Saturday, December 29, 2007

Convert Firefox into a text-only browser

Last week I described how to use a simple Javascript to determine the age of a Web page. The only problem: if the page has any dynamic elements that update automatically when the page loads (and these days most Web pages do), the script shows the current time and date.

For pages without auto-update content, type javascript:alert(document.lastModified) into the address bar and press Enter to see a window pop-up with the date and time of the page's last update. I'm still looking for a way to find out how recently specific content on a Web page was updated.

As I was looking for such a method, I stumbled upon a great Firefox add-in from Chris Pedericks called the Web Developer Toolbar (download). As the name implies, the free toolbar is intended to help Web designers test their pages, but it can also be used to show only the text of Web pages, which often makes them easier to read--and to print out.

After you download the toolbar, click Options and check Persist Features. Next, click CSS*Disable Styles*All Styles. Now click Images*Disable Image*All Images. Lastly, click Disable*Disable JavaScript*All JavaScript. You'll see only the page's text, and perhaps a couple of broken-image place markers. Be warned, however, that the results are rarely pretty.

In addition to making the pages easier to print, the text-only versions are also much easier to scan for specific information. (Note that you can retain much of the page's original formatting--minus images--by keeping CSS enabled.)

Tomorrow: Put Microsoft Word's styles to good use.