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I'm curious if anyone has guidelines or recommendations for best practices for print style sheets. We don't really have anything in place yet so I'm starting from scratch. I'm putting together a quick & simple sheet for one project but I would rather get it right so I can use this on the whole site eventually. Mainly so far it has been a project that points out all of the early mistakes I made when I designed our current site template.

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We've hidden extraneous nav elements in our print CSS:
http://www.fredonia.edu
Here is an excellent article on print styles: http://www.alistapart.com/stories/goingtoprint/

What we do is eliminate nav elements and unnecessary images. We don't have a separate css page, but rather when we link to the stylesheet we use media="all". Within the stylesheet we do this:

@media print {
body {
background: white;
font-size: 12pt;
}
....
}

This eliminates an extra server hit.
Excellent advice. Thank you!
No problem!
This is initially what I planned to do on our new Web site, but I realized that quite a few of our users actually want to print things the way they look on the screen. Therefore, rather than just implementing a print stylesheet or using the print media declaration in our standard stylesheet, I went ahead and built a "printable" template for the site.

I know that some people consider that sort of old-school, but it's actually good practice.

Print stylesheets, by themselves, break one of the cardinal rules of good Web practices - they perform an action (in this case, reformatting the page) without the user asking it to do so. While it's not nearly as unnerving or annoying as playing music or resizing a browser window without the user explicitly choosing to do so, it's still a bad idea.

That's my opinion, anyway.
I understand your point and agree with it somewhat. However, in our case print styles include all of the content that the page normally contains plus adds to it in most cases. For instance (can't take credit for this...again, check out Eric's article),links show the url on most of our print pages.

It would be interesting to see what percentage of people would prefer to print what they see on the screen. Most of the time when printing what what the user sees it turns out messy when going to the printer plus web fonts don't necessarily make very legible print fonts. It almost seems to me that we should push for this (kind of kidding IE5 goodbye).

I wouldn't agree that it breaks one of the cardinal rules of good web practices. Printers are very different from screens and needed to be treated as such. I don't want a printer to print my black background with white text, for instance. I would be pissed if that happened to me and some designer / developer didn't account for that.

If a user wants what is on the screen they need to learn how to take screenshots ;)

Sorry if this comes across as harsh...i've been told that my replies on forums usually are. It's just my opinion.
Not harsh at all.

I see where you're coming from, and I agree to a certain extent. However, there are a few factors you have to take into account when making a decision like this:

1) How much are you planning to (or will you need to) change the page in order to make it presentable on a printer. - If you are planning to radically change the layout (such as removing the navigation, logos, etc.), you might not want to do all of that automatically. If you are just adjusting things like fonts, backgrounds and floats, then a print style sheet is probably ideal (especially since certain floats actually cause IE to freeze up when trying to print).

2) Who is your target audience? - If you're dealing with a mostly tech-savvy crowd, then using a print style sheet probably isn't a big problem. However, the less accustomed to the Web your target audience is, the less you want to do without them understanding why you did it.
I learned something new. That's pretty nifty, so in one master stylesheet, you're essentially nesting your styles within media rules? Have you tried it with @media handheld? or any other medias? And this works in all browsers?

^_^
It works in all browsers I have tested (IE6, 7, Safari, Opera, FF). I actually got the idea from Neal Grosskopf at http://www.nealgrosskopf.com. If you look at his stylesheet, you'll see that he embeds @media and @aural as well (http://www.nealgrosskopf.com/files/css/all.css).

So, yeah, I usually have one master stylesheet with everything in it. It's easier for me to go back to, and I don't have as many hits to the server then.
I would suggest taking out any elements that are only relevant to the web and concentrating on formatting the text so that it is simplified and makes since when printed. As it was mentioned before you can do at @media print and source a stylesheet to accomplish this. The easiest way to drop elements or tighten the page up on print is to just add a display: none; string too those divs in which you want to omit from the printing process. Example:

#advertisement {display: none;}

A List Apart does do a very good job about formatting the text.
Other than the usual -- setting the background to white, hiding nav, unfloating columns; I usually set the font to a larger serif font - because that's easier to read in print.

I also always add this little tidbit -- which prints out the URLS of links:

a:link:after, a:visited:after {
content: " (" attr(href) ") ";
font-size: 90%;
}
a[href^="/"]:after {
content: " (http://www.yourdomain.com" attr(href) ") ";
}
Thanks the link to the Dave Walsh script as well as your colleague's. I haven't worried about IE6 not printing out urls before, but perhaps I should.

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