IE7 Printing: An Experience You Won’t Want To Miss

In my previous post, I gave a glimpse of what to come in IE7 and printing. Now that the Beta 2 Preview build is publicly available I like to walk you through all the additions we added to printing and print preview. Internal studies showed that printing is the second most used feature after navigation in a browser and traditionally has not seen the respect it deserves.

To address this IE7 focuses around 3 experiences:

  • Having a great default print experience
  • Intuitive UI, putting you in control
  • Letting you select the content you are interested in and preview it for adjustments

Having a great default experience

Most users just want to quickly put the content of the screen on paper for bookkeeping or use away from the computer. The key here is that all content on the screen is available to the user and that annoying extra white-space is avoided. No one likes to get extra pages with just one or two lines of content on an otherwise completely blank page of paper. IE 7 solves these problems by introducing: Shrink to fit and Orphan Control to minimize white-space. More details can be found here).

Intuitive UI

When opening print preview you will notice a cleanup of the UI. The goal was to target it more like a Windows dialog with the “action” controls (print and close) in the lower right corner. We also separated out the page control keys (next, previous, first page, last page etc.) in the lower left corner. This allows us to keep the “adjustment” keys that allow the user to modify the output of the content in the more dominant top toolbar.

The first difference you will notice when you open print preview is that you automatically see the whole first page of your print content (it adapts to whatever screen size you are using). No scrolling is necessary to verify that your content fits on the paper.

Adaptable Content

If you want to see the page with full detail we allow you to do that with the View full width button. We also enable you to switch back to a Full page view.

Put you control

If you belong to the group of users that are not satisfied with the “fire and forget” approach but like to tinker until the content fits exactly the way you want it on paper, IE7 puts you in the driver’s seat. You now get much easier access to modify the content and how it fits on paper:

  • Easily toggle page orientation between Portrait and Landscape
  • Turn Header/Footer on/off
  • Show Multiple pages (up to 12 pages can be previewed)
  • Change Print Scale (default is shrink to fit so you do not lose any content)
  • Provide custom scaling of the page. Here we let you pick a scaling rate from 30% to 999% to get the maximum out of your paper.
  • Live Margin sliders. This feature lets you directly adjust the margins on the page using a slider and you can see the result as you do it! This is a great way to reclaim space on the paper to get the maximum amount of content on a page.

Live Margins

Live Margins in action. Once the user lets go of the slider, the page will reflow to the new margins

Print Preview of Selected Content

Last but not least, there are times when you are only interested in parts of the content of the Web page (why print images when I am only interested in the text of an article?). IE6 already allowed printing of selected text of a web page, but it was pretty hard to discover. You had to select content you want to print and right click on your mouse. There you select the print menu item. Once at the print dialog you had to select the “print selected” menu item before you would get only the selected content fed to the printer. In IE7 we have streamlined the process: Select the content you want to print, right click and select the print menu item. Off it goes to the printer dialog and, guess what, the Print Selected option is already selected for you. You can print and be done.

We’ve added another significant improvement to printing selected content in IE7: you can see just the selection in print preview and make the adjustments described above to only this content. This is very easy to do: select the content you want to print and click on the print preview menu item (either on the toolbar or in the right click menu). The Print preview window will open and automatically start with the selected content. You can also switch back to full content in case you selected something by accident.

We hope you’ll share our excitement about the new printing capabilities offered by IE7. You can now choose your personal printing style and get the maximum out of IE7 targeted just for you.

Please let us know what you think and what you’d like to see in the future.

 – Markus Mielke and Adrian Bateman

Comments (95)

  1. TC says:

    Good stuff.

  2. Outstanding!  It will require a few real-world tests before I can say if the results are what I’m hoping for, but the UI looks very promising.  Printing selected text was, believe it or not, one of those features my mother accidentally stumbled on that I knew nothing about.  She’s one of those highlight-as-you-read people and was complaining that she never got printing to "work."  It only took a few seconds to witness and explain the problem and I learned about a feature too.  Anyway, the new print preview you describe would have prevented her confusion.  FWIW, she was using Word at the time, but the same principle applies

    BTW, thanks for making it a single click to turn off the headers/footers.  I personally plan to put that to good use.  Be sure you select a tiny font size as the default for whichever (header or footer) is to contain the URL (9 times out of 10 it runs right off the edge of the page).

