Fix A Webpage Printing Gibberish Or Garbage Characters

You may encounter a situation where a particular webpage displays perfectly on screen but printing it out results in random gibberish or garbage characters spewing from your printer.

Printing from other webpages and emails or Word documents works fine – it’s just one website that causes the problem.

What Causes Garbage Characters or Symbols to be Printed?

It is probably caused by the particular font used by that webpage – less popular websites such as blogs by individuals (or small businesses) are the main culprits as they are more likely to use custom (non-standard) fonts.

Whereas hugely popular or corporate websites are often created by a professional web designer who will ensure that the fonts used are suitable for printing.

Your web browser may be able to understand and display custom and non-standard fonts (so the page looks fine on screen) but printers are more fussy.

If a printer doesn’t recognize the font then it can’t print those characters and it may start printing random gibberish or garbage characters instead as its ‘best guess’ – the closest approximation of the characters it can find…

There are several methods to try and fix this problem – the first two are the easiest so try those. If printing a particular webpage still produces strange characters then move on to the last solution.

How To Fix Or Work Around Gibberish Printing

1. Update printer drivers

If printing works fine everywhere else then your printer drivers are probably not corrupted – so it’s unlikely that updating them will cure the problem.

However, if you have an old printer and the drivers are several years out of date then it’s certainly worth updating them first in case they add new fonts – visit the manufacturer’s site to download and install updated drivers for your printer.

2. Disable custom website fonts

You can instruct your web browser to ignore custom fonts on all webpages and to always use standard fonts that your printer will recognize. Here is how to do this in popular web browsers:

  • Chrome – there is no simple menu option in Chrome to disable custom fonts. But you can install an extension to force standard fonts on a particular website (or globally, on all sites) as follows:

Install Font Changer extension from Chrome Web Store – it adds a new ‘FC’ button in the upper right of Chrome. Browse to the webpage that won’t print and click the FC button.

Change the Use dropdown menu to ‘Site Specific Font’ to force standard fonts on just this one webpage as shown below – or leave as ‘Global Font’ if you really want it to apply to all websites.

disable custom fonts

Now select which Font you want to use in the Font Name dropdown menu – scroll down the list or start typing a font name to narrow down the list. Choose something standard like Arial or Sans-serif and click the Done button when you have finished.

Refresh the problematic printing page by pressing the F5 key on your keyboard – the page text should change to use the standard font you selected.

Try printing it – if the webpage still prints garbage characters then skip to Step 3 below – you can uninstall the Font Changer extension if you don’t need it for anything else.

  • IE11 (Internet Explorer) – click the Tools ‘gear’ icon at the top right then select Internet Options then the General tab then the Accessibility button to display Accessibility options.
    Now tick the ‘Ignore font styles specified on webpages’ checkbox then press OK twice to save the change
  • Firefox – click the 3 bar Menu icon at the top right then select Options to display options – you should be on the General tab already. Scroll down the General tab to the Fonts & Colors section and click on Advanced to the right of the Default font size. This opens the Fonts panel. Untick the ‘Allow pages to choose their own fonts, instead of your selections above’ checkbox then press OK to save the change

Now close your web browser then open it again – browse to the problematic webpage and try printing it – if the webpage still prints garbage characters then continue to Step 3 below.

If this fix works then, unless you plan to print from the same website again in future, I would recommend undoing the change you just made so that your browser can use custom fonts on all sites in future.

The reason is that, although disabling them probably won’t ‘break’ a website, it does mean that you won’t see the site as it was designed so some parts may look quite odd.

3. Print from a Word processor

If all the previous fixes failed then you’ll have to work around the problem of printing gibberish directly from the webpage…

Copy and paste the webpage text content into a word processor and print it from there instead – the custom/bad fonts will be converted to generic Windows fonts which your printer can recognize and print.

Microsoft Word is the most well known word processor program – if you already have it installed then skip straight to the list of steps below.

If you don’t have Microsoft Word use an alternative word processor program. If you need to install one, I recommend LibreOffice – a free office suite which includes Word Processor, Spreadsheet and Presentation programs (which can all read and write documents in the format used by Microsoft Office).

See my review here for a guide on how to download and install LibreOffice.

  1. Assuming you now have a word processor installed – select (by highlighting with the mouse) all the text/content in the webpage that you want to print
  2. Right click anywhere on the selected text and select ‘Copy’
  3. Open your word processor program at a blank new document
  4. Right click in the blank document and select ‘Paste’ to copy the selected text from the webpage into the document
  5. Depending on the format of the original webpage, you may need to rearrange the text in the document or insert/delete blank lines etc to make it look better
  6. Now print the document in the usual way (File \ Print from the menu bar or click the Print icon) and the page(s) should print normally

This method works best with webpages that are mainly text – static pictures stored in the webpage will be copied into the document but pictures that are only linked to in the webpage (i.e. are stored in another location) will not be.

If you really want to copy those pictures too you would have to copy each individual picture and insert it into your document manually.

4 Responses to: "Fix A Webpage Printing Gibberish Or Garbage Characters"

  1. Roy says:

    @Martin – I see where you’re coming from but this article is to resolve a specific problem – a better web experience isn’t better if a user can’t print the webpage when they want to…

    If you have a different solution to those offered do let me know.

    I would never recommend disabling Javascript for all sites as it will indeed ‘break’ so much of the net (as far as the average user is concerned). Custom fonts are not in the same category – I’ve never seen a site break by disabling them.

  2. Martin says:

    I don’t like the tone of the article. Custom fonts are ‘in’ in the world of webdesign. Google even launched a service for helping and promoting the use of non standard fonts.

    So a guide to disabling the fonts is like a guide to disabling javascript: people following the steps think they’re making their web experience better, while in fact they are making it worse

  3. Cindy says:

    Do you have any other suggestions to this problem?

    • Roy says:

      Not really, I’ve given both alternatives – disable them or convert them.

      I guess you could also inform the website and ask them to change the fonts they use