ARTICLE WRITTEN BY: John D. Anderson, CPA.CITP
I field a lot of questions from the other accountants in my firm as well as those firms with which we consult. One of the more interesting questions I’ve been hearing lately regards the challenge of how to “save” a website. As practice methods advance it seems we all depend more and more on various websites. Need to see if a client paid property taxes? Look it up on the Web. Want a valuation of a car for a charitable deduction? Search the web. Need an address for a distant state’s Revenue department? To the web! But what happens when the source CHANGES the website and your earlier research is gone? It’s very frustrating to go back only to find you can’t duplicate your original results. As accountants we need a reliable way to “save” a website. Unfortunately, many of the options to do so result in less than perfect solutions. Below, I explore several of these “less than perfect” options as well as a new option I think you will like.
Printing the Website
When you print the website, you convert the website from an electronic format to a non-electronic format. This saves the site as it was at the time the page was printed, but now you have to handle, store, and eventually dispose of the paper. And, you lose your ability to click on the links in the document to access other information at other sites. Finally, comparing changes on the website to the printed copy can be difficult. It is not an optimal solution, but it is one available to us.
Using Internet Explorer’s Save Option
You could save the site to a hard drive, but this option isn’t the best either. You’ll find when you save the file it creates a folder for the graphical images and an html file for the text. If these files are moved, separated, or deleted the page will no longer properly display. Again not a perfect solution, but as long as the html page and the graphical files stay together they can be viewed later.
Converting to Adobe Acrobat PDF Format
If you have the proper tools, you can save the file to the PDF format developed by Adobe. This allows you to keep the page in electronic format for future review and analysis. However, saving the page in this manner requires you to purchase a third party software product adding cost to saving the page in electronic format. Also, just like when printing the document, certain websites, if not following the standard sizing options, often cut off the right side of the page. Again the inconveniences and added cost make this a non-ideal solution as well.
A New Method – The Web Archive
Web Archive, identified by the file extension mht, is a fairly new method of saving web pages into a single document. It creates a document which is active and all links within the document can be utilized fully unless they are changed on the original site to which they refer. The best part is the ability to save the single page without having the separate graphical folder. This web archive functionality is built directly into later versions of Internet Explorer and does not require any third party applications.
Here is how it works. Navigate to the website you want to save. Click on the File option from the menu and select Save As from the resultant menu. Navigate to where you want to file saved and type the name you want to use for the file. Select the drop down list on the save as type box and select web archive, single file (*.mht). Click Save and you have now successfully saved a web archive file with all the active links and graphics files into a single document. As you will see when you try this format, it gives you the best control over the saved page while preserving the entire page in a single file. I hope you find this format as beneficial as I do.
Good luck and “be careful out there.” The web can be a scary place!
Note: If you’re really into archiving web pages you’ll want to consider a specialized tool. Check out www.Spidersoft.com for their WinMHT product. For less that $30 you can grab entire websites and a whole lot more.