  3. Steve says:

    Wow!, finally a feature that I’m jealous of (Firefox user)

    The live margins (if they do what I think they do), is cool.

    Likewise, the preview of the selected text print.

    No longer will I have to print off articles for my friends and family because IE couldn’t.

    (yes,it happened a LOT!)

  4. Nick Presta says:

    Of all the cool things in print, since IE7 won’t support :before/:after, print stylesheets that try to use,

    a:after { content: " <‘attr(href)’>" }

    abbr:after, acronym:after { content:" (‘attr(title)’)" }

    won’t help any better.

    Being able to control what you’re printing, what style, how much and the margins are great, but important things like the href attribute of a link and the meaning of acronyms and abbreviations go left unseen.

    Keep workin’, guys!

  5. aapje says:

    I would like the ability to use the mouse scrollwheel to flip through the pages in print preview mode, the left and right arrow also should have this function.

  6. vanram says:

    It looks, and so far is great…

    BUT, please put the vcr button and Print  & cancel on the top bar!!! – or allow user config – or put them in both places.

    Anyway having them only on the bottom is currently a large pane!!! – Thanks

  7. codemastr says:

    I must say, I love the new print feature. That being said, I have the same complaints I have about the rest of IE7… the GUI sucks!

    First off, why is the toolbar that ugly gradient? That gradient isn’t used for any other toolbars in IE. The reason I have an XP theme set is because I want that theme used system wide! To me this is the ClearType debate all over again, respect system settings!

    I’d like to second the suggestion of moving the print button to the toolbar. I don’t care much about the next/prev buttons, it’s quite common to put them at the bottom, but once again consistency. Every other Windows program puts the print button on the toolbar!

    Finally, I’d just like to restate my clipping idea. Now that I understand the live margins feature, I’d like to suggest something similar for my clipping idea. Basically, instead of like it currently does, where the page is resized to where the new margin is, I’d rather everything past the new margin be clipped off. Hence, when there is a menu bar on the left I can move the margin after it, and ads on the right, I can move the margin before it and save my ink!

  8. frankf says:

    While the printing features are cool (even better than Firefox, sadly to say), it is slow in B2P to show the preview window.  For me, it takes 5 seconds, without a dialog box or status bar notification or anything to indicate that it is processing.  Is there any plans to either speed this up in the future, or to at least pop up some sort of notification?

  9. Ray says:

    I like the idea of a clipping function, perhaps a button on the toolbar which can switch between margin resizing, and margin clipping, as, i too have suffered from the annoyance of ads on several sides of a webpage and even found that on some occasions, selecting only the content you want hasn’t always worked since more often than not, it ends up selecting the ads and all.

  10. Looks like the Live Margins tool is the main addition.  I like it.

    I disagree with codemastr, the UI for this tool looks great.  Much better than the main UI that was shown a little while ago (which was a jumbled and inconsistent mess that looked like the definition of design-by-committee — no offense).  In fact, I’ll go a step further and say that having that onyx bar on the main application would help the default UI theme if the six main buttons (back, forward, reload, stop, home, and go) were put in that bar and conformed to its color scheme.  I dunno, maybe that would remind people of IE 5/Mac too much.  Just a thought.  ðŸ™‚

  11. mike says:

    Yes, I have to agree with Nick Presta. Why won’t IE7 support the :before and :after pseudo elements? There are major benefits, and not just with regards to print. First – all other modern browsers will be able to do what IE7 won’t. Plus, I thought IE7 was promosied to fully support CSS 2.1?

    Take a look at this:

  12. Ron says:

    I have to say, the new print preview is the best feature in IE7 by far, and out-shines any other print preview I’ve seen in a browser. It’s also the only feature I genuinly like about IE7.

