To paraphrase Forrest Gump, printing Web pages is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you're gonna get.
Well, okay, if you preview the pages first, you'll have some idea—but there's a good chance you won't like what you're gonna get. That's because most Web sites are packed with ads, banners, graphics, and other clutter that don't always translate well to the printed page. If nothing else, you can end up with lots of extraneous pages, which wastes both ink and paper.
Google Chrome extension Print Friendly & PDF lets you print smarter. Specifically, it strips out the ads and other clutter, formats the page for optimal printing, then gives you the option of removing individual elements you might not want. Oh, and true to its name, it lets you bypass paper altogether and print those pages as nicely formatted PDFs instead.
I was going to use PC World as an example, but it turns out we already give you a pretty junk-free printout. So click over to this Gizmodo page instead (Ctrl-click the link to open it in a new tab), then click Chrome's Print option (Ctrl-P).
See that preview? It's kind of a mess, right? You've got unnecessary links to other stories, huge swaths of empty space, text shoehorned into a narrow column, and, at the bottom, nearly two pages' worth of comments and thumbnails.
But when you click the Print Friendly icon in your Chrome toolbar, you get a preview like the one shown here. It's in color. It lets you mouse over and delete any paragraph of text you don't want. Text spans the full width of the page, and can be adjusted in size. You can remove images. And you can create a PDF and/or e-mail the pages.
In short, it's Web-page printing the way it should be. Print Friendly & PDF will save you time, paper, and ink, and on those merits alone, it's a must-have addition to Chrome.
Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at firstname.lastname@example.org, or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PCWorld Forums. Sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.