Firefox Mobile's Offline Hack: It Saves Web Pages As PDFs

Mozilla just released the latest version of Firefox 4 Beta for both the Web and mobile phones (Android and Maemo). The desktop version now supports the WebGL 3D graphics standard without the need for a plugin and syncing different browsers across devices is now an easier process.

But the feature that caught my eye is in the new mobile version of the beta. You can save any web page as a PDF, which is a handy way to read it later, especially if your connection goes down. On Android, you hit “Site Options” and then “Save as PDF.” The page is then available in the downloads menu

Saving pages as PDFs works well enough, but it is really a hack. The formatting is never quite the same, and once you start downloading a bunch of pages, then you have to start managing those files on your mobile phone. And instead of going away when you are done reading them, they stay on your device taking up space. A better solution would be to cache bookmarked pages and recently visited pages for offline viewing. But the PDF option could be good for when you want to email someone an entire article instead of just the link, although then you are just clogging up their inbox. (I should note that sharing the link via email, Twitter, Facebook, or whatever other messaging apps you have installed on your Android is also an option).

The new mobile version of FireFox also makes it simpler to sync bookmarks, tabs, and history with your desktop Firefox browser. And to minimize the need to type, it now supports cut-and-paste in the address bar.