    It’s a bit slow on updating changes though.

  13. ThomThom says:

    Great. I can’t remember how many times I have printed a page and it looks ok at the first glance only to realize that it cropped of an inch on the right side.

  14. Ron says:

    wow, it seems I can’t spell "genuinely".

  15. JakeZ says:

    As a long time reader of this blog and a former ‘softie, I like being informed about innovation and developments in Microsoft products.  However, you might want to watch your tone here.  This has a very heavy marketing pitch to it, rather than an informational tone.  It really turned me (and many of my co-workers) off to reading Microsoft blogs.

    Just a suggestion …

  16. ieblog says:


    Markus is actually pretty excited and passionate about this work. I think what you read as "marketing" is simply Markus wanting to promote the cool work that his team has done over the last while.

    – Al Billings [MSFT]

  17. jsminch says:

    Wow, first time I’ve smiled since the Superbowl.

  18. Adrian says:

    Are there any plans to properly support CSS print features in IE7? Without these the default ‘print experience’ is always going to involve badly split sections & tables.

  19. Doug Mahugh says:

    This is great, to see IE getting some beefed-up printing capabilities.  I’ve felt for years that printing in IE had lagged behind other areas.

    Now I just have to get out of the habit of copying text into Word from table-based layouts in order to print it without cutting off the right end of the lines!

    Keep up the great work, shrink-to-fit and live margins are definitely headed in the right direction.

  20. Mark Finkle says:

    Can you tell us if any features were added to programmatic printing control via MSHTML COM interfaces? Currently, its hard to control page setup, margins and header/footer. It’s really hard (registry hacks) to control the printer.

    Also, is there anyway to get IE to print across multiple sheets of paper when the content is very wide? Or is shrink to fit the only way to get all of the content on a page?.


  21. Michael Sheakoski says:

    I also agree with Nick Presta. Please get IE7 up to the Firefox / Opera level of standards support so we can have a more usable web.

    We need these basic CSS 2.1 features added:

    display: table

    display: table-cell

    display: table-row

    display: table-*







  22. Richard says:

    I thought I had read somewhere that IE 7 would support printing backgrounds.  I don’t see it as an option in the beta.  I’d like to see the option added.

  23. Markus [MSFT] says:


    Printing backgrounds is a print option in the "options" menu of IE. We thought about exposing it as well in print preview but had to cut it for time reasons. Definitely something we would like to expose a little more clearly in the next version.

    — Markus

  24. jace says:

    @ Markus

    Looks really good.

    Would you please consider moving the print icon to the top toolbar, and removing the print and close buttons entirely from the bottom? They look very out of place there.


  25. Fiery Kitsune says:

    Why are you guys using MS Paint to handle your screenshots?

    They look terrible.

  26. Benoit says:

    I liked Live Margins too, but I think you should provide a means to reset them to default settings once you’ve played with them enough.

  27. Dao says:

    The UI looks better than in Firefox, I must admit.

  28. Thom says:

    I am in love with the new print preview. I work in a school with over 1000 users and the "Shrink to Fit" option and orientation buttons will save a huge amount of paper being wasted.

    However, the print dialog is still a bit of a mess. With all of this work being done on "Print Preview" it would have been great to see a button for it on the main print dialog or even a setting to always go to print preview first as a default. Surely that’s not to hard to add in?

  29. Mike Jones says:

    Why are the fonts for buttons, etc on the print preview different from the rest of the application?

  30. Mo Inam says:

    Printing via Javascript such as "Print" links in MSDN sites won’t work. It’ll just print blank page with header/footer.

  31. Sushovan says:

    Great stuff. Really very great!

    But I would really want the mouse wheel to scroll through the pages. I second that idea vociferously.

  32. David says:


    A "print background" toogle in the preview window would be great — it feels like an option I should be able to choose each time I print. I hope you get time to put it in before release.

  33. Julian Reschke says:

    How about CSS paged media extensions? Such as setting headers/footers, forcing page breaks etc.?

