Printing: An Ah-Ha Moment

Banning of incandescent lightbulbs
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I have a love/hate relationship with printing.  Ask almost anyone I work with and they will tell you it is one of my “soap box” issues that I don’t hesitate to get up on and preach.  I haven’t given up on getting the message across that the web was not originally designed to be a print medium – it is suppose to be read on a screen not from a piece of paper.  I’m not naive, I know people will continue to print for many reasons.

I admit that I myself print things from time to time.  But it wasn’t until today that the love part of my realtionship with printing actually fully blossomed.  Our network administrator and #1 open source fan showed me a really cool feature on Linux.  When he was done I just sat there with my mouth open.  How had I not known about this before?  My life will never be the same.  Sad part is this would have been absolutely PERFECT to show my class yesterday (I was teaching our staff about our PACs and printing was one of the topics).  Alas, a day late in learning.

On my Ubuntu box he was showing me something to do with CUPS (common Unix printing system) when I asked him why was PDF listed as a printer.  He said “you can print to PDF”.  Huh?  I think I literally scratched my head and looked sideways at him.  Isn’t a PDF a form of a document how can I print to it?  What he meant is this – I can print a web site page as a PDF.

Oh the lightbulb went on, the clouds parted, the angels sang – AH HA!  I did a test.  Fantastic, just click on File – Print – select PDF.  It saves the page as a PDF on your desktop.  All those times I’ve been on a laptop, ordered something from a site, reach the confirmation screen and cant’ print (because at the time we didn’t have a wireless printer at home) are now behind me.  I’ve always just clicked File – Save Page As and wound up with a folder full of things that are required if I wish to view that screen again.  A PDF is sooooo much nicer and easier.  I can choose to NOT print it (just save it on my computer) or if I must I can print it.  Linux is just so cool.

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You Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Adobe….

….when you’ve got OpenOffice!

Thanks to Solveig Haugland‘s demo on forms during our OpenOffice week at the Howard County Library (last week) I’ve now made my first interactive PDF using just OpenOffice Writer. Oh how I wish Solveig had come a week earlier as I had been fighting with an old PDF that I was converting to interactive using a trial version of full blown Adobe Acrobat 8. But now I find out I could have just done it from scratch using OpenOffice Writer.

It couldn’t have been simpler. Adding text boxes (they lined up beautifully without effort), assigning the font style and size, and tab ordering were a pleasure. Actually Writer was easier than the Adobe LiveCycle when it came to adding the tab order. One of the most frustrating things with Adobe was if I changed my mind about the tab order after I had already started it I was sunk. Especially since it seem to assign tab order to things that weren’t text or check boxes. From now on if I need to make a form (thinking I’ll redo the one that gave me such grief) I’ll be using OpenOffice Writer. So keep your Adobe just give me my OpenOffice.