Html – How to make a HTML Page in A4 paper size page(s)

csshtmlprinting

Is it possible to make a HTML page behave, for example, like a A4-sized page in MS Word?

Essentially, I want to be able to show the HTML page in the browser, and outline the content in the dimensions of an A4 size page.

For the sake of simplicity, I'm assuming that the HTML page will only contain text (no images etc.) and there will be no <br> tags for example.

Also, when the HTML page is printed, it would come out as A4-sized paper pages.

Best Solution

Ages ago, in November 2005, AlistApart.com published an article on how they published a book using nothing but HTML and CSS. See: http://alistapart.com/article/boom

Here's an excerpt of that article:

CSS2 has a notion of paged media (think sheets of paper), as opposed to continuous media (think scrollbars). Style sheets can set the size of pages and their margins. Page templates can be given names and elements can state which named page they want to be printed on. Also, elements in the source document can force page breaks. Here is a snippet from the style sheet we used:

@page {
    size: 7in 9.25in;
    margin: 27mm 16mm 27mm 16mm;
}

Having a US-based publisher, we were given the page size in inches. We, being Europeans, continued with metric measurements. CSS accepts both.

After setting the up the page size and margin, we needed to make sure there are page breaks in the right places. The following excerpt shows how page breaks are generated after chapters and appendices:

div.chapter, div.appendix {
    page-break-after: always;
}

Also, we used CSS2 to declare named pages:

div.titlepage {
    page: blank;
}

That is, the title page is to be printed on pages with the name “blank.” CSS2 described the concept of named pages, but their value only becomes apparent when headers and footers are available.

Anyway…

Since you want to print A4, you'll need different dimensions of course:

@page {
    size: 21cm 29.7cm;
    margin: 30mm 45mm 30mm 45mm;
     /* change the margins as you want them to be. */
}

The article dives into things like setting page-breaks, etc. so you might want to read that completely.

In your case, the trick is to create the print CSS first. Most modern browsers (>2005) support zooming and will already be able to display a website based on the print CSS.

Now, you'll want to make the web display look a bit different and adapt the whole design to fit most browsers too (including the old, pre 2005 ones). For that, you'll have to create a web CSS file or override some parts of your print CSS. When creating CSS for web display, remember that a browser can have ANY size (think: “mobile” up to “big-screen TVs”). Meaning: for the web CSS your page-width and image-width is best set using a variable width (%) to support as many display devices and web-browsing clients as possible.

EDIT (26-02-2015)

Today, I happened to stumble upon another, more recent article at SmashingMagazine which also dives into designing for print with HTML and CSS… just in case you could use yet-another-tutorial.

EDIT (30-10-2018)

It has been brought to my attention in that size is not valid CSS3, which is indeed correct — I merely repeated the code quoted in the article which (as noted) was good old CSS2 (which makes sense when you look at the year the article and this answer were first published). Anyway, here's the valid CSS3 code for your copy-and-paste convenience:

@media print {
    body{
        width: 21cm;
        height: 29.7cm;
        margin: 30mm 45mm 30mm 45mm; 
        /* change the margins as you want them to be. */
   } 
}

In case you think you really need pixels (you should actually avoid using pixels), you will have to take care of choosing the correct DPI for printing:

  • 72 dpi (web) = 595 X 842 pixels
  • 300 dpi (print) = 2480 X 3508 pixels
  • 600 dpi (high quality print) = 4960 X 7016 pixels

Yet, I would avoid the hassle and simply use cm (centimeters) or mm (millimeters) for sizing as that avoids rendering glitches that can arise depending on which client you use.