  34. game kid says:

    "Of all the cool things in print, since IE7 won’t support :before/:after, print stylesheets that try to use,

    a:after { content: " <‘attr(href)’>" }

    abbr:after, acronym:after { content:" (‘attr(title)’)" }

    won’t help any better."

    Agreed.  Implement.

    "Wow, first time I’ve smiled since the Superbowl."

    The sarcasm kills me.

    "Why are you guys using MS Paint to handle your screenshots?  They look terrible."

    I wholeheartedly agree.  Dithering is, like, SO Windows 3.1.  I’d understand if you were protecting the identity of the pages in question, but the third-party CNN page looks BETTER than msn’s page here!  Good features, bad presentation page.

  35. game kid says:

    That said, those "Live Margins" are made of Heaven and Win.  Firefox is easily owned here.

    –and tell the marketing dept. to buy that domain!  I recall such blatant and misleading names being…illegal?  (That made me uninstall Firefox BTW.  IE and Opera now.)

  36. game kid says:

    Speaking of dither, update that Download dialog sometime.  That Windows-95-looking dithered planet and folder is starting to look lame in this post-XP era.

  37. Jono says:

    As someone involved in web design, I’m amazed that there’s a discussion of printing from a modern browser that doesn’t include any mention of print style sheets.

  38. Yolander says:

    Print Preview is missing one very important feature (beyond the horrible screenshot quality in this post)

    The Title: is "Print Preview"

    It should be, "Print Preview of: {Webpage Title}" or similar.

    Also missing a Minimize, and Maximize/Resize window control (top-right).

    If it isn’t a fixed width dialog, then ADD the buttons!

    Otherwise, a damn site better than the mess in IE6.

  39. Dark Phoenix says:

    << –and tell the marketing dept. to buy that domain!  I recall such blatant and misleading names being…illegal?  (That made me uninstall Firefox BTW.  IE and Opera now.) >>

    You mean the one that was bought by some random idiot who obviously wanted to try and fool people into thinking Firefox was IE7?

    Before you make yourself sound like an idiot, try a WHOIS on the domain name 😉

  40. Gregory Martin says:

    Even though this has been said many times, the printing changes are very welcome.  I really appreciate the work you have done in this area.  I like most of what as been done with IE7, but to me the printing is the most valuable feature improvement.  Thank you!

  41. Wes says:

    You know, that’s all great and everything but most users just press the print button and never go into things like this. Hence why us web developers usually throw in the print style css file.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s great but I sort of wish it was by default that it shrunk to fit the page instead of going in and having to slide margins around.

    "No one likes to get extra pages with just one or two lines of content on an otherwise completely blank page of paper".

    Then why don’t you shrink by default? It’s still going to happen because again, most users just press Print. My advice, have it on by default and then let those who "tinker" turn it off instead of the opposite.

  42. Andrew says:

    I agree with Yolander, if the print preview dialog is going to be resizable, put grips on the bottom right, and a minimize and maximize button up top. And why not put it in the task bar too, or atleast make it a tab in ie?

  43. Some cool stuff, but I’d venture to guess that less then 0.25% of web browsing time is spent printing. I guess when you need it, its good to have though. I’ve been following the development of Vista and IE to see how the competition measures up, despite the fact that I don’t use Windows or IE (I’m a linux/firefox user). Good work guys, things are starting to shape up a bit for Microsoft users. Unfortunately, if I had to choose between OS X and Windows, I think OS X still has more to offer, albeit I haven’t used either of those operating systems extensively so my opinion is of limited value. Regardless, Windows is starting to look like a viable option again.

  44. Romeo says:

    Canon has had this feature for printing from IE for several years now.  It only works when printing to a Canon printer, but it’s great.

  45. jmbr says:

    Please allow a Print Preview icon for 1-click access to this most useful feature.

