Can I print a calendar in grid view? (Page Manager)

Printing calendars is one of those issues that seems simple at first glance but quickly becomes surprisingly complex when you break it down.

The Challenge

One complicating factor is the interaction between a site's design and the devices it's viewed on. Particularly with responsive designs, a monthly calendar grid can scale up or down to take advantage of a screen's available horizontal width, and then display as many events as will fit within each grid square. Users can tap on an event to see additional details, and if necessary click to view more events than will fit on the display; the flexibility of an electronic screen makes this trivial.

Paper doesn't offer that option, which means that when a calendar is formatted for print either all events are rendered at a size that's too small to be legible, or some decisions must be made about which events to include, and which to leave off (and further, what information about each event - start/end times, descriptions, etc. - to include or leave out). Finalsite can automate that decision making process (and we do! See below...), but different schools have different interests, of course, so a one-size-fits-most approach can be limiting. The alternative to the "hard-and-fast rules" approach would mean building a sophisticated and devilishly complex method of controlling calendar outputs, which would require non-trivial amounts of time and effort.

Another issue we've encountered, particularly with printing calendars a month at a time, is that printed calendars quickly go out of date. This is partially a consequence of having an online calendar to begin with: when it's easy to edit events on an online calendar, then online calendar events are edited more frequently! Users with a printed calendar (such as a parent with a calendar on their fridge) may not know when an event is updated. And even if they do happen to notice or receive an alert, they may not be able to reprint a calendar right away, might forget, etc. For school admins, there's no assurance that parents are kept up to date with the most recent event information, and trying to ensure that everybody stays on the same page is added work.

Possible Solutions

Now that we've covered why printing calendars is not as easy to pull off as it might seem, let's talk about how you can do it anyway!

One request we've heard from schools is the ability to print a lunch calendar. As this thread from Community Voice points out, there are a couple of ways to do this. One approach is to have the menu 'live' as a PDF rather than a calendar. This doesn't get around the issue of information going out of date, but if your lunch menus are reasonably fixed and not likely to change in a month then this isn't as big of a deal. PDFs are by their nature more print-friendly than a calendar view: a PDF is designed to look the same on a page as it does on a screen.

Another possibility would be to use an Event List view on a calendar page rather than a Grid view. Lists are more inherently printer-friendly than grid views, although there will always be some unavoidable complications when trying to render web content on a printed page. Consider whether it would be possible to offer things like lunch menus as a weekly list view instead of, or in addition to, a monthly calendar grid. You could link off to a page with an Event List and little/no other content. In many cases, users on desktop devices would be able to print list views more readily. (In our experience, tablet and phone users are happy to remain 'fully digital' and visit web pages that simply present the information they're looking for cleanly - they often don't have as great a need for printed material.)

Finally, Calendar Manager does offer a 'Print' option for calendar grids. For all the reasons mentioned above it's not often our first suggestion, but if you have a pressing need to print a calendar you can do so by opening up the "Events" tab in Calendar Manager.

As with printing directly from a webpage, you'll run into issues with the number of events that can fit on each day, and how much information about each event can be displayed. To mitigate this, try creating a dedicated "print calendar" in Calendar Manager, and keep the number of events on each date as low as possible. You may also have to put some thought into how events are named in order to ensure that the information you want to share is actually what ends up on the printed page.

Alternatives to Printing

It's perhaps not surprising that Finalsite, a web content company, recommends displaying calendar events on the web, or at least digitally. Enabling Alerts, iCal and RSS feeds on calendars means that end users can view event information on a mobile device in a format that works for their screen. This is something that phones and tablets due particularly well. As more and more users have smartphones with built-in calendar capabilities, the advantages of all-online calendar events stack up favorably against paper printouts.

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