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Best Format for Electronic and Print Consumption

I?m writing code that generates a summary report based on user input. I want this report to:

  * Be viewable electronically without additional installation of software by a customer

  * Provide, in printed format, a table of contents referencing page numbers

  * Be based on an format whose specification I can reasonable have my code generate. For example, Microsoft Word format is probably out, since the 'source' format for writing code that generates Word documents is not readily available.

I seek feedback on the best format to choose for this report. HTML is an obvious and simple choice, and I can easily write code to produce attractive and readable markup in a browser. However, this wouldn?t seem to meet the printing requirements. Is there any way to get HTML to meet these requirements? Are there solutions to this dual need in XML?

Any recommendations?

Thanks in advance!

JT
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jamestremain
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jamestremain
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dij8Commented:
If your pages to be printed are to be viewed on the Internet or an Intranet then printing is not going to happen the way you want.  The web is not print media.  There are too many variables to be able to say how something will be printed.  What printer, what fonts are installed on the printer, what orientation is the printer set to, the list goes on and on.  The best way to get around this is to use Adobe Acrobat.  Yes this breaks your first rule.  However, most people have the reader installed already.

Even using Acrobat is not not guaranteed.  You still have no control ove rthe users printer.  If you want it to work on the web then HTML is the only way without additional software.  And HTML is not an option unless you limit the sizes of your pages to a single printable page.  And therefore have lots of pages and each one would need to be printed individually.
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COBOLdinosaurCommented:
Given the constraints of no additional software installation, i don't believe what you want to do is achievable.  

The method I generally recommend in these circumstances is PDF.  However that appears not be an option as it requires the user to have the acrobat reader.

As already pointed out even with PDF, there is still no certainty the the pages will print correctly because of user control of local settings.

AFAIK there is no format which can guarantee this even with additional software because you still connot guarantee the printer will be set up correctly.

Your best option within the constraints is t build printer friendly pages by using a table no more than 550 pixels wide centered in the page without borders or graphics and do as dij8 has already recommended; limit the size of he pages to a single viewable page and use separate WEB pages for each printed page you want.

HTH

Cd&
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jamestremainAuthor Commented:
Thanks for your overview!
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dij8Commented:
Glad to help.  Thanks for the A.
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