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Reading off-line

Last night I was finally reading a Scheme Primer, after weeks open on a tab in my phone. Firefox for Android reloads the tab every time I select it, so I thought: why not having a local copy that I can read even if I’m offline or the page is not available?

Well, turns out that Firefox can’t save the page. Not as HTML, not as a full website, not as a PDF; it basically lacks the functionality. Which is a trend with Mozilla, to be honest. Chrome is terrible from the point of view of privacy and I don’t want to play into Google’s hands, but Firefox is great at keeping things working just about to ensure they are never successful, which is a real shame.

I looked around and I found a developer saying back in 2012 that the functionality would be added, but they hadn’t had time yet. I’m not holding my breath.

So I tried Chrome, that allows saving the page, but then when I try to open it using the “Files” app, it doesn’t know how to open the file and wants to search for an app to install. Brilliant.

You can print to a PDF –with Chrome, in Firefox I can’t find how to do it, so it may not be possible–, but the PDF reader is not ideal as the text doesn’t flow using the phone screen efficiently. There must be a better way, isn’t it?

It isn’t a solution out of the box, but this is what I ended doing:

  1. Download the page as HTML in my desktop (using Firefox).
  2. Convert the page to epub format using the always powerful pandoc:
 pandoc --from=html --to=epub 'A Scheme Primer.html' -o scheme-primer.epub
  1. Install ReadEra –that is free, but I’m considering buying the premium version because it is a great reader!–.
  2. Copy the epub, and now I have the Scheme tutorial to read off-line anytime I want.

I don’t know if it is that the website is striclty following standards without much CSS, or pandoc being amazing, or the ebook reader being great, but the result is much better that I was expecting. Feels like an actual ebook.

When I’m away from my desktop PC I already have two apps from the public library to read magazines, ebooks, listen to audio-books, and whatnot, and I don’t use them much because… I guess what I wanted is to read about Scheme instead. I’m not a heavy app user, other than Podcast Addict and email, I tend to use the browser for everything else.

I’m glad I still have some options, but in reality, the ideal would have been that Firefox on Android was a better browser.

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