PDF Output File

Not MVP (though I won’t complain if it gets done relatively early)
There should be a PDF button on all “key” pages (i.e., Q&A, “Discussion” (if separate from the main Q&A pages, Blog (if we have something of that sort)).

This is a feature which is lacking in many high-profile sites, for no apparent reason other than (perhaps) the desire to never let anyone or any info be accessible except “on the live site”.

It should include the following features:

  • A4 or Letter size. This should definitely be configurable in the User Profile. Default could be either A4 or Letter (I’d prefer Letter because I’m in the US) though figuring it out (for any non-logged in user) from country based on IP would be nice.
  • Small selection of options - e.g.,:
    • Include images
    • Include comments (if we have them)
  • PDF should be formatted sensibly - e.g., don’t just blindly include every little thing on the web page - no need for menu bars, web page footer, edit buttons, etc., but should include a short link ( www.example.com/qa/123456 - i.e., don’t need to include the whole-long-subject-title-in-the-url) for someone who gets the PDF and wants to go the site by manually typing in the link (yes, that will happen).

Something that could be possibly done early is to have some text format output of the relevant content that is clean and without all kinds of menu bars etcetera.

Then the creation of a menu and page that turns this into a PDF becomes just an add on (frontend) feature that requires no change of the site infrastructure.

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PDF in true front-end (Javascript/client side) is nearly impossible. I’ve been waiting for years. The only way, IMHO, is server-side.

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But when you have organised the website such that it can spit out a text file of just the post, then isn’t it a small step to do this (serverside) as some pdf file?

I consider this pdf generation as a front end feature (it is just a different presentation of the same thing/content). When the infrastructure is flexible enough to present the content in easy (machine) readable format then you can turn it into anything, and any presentation (like pdf) can be added to the site as a standalone feature by anybody who likes to build it.


I don’t recall ever wanting this. If I did I suppose I’d download the markdown source and run pandoc on it.

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Correct. I think we had a little confusion about “front end”. I thought that meant “client side (browser)” which does not work. “a different presentation of the same thing/content” is exactly what I mean. But to do this at professional quality is more than just “text” → “PDF”. It includes nice formatting of the results, images, icons, etc. Not a big project, but it can be done “quick and dirty” or it can be done “professional”. Where possible, everything we do here should be professional quality. That is also one reason why I don’t consider this MVP - the extra time it takes to do it right is not something we need to put into the initial product.

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@gilles You may not have ever wanted this. But there are plenty of times I have wanted it (on this site and many others) - e.g., to provide hard copy (or equivalent, but better than a screen capture) of documentation of something to either someone who needs it literally on paper or to have in a computer file but in a 100% clear/printable format. Trust me, there is a use case for this.

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This client-side PDF library doesn’t seem bad.

That looks like it might work. Or at least, the sample looks good. I’m still not convinced, but better than what I’ve seen in the past.


I can’t recall ever wanting this either.

However, if this is done, the IP aspect needs to be thought out carefully. The resulting document will be disconnected from the site. I don’t know how individual users’ contributions will be licensed, but a copyright notice for each post and the page as a whole might be required.

I am not a lawyer, so just putting this out there to make sure it gets thought about.

The license issue is pretty much the same “everywhere”.

On web views (desktop, mobile, etc.) there needs to be appropriate license information. That might be “minimal but clickable” to save space, especially on mobile. But if it is “minimal but clickable” then on a print view *which anyone can do on any browser, beyond our control", “minimal but clickable” may not really be enough and instead the full license name should be shown (enough that a reasonable person could Google it and get a full explanation of what “CC-BY-SA-4.0” or whatever means).

On PDF views, the full license name should be shown. It could be all at the bottom as a footnote (since PDF gives us full control over layout) or next to each item.