  46. I have known the Print Selected option in IE6 for a long time, and I do like the improvement of being able to preview what will be printed. However, I sometimes find it frustrating trying to select the desired section of the page (Have you ever tried to select something and ended up clicking a link?). I would like to have an option/utility in the print dialog that lets me select the desired section using either a rectangular selection tool or a two slider-like controls to specify the top and bottom. What I usually do now is look at the print previews and specify what pages I want printed because it does not involve the frustration of selecting what I want.

  47. Jeremy says:

    Check out the smoke&mirrors and pay no attention to the lack of standards compliance…

  48. sam says:

    Printing? Ok it’s nice. But i would like to have the W3C standards supported…

  49. Good work, useful printing features are missing from not just browsers but many other applications, excellent to see some work put into such a commonly ignored task.

  50. alexander says:

    This is good, bug if you could add some support for css print styles it would be alot more useful.

  51. Xavier says:

    Great feature.

    It would be definitively amazing if it just include a "print as pdf file" output.

  52. One of the most annoying things about Internet Explorer 6.0 has always been the lack of printing options…

  53. Ronald Lachenal says:

    Very nice. I now have a reason to use it even if i’d probably stick to using it for printing for now.

  54. Ivan Minic says:

    Just one good part of another poor project won’t work for me…

  55. netdragon says:

    IE7’s print page messed up on the tear-back on (see and scroll down to bottom part of image)

  56. Mirko says:

    Like already mentioned before, a better support of CSS rules like a:after { content: " <‘attr(href)’>" } should be implemented.

    Moreover there could be a better handling of grouped elements. For example, fieldsets are often "cutted" when they begin at the end of a page. Mozilla does a good job there moving fieldsets to the start of the next page.

  57. Jon says:

    I’m with Jakez — the tone of the article jumped out at me.  Phrases like "IE7 puts you in the driver’s seat" just sound silly on what is traditionally a more tech-oriented site.

    But the features are good. Nice work.

  58. Mike Simon says:

    From the bottom of my heart, I say thank you.  Having to force customers to open Acrobat to get a good view of their report is painful in the extreme (especially with Acrobat’s print support changing from version to version—ARGH!).  It’ll be great to really be able to do some of the thing we’ve been wanting to do.  

    Question:  Has anyone tested this out in reporting services?

  59. Markus [MSFT] says:


    Shrink-to-fit and the orphan control is part of the default print experience (independent of print preview).

    — Markus

  60. Mr. INTJ says:

    Images that look great on the screen at 72 or 96 dpi look really lousy when scaled up to printer resolution of 300 dpi or greater.

    A good example of this can be seen when you try to print out a map from Mapquest or Google maps. Line art is where this is most important, but photographic images could be improved as well.

    It shouldn’t be too hard to improve printed image quality automatically by simply upsampling and sharpening.

    That’s a big printing issue for me…


  61. Lee Campbell says:

    Are Print Templates still supported? and if so how on earth do you apply them when using .NET 2 winforms WebBrowser control. Seems the ExecWB() method has been dropped.

  62. Jonathan Nix says:

    The major flaw in HTML has been its inability to specify print document layout.

    It would have been trivial to specify margins, header, footer, etc. directly in the HTML itself.

    If so, you would usually always print a web page just fine since the page authors would specify its unique print aspects directly into the page you’re trying to print.

    Style sheet enhancements have only piddled on the surface of functionality.

    Putting the print layout hassle onto the end-user is disappointing and only a partial solution… In my case, I have HTML documents that I want to print from a C# application, but no way of really handling the printing.

    If I could get rid of the headers and footers it would be 1 step.

    Setting margins another step, and specifying when in the HTML to trigger a <pagebreak> would be a giant leap for mankind.

    I think they disabled print template functionality because of security concerns. For some reason, it won’t print whenever I specify a custom template, no matter which templates I use from newly compiled existing sample applications, or from custom code.

    I hope there’s better print layout functionality in XAML.

  63. Richard says:

    I just came across the option to print backgrounds, it seems to be a preference that affects ALL printing, not just the current job.  Shouldn’t it be in the print preview, or at least the page setup for the current job?  Why would a user want all or nothing?

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