Printing Fixed width Font from Web Mail browser (IE8) yields proportional spacing.

Ted Palmer
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EE Experts:

I am working on a project for a client who wants automated e-mail of invoices to wholesale customers when the order ships. I have all that part working. I chose to use plain text e-mail not HTML e-mail because I thought it would be the lowest common denominator, and would work well for both PCs that have a local e-mail client like Outlook and on web mail clients. My invoices have text naturally aligned in columns for attributes like Quantity, Product Code, Description, Unit Cost, Price Expanded, etc., etc.

In Outlook my invoices have everything aligned as I expected. I wish I could say the same for web mail clients. Actually I have discovered how to get my invoices aligned in web mail clients using one or two different methods. I am not sure which option I chose that made it look aligned in the browser (style=none; text size medium), but that part looks good now in the web browser.

The problem exists when I print what I am looking at in the web browser. The e-mail is getting printed with a proportionally spaced font, and that is not what I want. When I click on the Print icon/link another web browser instance opens with my e-mail invoice in it. If it is not aligned, I can get it aligned again like when I was looking at it in the web e-mail client using the same techniques. I have to cancel the Printer dialog box that pops up. After that I can click on the file menu and choose Page Setup. In the lower left corner of the setup dialog box there is a button labeled "Change Font". I click it. A font selection dialog box pops up; I select Font = (Courier New or just plain Courier), Font Style = Regular, Size=11. In my life experience those fonts (Courier New or just plain Courier) should yield a fixed width font -- not a proportionally spaced font.

Please remember that in the last font dialog box I selected parameters for "Page Setup". When I print the web page I am looking at that is in good alignment. It prints using proportional spacing. This is very disappointing. Can an EE expert tell me what the trick is to get fixed width font in the printed output so I can give insturctions to the receiver of my e-mail invoices?

Thanks for any help you can provide,

Ted Palmer
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I would use a stylesheet for it.  Take a look at this --> http://www.webcredible.co.uk/user-friendly-resources/css/print-stylesheet.shtml
Ted PalmerInformation Technology Consultant

Author

Commented:
TRW-Consulting:

Thank you for your suggestion. But I am doubtful that I can implement it. I followed the link you provided and what it has to offer looks very interesting and helpful, but not helpful for my particular situation. I am sending an e-mail message. How it gets rendered at the receiving end seems to be out of my control. I am aware that most modern e-mail clients (Outlook, Firebird, Outlook Express, etc.) will handle HTML e-mail, but I delibrately chose not to include HTML in my e-mail message in order to avoid this kind of problem. Where is the Cascading Style Sheet file print.css going to come from? I have no control of what happens on the web server that performs the process of acting like an e-mail client on a web page.

If you have some implementation details that have escaped my awareness, I would be thrilled to hear about them. Your suggestion may be a very good one, but I lack the experience to make it work.

Oh! I'm really a client/server guy. Not a web guy. That may be why I can't appreciate the value of your solution. If you have some more advice for me, I would appreciate it very much.

Thank you,
Ted Palmer
Dave BaldwinFixer of Problems
Most Valuable Expert 2014

Commented:
Browsers use their default font unless another one is specified.  In addition an 'print' style sheet won't help much in web mail because it will be ignored by almost all web mail clients.  If you can, you would be better off generating a PDF invoice and sending it as an attachment.
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Ted PalmerInformation Technology Consultant

Author

Commented:
I was trying to avoid that kind of complexity -- a PDF attachment. I was so close in getting what I wanted by just changing simple configuration parameters on the web page before printing, I thought there must be one more little option choice I was missing.

I'll let the question ride for now and see what other kinds of solutions might be suggested.

Thank you,
Ted Palmer
Fixer of Problems
Most Valuable Expert 2014
Commented:
HTML is the way you tell web browsers how to display things.  However, it can be unreliable in web mail because the clients like Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail will rewrite your HTML to avoid breaking their pages.
Ted PalmerInformation Technology Consultant

Author

Commented:
EE Experts:

I have discovered by experimenting, and trial and error that the solution is that there is no real solution. There are no consistent steps that can be taken to yield the results that I described in my question. The steps that must be taken vary depending on the web browser in use and the programmed behavior of the web mail client being used.

At first I succeeded at getting the columns of data in my message to line up and stay straight when viewed in the web browser, but they became misaligned when printed. By changing from the "new and improved" web e-mail client to the "classic" web e-mail client, I succeeded in getting the columns of the printed output to line up as well. My ISP is AT&T/Yahoo. That proves to me that success is dependent upon the web e-mail client.

Ted Palmer
Ted PalmerInformation Technology Consultant

Author

Commented:
EE Experts,

Oh! By the way (BTW). . . . The content of the automated e-mail message that is being sent is plain text; i.e., no HTML.

Ted Palmer
Ted PalmerInformation Technology Consultant

Author

Commented:
DaveBaldwin,

Thank you for your patientce and willingness to respond to a question that had no good answer. Your suggested solution had merit and value even though at the time it probably didn't seem like it would.

Ted Palmer
Ted PalmerInformation Technology Consultant

Author

Commented:
THANK YOU..!!
Dave BaldwinFixer of Problems
Most Valuable Expert 2014

Commented:
Glad to help.  I lost one client because I could never get the webmails to look Exactly like the original did on their Mac.  Course, they were putting a ruler on their screen to measure the font sizes...  I send out my invoices in PDF form.  You just have to be careful to embed your fonts in the PDF or you can run into the problem of the clients not having the desired fonts the same as you do in web pages and HTML email.  Them details, you know.

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