically printing on paper, it creates a PDF file of the
We can use that here for applications that don’t support Print Preview.
Instead, we print the entire document to a PDF file, then open up that PDF file
in the free Acrobat Reader, or
the free Foxit Reader (which I find
smaller, faster, and just as good).
Here’s a result of printing a recent newsletter to PDF, and then viewing
You can see that it’s displaying the top of page 1 of six. You can now, in
the PDF viewer, determine which page contains the information you’re interested
in, and print the page, or pages, that you care about.
That gives you control to the granularity of a page. What if you only want a
small portion, or just don’t want whatever else happens to fall on the same
page? Then things typically get just a little messier.
Copy/Paste to your word processor
The next approach that may work involves literally copy/pasting the portion
of the document you’re interested in into another application from which you
can print. For HTML documents in particular, word processing programs such as
Microsoft Word are my tool of choice for this.
Select the text in the document you’re interested in, and copy it to the
clipboard. Here’s a portion of a recent newsletter open in Outlook, and
selected. I’ve right clicked, and it’s ready for the copy:
Now we can fire up our word processor (Microsoft Word, in this example) and
paste the results into an empty document:
There something important to note about the results – it’s not
identical to the original; some of the formatting was lost. In this
case, the indent of the first paragraph, and of course the text is wrapping
slightly differently. It’s good to note that the hyperlink in this document
survived – it’s still a hyperlink in the pasted results.
The problem here is that exactly what formatting, or in the case of images,
which images if any, survive the cut/paste process is highly dependant
on the way the email or web page was written, and the capabilities of the
application that you’re pasting into. As an extreme case, here’s that same text
pasted into Notepad instead of word:
Yes, all the information is there, but all of the formatting has been
OK, Leo, what to you do?
Well, like I said, normally I skip the printing part completely. I
frequently print to PDF documents that I then save on my computer.
But if I need “just a piece” of a specific web page or email message on
paper, I use exactly the process I outlined above using copy/paste and
Microsoft Word. While the results are often not identical to the source, it’s
typically “good enough”. If, for some reason, getting it exactly right is
important, then I’ll switch to the “print specific pages” approach.