Google has won a critical patent to support web applications.
Google applied for the document already in December of 2006, well before the firm released its Chrome web browser, which basically carries the core of this technology today. According to the patent, which was granted earlier this week, the rights include "access to printer settings, [and] display settings." The company uses "printer meta UIs [to provide] a web based application with the capability to lay out or format printed documents."
What makes this patent interesting is Google's idea how closely this patent is related to a web browser, more than two years before Chrome's initial release. Rival browsers such as IE9 or Firefox 14 still use the native printing menu in Windows, even if IE9 has a slightly optimized printing menu that enables the user to, for example, tailor the print layout to be optimized for a WYSIWYG view. However, there is no visual WYSIWYG implementation, which is only available in Chrome at this time.
According to the patent, a WYSIWYG implementation, however, can improve the user experience and is desirable especially since "a web page can have a different layout on different computers, different displays, and different printers". Google's solution comprises a "container application" that "obtains a web based application from an application server" and a "web based application [that is] then run inside the container application." The layout module itself takes advantage of the printer settings component to "produce a printed document that looks substantially the same as the displayed document" with the exception of "fonts appearing slightly different".
We have lived with the standard printer menu in Windows for decades and they have worked just fine. This Google patent, however, is critical for the use and convenience in web applications, at least for now and at least as long as we are printing content from a web browser when we can expect the printed document to not exactly replicate what we see on the screen. In the range of web applications, this patent is a considerable win for Google.