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Specifying page breaks for printing using CSS

With CSS (level 2), the grip webmasters have over their webpages extends to the printer. To satisfy the controlling tendencies within us, IE5+ and Firefox/ NS6+ give you the power to insert artificial page breaks for printing. Now your site can look the way you want it to even after the computer's turned off!

page-break-before and page-break-after

Here are your two boys for getting the job done- the CSS attributes page-break-before and page-break-after. Both instruct the printer to begin printing a new page, with the difference being before or following the element the attribute is applied to. The possible values the two attributes accept are:

Value Description
always Always insert a page break
auto Default value. Insert page break only if at end of page.
"" (empty string) Do not insert  a page break.

Let's say your page consists of multiple headers (with content following each). Want to divide each header into a separate page for printing?

<style type="text/css">
h1{
page-break-before: always;
}
</style>

How about getting even more personal, and divvying things up at specific location(s)?

content here
"
<DIV style="page-break-after:always"></DIV>
"
"
content here

Note that page-break-after may not work with <BR> or <HR> tag in some browsers.

Their scripting equivalents- pageBreakBefore and pageBreakAfter

As with most CSS attributes, you can access our two stars via JavaScript, by using the properties pageBreakBefore and pageBreakAfter. The obvious advantage of this is the ability to then dynamically assign their values. For example, instead of forcing custom page breaks on your visitors, you can create a script to make this optional. Here I'll create a checkbox that toggles between slicing the page at the headers (h2) and at the printer's own discretion (default):

<form name="myform">
<input type="checkbox" name="mybox" onClick="breakeveryheader()">
</form>

<script type="text/javascript">
function breakeveryheader(){
var thestyle=(document.forms.myform.mybox.checked)? "always" : "auto"
for (i=0; i<document.getElementsByTagName("H2").length; i++)
document.getElementsByTagName("H2")[i].style.pageBreakBefore=thestyle
}

</script>

Click here for an example that uses this. You can substitute H2 inside the script with another tag such a P or DIV.

In conclusion

The page break properties we've just seen can be used either to your visitor's benefit, or at their expense. Keep that in mind as you work them into your pages!

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