How to automatically archive a blog – any blog – to PDF

UPDATE:  Unfortunately, JoliPrint – the service mentioned in this post has now shut down.  What a shame.

Ever wanted to archive blog posts to PDF?  No?  Well, me neither until recently.  But my sales team like to send blog posts to prospects from time to time to support a pitch.  They used to copy and paste them into Word or simply email the link.  But here’s a way that every blog post could be automatically printed to a nicely formatted PDF and archived to Dropbox (or alternative) – available moments after the blog is published; ready to send.

This technique makes the most of three awesome web services:

1. IFTTT.com – this relatively new service is quickly becoming the automation glue for the internet.  It stands for “if this, then that” and basically allows you to join a variety of services and make your online life far more efficient and organised.  It’s currently free to use.

2. Dropbox – this is a cloud based storage service that allows you to have access to your files – anywhere and everywhere.  There apps for desktops (Windows and Mac) and for mobile devices of all flavours.  It’s free for the first 2Gb of space that you use.

3. JoliPrint.com – is a free service that formats a web page and generates a PDF – it will be the main engine in our process here.

You use IFTTT (pronounced as “ift”) to “do something when something happens” (i.e. if THIS, then THAT).  It consists of “channels” and “recipes”.  Channels are the connections to various other internet services and recipes are preconfigured processes where all you need to do is personalise/authenticate.. and off you go.

So log in to IFTTT.com (or create an account if you haven’t yet signed up) and let’s create a recipe.

1. Set the blog feed as the “THIS” channel.

Click on the blue, highlighted “THIS” and then you are presented with various channels.  For the purposes of this recipe, we’re going to select the “Feed” option (which is for consuming RSS feeds which is the standard format for blogs).

We then want to select the “New feed item” option for this channel.  This means that we only want to act on a new item that is added to the feed/blog.  IFTTT.com will then poll this feed every 15 minutes or so looking for new entries.

Now enter the URL for the blog feed (the feed and not the actual blog).  The feed url is typically the blog site name followed by “/feed/” as it is for my own blog, but it does vary and so you should check with the site you are interested in just to be sure.

Then press “Create Trigger”.  You are now halfway there.

2. Save the PDF to Dropbox

You should now see a screen similar to this:

Press the underlined, blue “THAT” and we’ll set up the rest.

We now need to select the channel that we are going to work with when a new entry appears in our blog (our trigger / “this”).  So select the Dropbox from the channel list below:

You will now need to authenticate this channel – which means that you will need to either sign into your existing Dropbox account or sign up for a Dropbox account.  Once you have done this, it will proceed to the next screen.

When you select Dropbox, you will see that this channel has three actions that are available.  We’re going to select the first one which is “Add file from URL”

There are three fields for this channel now.. and you need to complete them so that they look like this:

The first field is where we will link in “JoliPrint” to this process.  You need to copy and paste the following into the field (overwriting what is currently there):

http://api.joliprint.com/api/rest/url/print/s/ifttt?url={{EntryUrl}}

This tells IFTTT to connect to JoliPrint to get the PDF file and passes the URL for the new blog post.

The second and third fields  you can leave as they are – but I tend to change the directory name into which the PDFs are being saved.  Up to you.

When you are done, press Create Action.

The last step is to simply describe your recipe – something like “Archive Blog XXX to Dropbox” and press “Create Recipe”.

That’s it – done.  Depending on how frequently your blog updates, check your Dropbox folder and you should see the PDF files being generated and ready to use.

Enjoy!

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