Hypertext printer

Overview

As any other active technological fields, printing industry is experiencing steady improvements. Speed, quality and efficiency are really on another level, comparing to what was generally available ten years ago. Most improvements were developed in time, but some great improvements came overnight. Like printable media tray. A simple change technologically that was really big from user’s perspective. Being able to print content right on a blank disk is so much better than what was available before, like painfully putting label stickers that had so many problems, often completely disabling the disk because of instability during high rotation rate. Lightscribe was also just a fluke in comparison. Besides, leaving printing to printers and laser writing to lasers seems like a logical choice, that for some reason was overlooked at first. Printable media behaves like a photo paper, so instead of pixelated brownscale produced by Lightscribe you get thousands of fully colored DPI on your disk. And the technology of printable media is so much simpler – it does not reinvent the wheel, but instead just introduces a tray for a printer for printing on the media. That’s it.

My idea is just as simple, but instead of disks relates to web pages. Printing web pages full of linked hypertext could be a chore. The biggest challenge with printing web pages is that we only print the page itself, but not the linked documents. To print linked documents, we have to click every single link manually and print those pages one by one. And even when we do print the linked documents as well, there is no easy and certain way to know which link from the original document pointed to which document, therefore a special marking technique is required, like a pen. Imagine printing a Wikipedia page this way. The more there are links and less text, the less valuable printout becomes, up to the point where printout becomes useless.

Printing web pages could be much simpler with a just a little change. The change does involve a small hardware change in printers, but much more like media printing trays, than the image burning lasers. So how does it work?

Concept

First a change in printing software is required, where hypertext printing will be an option. Selecting this option will instruct the software to first index all links on the printed page, where links are sequentially numbered from lowest number to the highest, not unlike link index known from Wikipedia. For space saving purposes, the link numbering could start from 0 instead of 1. Hypertext printing link indexingThe following comparison demonstrate how the text looks in original form and after hypertext printing indexed the links. In the example the first link is shown in detail. Note how the link in printed version is indexed using superscript in red color. In production this could be preset to whatever would be best for the user, and it should be customizable. Hypertext Printing Sticky 1The software would then parse all the hyperlinks and queue the linked documents for printing as well. Depth of linking and number of parsed links must be user controlled with sensible defaults, like ten links and one level deep. More on depth handling later on. An index sequence of the hyperlink in the original document must match an index sequence of the printed document from an index. Meaning, if hyperlink in the original document is marked as [1], the document that was printed from this link has to be marked by [1] as well.

How the document is marked depends on the next step and will define the necessary change to the printers. There are two possibilities that pop into mind. First is a small device near output tray labeling each linked document with sticky labels.

Hypertext Printing Sticky 2

The advantages of this method is that labels could be removed from the document any time. Disadvantages are as clear though. The labels increase the size of paper beyond A4/Legal and could come off on itself unless strongly glued.

The second method would be preferred, since it uses wasted space due to default document margins.  Many printers today can print borderless content, therefore empty margin space could be used to print index sequence on the linked documents. For practical use, pieces of pages have to be carved out, so the linked documents are available at fingertips. This dictates the necessary hardware change. Logically the function could be accomplished by two cutters – one circular cutter, like a pizza knife, that would cut along the document height, and another short knife, that will cut segments from the side in a static or variable spacing. The final results could look like on these pictures. The order of links will be from lowest to highest from bottom to up. This is to not put any static restrictions on number of printable links, and impose only physical limits of the paper itself. Therefore the higher the index sequence of the document, the less pieces are cut out.

Hypertext printing using cuttingHypertext printing using cutting

Shown printouts have resulted from the following document structure:

Hypertext printing of one level of depth

Hypertext printing does not have to be restricted to single level linking depth. Granted, the geometrical growth could be too much for any physical medium, but it all depends on a number of links. The following example shows how the printout would look for a sparse two level link structure.

Hypertext printing two levels deep

There is one main document that contains two links. One to PAGE A and another link to PAGE B. In return, PAGE A itself has two links to other documents, for example purposes they are called pages A-1 and A2. PAGE B has hyperlinks as well, three of them in total. They are linking documents name B-1, B-2 and B-3 for the purposes of this example.

So a user navigates to the main page and selects hypertext printing in printer options and sets depth to two levels. Software parses the main page, finds linked pages A and B, indexes the links and the documents and prepares them for print as well as parsing them for second level links. It finds five other links, two from page A and three from page B. Software indexes and prepares for print those five other documents as well. Again the behavior is similar regarding to indexing links on the printed main document and sequential relative indexing of linked documents, and the further the document is down the hierarchy, the less indexing squares it has cut. The following could be the result of printing such a document. Main, first-level and second-level documents are displayed.

Multilevel hypertext printing - first levelMultilevel hypertext printing - second level

The final printout with all the pages straightened out would look like this:

Multilevel hypertext printing - complete printout

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