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Searching for the perfect proofing solution

June 4, 2005 | Web Design & Development

The dynamic nature of the web makes updating websites and content a snap to do. You make the change, upload and its live. Got a typo – log in and edit directly on the server. Beauty.

But what happens when you need to make a major change to a site and have it proofed by people who don’t have access to your test server? My quest for the perfect proofing solution unfortunately still has me wanting more.

The drawback to proofing at work is that our network is private and many of the eyes that need to look at pages before they go live are outside the network.

One of my issues lies in that our work website is set to print like a datasheet – not be representative of what is on screen. It actually works very well and we’ve gotten some kudo’s about the print format from some of our regular users as well as from people inside the company for its easyily read format. So what’s a boy to do to get an accurate screen proof out without tiling screenshots?

I kinda felt up against a wall until late last week I got a revelation that I should have been hit with a lot sooner. Web Archives.

Microsoft Internet Explorer

At work, this is easy. From MSIE you load your page and select ‘Save As’ from the file menu. Before saving change the file type to the web archive format which carries a .mht extension. Voila, you have a self contained web page, complete with graphics, that can be emailed out for proofing and on the other end the person just has to have MSIE on Windows. For work this is perfect since I’m in the corporate world everybody has MSIE on Windows.

The format works really well so long as your recipient has MSIE. A pure CSS layout gets translated to a table based layout in some cases and is converted to HTML 4 spec, but the look of the page stays perfect (so long as your page rendered correctly in IE to begin with). The format is proprietary to MSIE and I haven’t found a way to view it with anything else other than MS Word on Windows. MS Word will open the files but if you’ve used a CSS layout Word won’t know what to do with the formatting.

Mozilla Firefox

Firefox also has an option to save a web archive, and in open source fashion it does a little better job at providing an open format. Firefox will save an HTML page and a resource folder that contains your CSS & images and Firefox will alter all the links on the saved page to point to that folder for the resources. The only problem, which unfortunately is a how stopper, is that CSS background images are not saved. Boo. This was so close to being the perfect solution.

Safari

With the release of Safari 2 we finally get the ability to save web archives. But, surprisingly, they are a proprietary format like the one generated by MSIE. So unless your recipient has Safari on Tiger you’re out of luck – and that pretty much takes care of everybody I do work for. Most other Mac Heads that I consort with are not clients, in fact, they’re much in the same boat as I am…

The safari format is an odd one too – instead of embedding elements in an encoded structure like MSIE does (MSIE makes a file that is structured much like an email message – content up top that is linked to encoded resources below). It instead chooses to embed all resources at the top of the file and then lead into the body of the page. Kind of odd if you ask me. But it works and I can’t complain about that.

Safari does have a redeeming feature though – the ability to take plug ins. The appropriate plug-in in this case would be SafariStand. SafariStand adds an option to the contextual menu to export the page to PDF. Possibly the most widely accepted cross platform format on earth this side of plain text files. The rendering is decent as well – though not perfect. Form buttons will often break slightly in their alignment and some gaps can be seen between page elements. But it is minor enough to excuse and be acceptable.

Unfortunately, I have yet to find an equivalent on Windows so I’m stuck using the MSIE web archive at work.

Verdict?

I’m actually rather glad I finally decided to explore these options. I have two very solid ways of proofing no matter what platform I’m using. I’d love to have a truly cross platform solution from Windows but for now the search goes on for a way to make a PDF from the screen stylesheet on Windows.

3 Responses

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  • Linkie Poo

    They make a tool that converts an IE Web Archive to folders and files. Runs in Mac OS9-

    Pretty nifty.

    John Pennypacker, June 5, 2005 6:05 am | permalink

  • You can’t trademark linky-poo! :fister:

    John Pennypacker, June 5, 2005 6:06 am | permalink

  • Hm, I don’t have OS9 around but a quick search reveals that there are other projects active that do this…

    Thanks for the heads up.

    Shawn Parker, June 5, 2005 4:21 pm | permalink

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