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I want to create a printable informational sheet for the products on my website. I have over 1000 different products. Each product has a product page and each product page needs a link which will display the product's info sheet and offer an easy print option.

Some factors are:

  • Info sheets will contain product specific info which will come from a database.
  • Info sheets may include product specific images, stored on the web server.
  • Info sheets will contain info that is user specific (supplied by form fields).
  • We are considering emailing a copy of the info sheets.
  • Info sheets will display the company logo and simple design elements.

I have lots of reasons to use HTML:

  • Less CPU intensive on server
  • No need to save or delete files
  • Can be shown directly in emails
  • Can be formatted with the same css as my website
  • Versions automatically change as the database changes.
  • Less cumbersome to view and download

I don't have as many reasons to use PDF:

  • Widely accepted standard.
  • Files can be saved by the client easily.
  • Files can be shared.

HTML looks like the way to go, but this is new territory for me. Are there other compelling reasons to use one over the other?

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You didn't mention if you are using a CMS system to manage your web content. The CMS I'm using allows me to assemble html pages from a database, but also to assemble .pdf files using the same data. XSL-FO can be used to generate .pdf files for instance. –  Jason Aller Mar 24 at 17:05
    
The page will be generated by a custom CMS using info from a database and info from a form. The result of the process is going to be a shipping form, which will contain info from our database and info from a web form. –  Hoytman Mar 24 at 17:07

1 Answer 1

Other then the factors you have already stated I would say it mainly depends on what you expect people will do with the printable version of your productinformation: If they will mainly just print them out then will most likely be the best option. If you think people will want to safe them and send them around I guess a PDF would be superior for obivous reasons. Of course people could just as easy send the link to an html version around to others, so to my mind for something like this an html version with a solid print stylesheet is propably the better option. Though I guess this is still not really as "compelling" a reason as you may have been looking for.

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You made a very good point. I need to consider what the person receiving the document will do with it. One of the documents is a shipping form which will be printed as soon as it is received. There is also a line card, which may be printed forwarded, or simply viewed. I'll bet that an HTML email would have a better change of getting forwarded intact (I should ask this as another question.) –  Hoytman Mar 24 at 12:25

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