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Printing a portion of document can be tricky. For email and web pages, printing a portion boils down to one of two approaches, depending on how close to the original you want things to look.

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 portion?

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.

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:

Print Range Selection

This example is from Outlook, but other applications are similar. (Note the option to print a "Selection", which is greyed out for HTML formatted email.)

"There are two basic approached: printing specific pages, or copy/pasting what you want to a different application to print."

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 result.

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 that PDF:

PDF of the Leo's Answers Newsletter

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.

Literally.

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:

Portion of newsletter selected for copy

Now we can fire up our word processor (Microsoft Word, in this example) and paste the results into an empty document:

Portion of newsletter pasted into Word

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:

Portion of newsletter pasted into Notepad

Yes, all the information is there, but all of the formatting has been lost.

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.

Article C2748 - August 7, 2006 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

15 Comments
Eric
August 8, 2006 5:02 AM

Why didn't my whole post go through? Trying again...

Hmmmm.... Leo? Are you awake? :)

Highlight what you want either with the mouse or with the menu bar. Select print from the menu bar. A print window appears. Look at the bottom left of the print window. Select "selection" or "current page." Now, left click the bottom of the print menu to "print."

Voila!

Eric

Leo A. Notenboom
August 8, 2006 9:25 AM

Quite awake thank you. :-)

You'll note "Selection" a) isn't available in all applications, and b) is greyed out greyed out in the example in the article because the application didn't support it for the type of document being displayed.

It's great if it works, and you're right I should have mentioned it, but my experience has been that it's not actually available often enough.

I've updated the article to reflect this. Thanks for pointing it out.

Alway
August 12, 2006 1:12 PM

Another method that could work is getting the part of web page/e-mail that you want to print visible in your browser, then pressing Ctrl + Print Screen to copy it to the clipboard. Then open a photo editing program such as MS Paint, and paste it onto that. You can then erase the unwanted part of the web page/e-mail, and then print that document in paint! This method won't work if you need to print more than will fit in you browser at one time, though.

Mike Burks
August 13, 2006 10:11 AM

Consider a screen capture utility. A freeware capture utility would probably be satisfactory but if you want all the bells and whistles buy SnagIt.

Arthur F. Bily
August 14, 2006 8:41 AM

The gentleman wants to print just a PORTION of an e-mail or web page. This happens to me regularly as I do not want to print all of the clutter that sometimes acompanies an e-mail or especially a webpage.
I use an HP LaserJet black and white 2420dn printer.
The solution is simple
Highlight only the the portion that you want to print. Click on File then Print on the top menu bar. In the General tab in the Page Range area are four selections, All, Selection, Curent Page and Pages. Check Selection. Click Print.
Only the part that you have selected will be printed

Arthur F. Bily
August 14, 2006 8:50 AM

I did not see the information that Eric gave and your response to him before I sent my solution. Selection and Current Page are usually greyed out. Once I select a portion that I want to print Selection will not be grayed out and can be checked. I assumed that the Page Range in the General Tab of Print was universal a part of Windows. I did not know that it is not available for all applications

Leo Notenboom
August 14, 2006 8:50 AM

As mentioned in the article, and in subsequent comments, Print Selection is not always available.

Arthur F. Bily
August 14, 2006 8:52 AM

PS. Thank you Leo for doing a great service for computer owners. It is much appreciated

Amrit
August 22, 2006 6:07 PM

Help.
I print from Outlook and regardless of what size or length the email is there is always a blank page that comes out at the end. I am running on Office 2003. Is it my printer settings, page setting?

tony
February 14, 2007 8:44 AM

great thanks.

tracyvand
February 2, 2008 7:42 AM

First a comment, then a question.
Comment: This article was one of the clearest in explanation in regard to a computer issue that I have read online.
Question: Is there anyway to highlight a section of a webpage then go further down and hightlight another section when in between the two there would be no highlighting (because I didn't want to save the info in between the two highlighted sections)? For example when I left click and highlight a section of the page, then release the mouse, move down the page and try to highlight another section, the first section un-highlights itself.

Marissa King
February 29, 2008 3:56 PM

I use Clipmarks, a Firefox extension that allows sections of webpages to be printed, emailed, saved, or posted to blog (http://clipmarks.com). If I copy and paste into a word processor, I use Google docs (http://docs.google.com) - it's faster and easier than Word.

ruth
June 11, 2008 10:46 AM

Canon has a printer toolbar for their printers.(avaliable on line)that allows portions of web pages to be printed. It does not work in IE 7. I have not tried it in firefox.

Justyn Pride
September 5, 2008 5:17 AM

We use office 2007 in the office, and have lost the function to be able to highlight text adn then print just the selection as a result of this upgrade. Whilst it's great to have some work arounds doesn't it just been pointless that we have to do these things? Surely to be able to print selection is key in todays paper saving society!

Geizer
November 25, 2008 12:04 PM

I like to use Firefox plug-ins like "Screen Grabber" to capture a long page, however I have never been able to capture just portions of a page and I haven't been able to get "help" to see how a plug-in works. Is this true of all plug-ins?

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