Save web pages as PDF with Firefox 3

It’s not clear at this point whether Firefox 3 will include an option to save web pages as PDF files. It is in the PRD (product requirement document) but it could get cut for time constraint reasons.

Fortunately, the backend necessary to make this happen is already in place and Firefox 3 will be able to save pages as PDF. It’s just that the necessary user interface may not be there.

printpdf extension

Stuart Parmenter, the Firefox developer who made it possible has released printpdf, an extension that adds a Print to PDF… option to the Tools menu.

Select it, set a name and location for the PDF to be saved and Firefox will print the current web page as a PDF file.

It’s not perfect though. I made a couple of tests and found that the generated PDFs are noticeably larger (3x – 4x) than those produced with PDFCreator, an open source PDF printing utility for Windows and long time favorite. Printing isn’t perfect either as some images where left out in one of my tests.

But this is a first version and it seems that at least it will be available as an extension if the necessary UI doesn’t make it to Firefox 3 final.

Get printpdf from Mozilla’s Bugzilla. Remember you will need a recent Firefox 3 nightly to try it as well.

16 thoughts on “Save web pages as PDF with Firefox 3”

  1. Having the option to print on the menu (rather than changing printers to PDFCreator) is handy, but for me, it would be far more useful to be able to create and email that PDF in a single menu action – that cuts out quite a few more mouse clicks.

    1. I agree with Ian. A save as pdf button would be great!! For every email marketing layout or landing page that I create, the only way it gets to my clients and/or proofed by our team is via PDF.

  2. Seems like a needed feature. What’s with the extension putting the menu item in the Tools menu? What was wrong with the File menu, where File operations are usually selected?

  3. Great Idea. But what is most needed is the possibility to print/save a web page exactly as seen on screen. Many websites these days have very silly stylesheets and many other useless ideas that garble print output. Those are useless for refrerence purposes.

    So best would be to have the choice between: save-to-pdf-exactly-as-seen-on-screen and simulate-print-and-save-to-pdf-whatever-garbage-comes-out.

    1. “Great Idea. But what is most needed is the possibility to print/save a web page exactly as seen on screen. Many websites these days have very silly stylesheets and many other useless ideas that garble print output. Those are useless for refrerence purposes.”

      An extension called Screengrab will let you save a screenshot of a whole webpage, even if part of it is off the bottom of the screen. Essentially Screengrab will scroll the page up and down to capture the whole thing, and then save it to a PNG file. While this is not as ideal because it is not a searchable, editable document, it could be used to meet the need you identified.

  4. This extension doesn’t produce exact copies of the web page as a PDF, what’s more it can take ages and the file sizes are huge. What’s required is the Internet Explorer ability to save as an MHT file complete, which used to be available to Firefox as a MAF file.

    MAF is incompatible for FF after 1.5, but if a similar extension worked for FF3 it would solve a lot of problems. There is a “tweaked” version of MAF that’s supposed to work up to FF3, but opening saved files just gives blank pages. MAF couldn’t save the weird and wonderful web pages cooked up with CSS and other methods, anyway. So good riddance to MAF, and long live its replacement, whatever it is.

  5. The problem with all these soft-printer-style PDF creators is they don’t maintain the clickable links — my guess is they can’t because of how printing works. Eg if a word is clickable in HTML, the PDF will show it as blue/underlined but it will not be clickable any more — it’s flattened. This is crucial for research and archiving. Unfortunately, the only way to get this to work is the special plugin for IE that comes with Acrobat Pro (the one that creates a PDF toolbar in IE, not the PDF printer), although even that often messes up the layout. I have been looking for years (literally) for a way to do this in Firefox. I can’t believe that Adobe or someone else hasn’t done this for Firefox yet. Other archiving methods tend to have other important problems (eg add-ons like Scrapbook, Zotero, MAF, unMHT etc). It would also be great if an archiving method saved the original URL, title and access date as metadata (Savewithurl and Saveuri almost do that but not quite). We live in hope!

  6. Hoosierdaddy, no that is not what we want actually. That extension will save an image of the web page in PDF format. There is no textual data retained, so it is not searchable, there are no hyperlinks, etc. That extension will not do.

  7. Actually, what I would like to see is an addon that allows you to save a page to PDF, and includes the link urls and such, since PDF allows embedded links, the link functionality of page should be savable into the PDF.

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