Saturday, May 9, 2020

Printing "In Depth"

I had a few previous posts (here and here) where I go over why electronic logbooks like MyFlightbook work the way they do with regard to printing.  But I never actually went into much detail about how to get the most out of the printing functionality that's there.  Well, forthwith I shall try to address that.

To print your logbook, go to "Print View" on the "Logbook" tab on the website.  This will let you specify a bunch of options which I'll discuss below, but the important link here is the one on the bottom of the page that says "Open a printer optimized view of your logbook".

That will open a view of your logbook in your browser that will incorporate the options you specify.  You can print directly from the resulting page, or download a PDF.

Two useful tips already:
  • If you do a search and then open a printer optimized view, the result will cover only flights that match the search criteria.
  • You can bookmark the printer-optimized view in your browser for easy access.  So, you could do a search for "Previous Month", and save the result in a bookmark.  Then, every month you could come back to the bookmarked link and it would be all set with the prior month's flights.
There are 3 main sections for customization in the printer optimized page.  The first one that you see (which is actually the middle tab) is the simplest one, and it simply lets you specify what you want included in the printout:

You can change the query filter here.  By default, your totals are also printed after your flights.  You can also print out any endorsements (the "back of the logbook" stuff that an instructor can use for sign-offs) that were issued digitally or that were uploaded as images.  Because I can't embed PDFs in PDFs, you can print out any PDF endorsements that you've saved yourself.

The next tab is the "PDF Download" tab.

While you can print directly from this page (without the header stuff appearing on the printed page), you may wish to create a PDF; for that, you need to specify some of the printing options up-front, so that the system knows how to lay things out on the page, specifically page sizes and margins.

For page sizes, I support: Letter, Legal, A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, Tabloid, and Executive.

You can specify all four margins; I do not support mirrored margins.  Margin measurements are in millimeters.

The big kahuna for customization, though, is the “Layout” tab, which is repeated from the main Logbook page:

Many of these options directly impact page layout and row heights (and thus pagination and subtotal layout), so this is a powerful place to twiddle to make your logbook print out properly.

The “Layout to use” drop-down allows you to pick from the a variety of layouts (MyFlightbook currently supports 9).

You can include or exclude pictures as you like with the check boxes beneath the drop-down.  Note that not all layouts support these options, so these check boxes will come and go as you try different layouts.

Images and signatures each can cause a flight row to grow significantly in height, pushing everything else down on the page (and possibly onto the next page).  The system tries to account for this by varying the flights per page for signed flights or flights with images, revealing one of the tradeoffs that I discussed in my prior blogs: you can maintain the desired number of flights per page, OR you can display all of your data, but you simply cannot do both simultaneously in the general case.

This leads to the next drop-down: the number of flights per page.  Again, see my prior blog posts for why this is approximate (and why I recommend using "Continuous"), but this is a target.  The one promise made here is that a page will not have MORE flights than you specify.

The next three check boxes help tighten things up on the page a little bit:
  • Normally, subtotals are Totals This Page, Totals from Previous Page, and Total Times. If you un-check "Repeat previous page totals...", then it’s just “Totals This Page”/”Total Times”
  • By default, subtotals are broken down by category/class.  If you uncheck "Break down subtotals by category/class", then it’s just straight totals, mixing category/class.
  • You also have the option to force a page break between flights that are on different months. 
The Make/Model/Variant Display selection should be fairly straightforward from the example above, letting you trade off detail and density as you see fit.  Choosing ICAO Only can be significantly smaller, and thus help reduce variations in row height.

There are then 4 drop-downs for up to 4 additional columns.  Not every layout supports these, but they allow you to add columns for things like time in a specific category/class of aircraft, or time in Turbine aircraft, or Night Vision time (your choices are based on what's actually in your logbook).

The rest of the options have to do with “properties” that you've used in your flights.  This list can be pretty long. By default, these are put into the Comments or Remarks section, which can make that grow large.  For this reason, you have two sets of options here:
  • Use “separate Properties with” to indicate how multiple properties are joined in comments.
  • You can also specify which properties to exclude from printing altogether.  You may care about the price of gas on a flight, but a potential employer probably doesn't, so you can use this to dramatically condense the print view.
Finally, there's one other tool to help condense the print view: use “///” in their comments.  Anything after “///” will be excluded from printing.  So if you write “Flew with Bob today /// Had a beer afterwards” in the comments for a flight, it will print simply as “Flew with Bob today”.  Further, if you use "///--", it will force the flight to be the last flight on the page before starting a new page; this can be handy to avoid "orphaned" flights when there are two many flights to fit on a single page.

If you have additional layouts or options you'd like to see, please send it to me and I can incorporate it.