Saving a Web Page for Offline Use  from the November 2001 newsletter

by Rob Zorn

Is there a website on the Internet that you visit frequently? If so, you may find it convenient to save that page onto your hard drive. By doing that, you can load the page in Internet Explorer without having to go online. Now, of course, this won't be a great help for say, an interactive banking page where you need to be online in order to interact with your accounts in real time, and it will mean that your web page will only be as up-to-date as it was at the time you saved it.

However, saving a page offline certainly has its uses. Perhaps you've found a site that has a long story on it, or a lot if information that you may not have time for when you first visit. By saving the page to your hard drive, you can bring it up again and read it at your leisure without having to spend time (and money) being online. Perhaps the Actrix newsletters themselves are an example you might want to experiment with.

Saving a web page to your hard drive is pretty easy. The simplest way is just to visit a page, and once it's fully loaded click the File menu and then Save As... This will bring up a Save Web Page box which you can use to select a name for the saved page and a location on your hard drive in which to save it (e.g. My Documents or Desktop).

Under Save as Type I'd suggest selecting the Web Page Complete option, though you can also select other options such as saving the text (html) only if you don't care about the pictures. Leave the Encoding box alone and just simply accept whatever Windows decides to put there. Click the Save button and the page will be saved on your hard drive at the location you specified. Perhaps the simplest thing to do here would be to save the page to your desk top. That way it will be easy to find and open. To do this, make sure you click the Desktop icon (pictured above on the left of the box, though other versions of Windows might have this icon appearing near the top right of the box) before you click Save.

A More Complicated and More Powerful Way

A more powerful way of saving web pages offline uses the Bookmarks feature I discussed in the June 2001 newsletter. The article on Bookmarks is available on its own here. You may want to consult that article in order to refresh your memory as to the advantages of saving a bookmark (or an offline web page) in your links folder so that you can add it to the convenient Explorer Links bar.

To save a web page for viewing offline:

  1. Visit the page you want to save, and wait for it to fully load. In Explorer, you can usually tell when a page has fully loaded. Explorer hides the Address bar (the white window you type Internet addresses into) while it is downloading all a page's text and images and displays it when finished).
  2. Click Favorites on the Menu bar, and then Add to Favorites. An Add Favorite box like the one below will pop up.
  3. Feel free to edit the name of the Bookmark, and to select the Links folder for saving, if you think that's a good idea. (You may need to click the Create In button to get the folder list to display)
  4. Make sure there is a tick in the Make Available Offline tickbox, and click OK.

And there you have it. Next time you want the page and you're offline, just open Internet Explorer, click the bookmark you made for it, either under your Favorites menu, or on your Links bar (depending on how you've chosen to save the bookmark). Your computer may prompt you to go online, but if you click the Work Offline button Internet Explorer will load for you the version saved on your hard drive without you having to go online at all.

Saving Deeper Links

Now, you'll probably notice if you do this, and if you haven't thought about it already, that this is only good for the single page you have saved offline. If you were to click a link on your saved page, Internet Explorer would immediately prompt you to connect, because it hasn't saved the linked page to your hard drive. There are a couple of things you can do here, though it may pay to think ahead a little before you choose.

Firstly, if you think there will only be one or two links off that page that you would like to be able to access offline, then you should simply click the link(s) while you are online, wait for the linked page(s) to fully load, and then save it/them in exactly the same way as you saved the main page. If you do this, you will find that when you load your saved main page offline, the links you also saved will work in just the same way as if you were online at the time.

Secondly, if you think you need to be more thorough, Internet Explorer will allow you to save all the linked pages on any page in one fell swoop. In fact it will allow you to go even further and saved linked pages off linked pages, but my recommendation is that doing so is a little risky, but more on that below.

To save a page for use offline and save all the other pages that your page links to:

  1. Visit the page you want to save, and wait for it to fully load.
  2. Click Favorites on the Menu bar, and then Add to Favorites. An Add Favorite box like the one pictured earlier in this article will pop up.
  3. Feel free to edit the name of the Bookmark, and to select the Links folder for saving, if you think that's a good idea.
  4. Make sure there is a tick in the Make Available Offline tickbox, and click OK. If there is a tick in this tickbox, you will notice the Customize button ceases to be greyed out.
  5. Click the Customize button. An Offline Favorite wizard will appear.
  6. The second screen of this wizard asks you, "If this favorite contains links to other pages, would you like to make those pages available offline too?" Make sure you click the dot into the Yes option.
  7. You can select how far (or how deep) you'd like to go with the saving of extra links. I'd suggest you leave the figure in the Download Pages box at "1." This will save every page that your selected page links to, and it is probably enough. If you were to set the figure at "2 deep" it would then save all the pages linked to by the pages linked to by your main page. You're taking a big risk doing that in terms of the disk space on your computer's hard drive that may be consumed, and unless you're really familiar with all the sites and pages involved, I wouldn't recommend setting the figure beyond 1.
  8. The next page of the Offline Favorite Wizard asks you how often you would like to synchronise this offline page. Basically you're being asked as to how often you'd like Internet Explorer to check whether the saved page has changed online and then save the updated pages over your old one(s). My recommendation here is that you choose the Only When I Choose Synchronize from the Tools Menu option. This means that Internet Explorer will only update and re-save when you tell it to.
  9. The next screen asks you whether you want to password protect the saved page. Choose Yes or No, and then click Finish.
  10. At this stage you will be returned to the Add Favorite box and all you have to do is click OK.

Once you've completed all these steps, you will still find that only the main page you first selected is saved on your hard drive. In order to save all the linked pages, you will need to go online and then click the Tools menu, and then the Synchronize option. Internet Explorer includes a little program called Synchronization Manager. When you click Tools/Synchronize, this program pops up and allows you to tick the boxes of the pages that you want to save. When you've done this and clicked OK off it goes. Within a few minutes (depending on how many linked pages it has to access and save) it'll come back and tell you the job is done. Simply go offline and test it to see how you go. My experience has been that this works pretty well, though occasionally one of the deeper links fails to save, and the graphics seem to be missing here and there as well. Even so, saving web pages offline remains a reasonably simple task that could save you time and money under certain circumstances.