Dashboard Printing is a Mess!

(Peter McCabe) #1

It seems that every time we think we have a solution to be able to print a dashboard, maintain visualisations/colours etc. we are let down, only to find it doesn’t work.
The overall printing of dashboards is a mess, pdf’s can’t be printed to two or more pages and other methods suggested simply don’t work. Most of our end users have a requirement to print a dashboard to pdf but we can’t seem to find a method that works for all dashboards.
At the minute, I have a client that we’ve built them a table visualization dashboard, added some nice colouring with conditional formatting and been careful to ensure we don’t include too many columns so that it doesn’t cut off at the side when printed to pdf. This works, prints the data but only prints what is displayed on the dashboard so some data is cut off at the bottom.
We had previously been advised a workaround to view the data in html i.e.

  1. Select download data
  2. Tick with visualization options applied
  3. Format HTML
  4. Open In Browser

However, this only works if the HTML has been hardcoded into the dimension. It doesn’t work when conditional formatting has been applied at the visualization level. This is becoming very frustrating as I now have to provide the client with another work around for a work around.

  1. Select Schedule
  2. Format Inline Visualisation - Tiled
  3. Send to email
  4. Take the image and copy to paint or some other graphic software to resize and print in an acceptable format.

Even with this solution, there is still some data being cut off at the bottom. When is this getting fixed? For the last 2 years, we keep having to find work arounds and it feels like each time, it gets more and more complicated?



(Peter McCabe) #2

It’s disappointing there’s no response to this or timelines as to when this may be fixed after 4 days!

(Sondra Orozco) #3

Hi Peter,

We’re currently working to overhaul how we render PDFs. Our current PDF renderer uses PhantomJS which has some limitations in how PDF files are created. We’re switching to a new infrastructure based on Headless Chromium. This change will enable some PDF enhancements out of the box and will make it easier for us to work on new PDF features in the future. An improvement you’ll see soon is page breaks when printing PDFs (late Q1 or early Q2 this year).

(Peter McCabe) #4

That’s great Sondra! Will there also be changes to maintaining visualisation options when downloaded to html, excel etc? At the minute, it feels like it’s only 50% working.

(Peter McCabe) #5

The difficulty we have is that in many cases for our clients the data is sensitive and they need to be able to download data and maintain visualisations as well as print so that they can share internally with users that they don’t want to have any access. At the minute, we have a head of technology at a major global investment bank looking at looker and the reports we have built and they are becoming frustrated, overall they like looker but can’t fully use the tool because of these issues e.g.
They want the ability to download data, maintain conditional formatting and pass those reports internally so that those users can slice/dice the data and share it with other stakeholders without giving everyone access to looker.
Because the conditional formatting isn’t applied, when they have narrowed down a targetted subset of the data they have to download to excel, create the formatting again and they simply don’t have time. As a result, my team are being requested to do this work. As we have more and more clients using looker, then we are starting to get more of these types of requests and it’s taking more of our time away from doing other work that we need to be concentrating on.

(Max Glantzman) #6

+1 on the importance of this. We are severely limited in our use of Looker dashboards because of the printing issues and generally have to write scripts that hit the Looker API and format the output ourselves. Obviously thats a significant engineering lift for every single report we need.

(Sondra Orozco) #7

Hi Peter,
Thanks for the details about your use case and the issues your end users are running into. Right now we don’t have near-term plans to maintain all visualization options in HTML or Excel exports, but we are currently working on improvements to the UI of our Scheduler modal to make the configuration settings more clear (like what’s included in the apply visualization setting). Hopefully this redesign clears up some of the confusion in the user experience when exporting content to those formats. Our upcoming PDF improvements should make PDFs more print-friendly and will be the best option for maintaining conditional formatting in an export.

(Sondra Orozco) #8

Hi Max,
Thanks for the feedback. Can I ask what types of formatting you’re doing through the API and what format you’re outputting to? Would love to hear more about your use case. Thanks!

(Peter McCabe) #9

Hi Sondra,

I get you guys are very focussed on scheduling and want to innovate and collaborate but it’s to the detriment of basic functions such as printing. Our clients have sensitive data and do not care as much about scheduling delivery of looks as it can be a security minefield, especially if it’s going via a third party web hook. If someone sets something like that up and their security team gets wind of it, then a project can be locked down until there’s a full security review, no usage of looker and no data connected to looker. We’ve just been through a security review with a client to move their data to looker and it’s taken 2 years to complete. These aren’t easy tasks.

From what I can read, we aren’t the only users with issues about printing and it just feels like a basic task such as printing is an afterthought. We have been using looker for 2.5 years and I continually here about scheduling of looks for delivery etc, which is great but there’s not been a lot of major improvements to printing and it’s always been messy. If a client does not want their data being sent to a webhook for delivery then printing/pdfs may be their only option.
I have spent 4 days off and on calls with a client trying to print out a subset of 135 rows in a table that contained conditional formatting and it was very difficult to do without cutting off data. If the conditional formatting had been maintained then I could have easily downloaded to excel or downloaded as html and printed each row over multiple pages. Between bugs with the conditional formatting and the formatting not being maintained, I now have a very long work around for my client to follow in order to print what they need.

I look forward to the changes in pdf’s and I’m glad it’s finally getting focus and hope that it will solve many of our issues but I need to know what the limitations will be. Can you provide us with more details and what limitations there could potentially be?
If these limitations won’t fully solve our issues then I need to prepare and perhaps hardcode the conditional formatting via html and remove the facility for the client to intuitively make changes.

Many Thanks,


(Peter McCabe) #10

Hi Sondra,

I have another client complaining about this today as we can’t seem to find a way to print out the information in the dashboard and our workaround isn’t working.

We are trying to print to pdf using the print functions in chrome as opposed to looker i.e. printing as a web page and reducing the scale of the data to print, however, when we do this the rows/columns of the table visualisation are no longer aligning and we can’t seem to find a way round this.

I need to know as per my previous questions. What are the limitations of the new pdf printing that’s coming? Do you have any samples or a test machine where we could access and test how this will work?

The client is only trying to print 15 rows but the pdf function will only print 9 rows.
I need a response on this pretty quickly.

Many Thanks,


(Peter McCabe) #11

Hi Sondra,

It’s important that I’m provided with some details as I need to go back to my clients? Can you get this today?



(Travis Mackey) #12

+1 on this issue. Workarounds to print to PDF can’t specifically mimic dashboards yet they replicate work and increase the level of effort with trial and error tremendously. Scheduling is great, but only if you can see clear end results on the output.

(jeffrey.martinez) #13

Thank you for your honest feedback Travis. This is something we are actively working on. We should see the switch to headless chromium and overall general PDF improvements over the next few releases.

(Greg Spathias) #14

Any update on printing PDFs from Looker to keep the Dashboard format, instead of using the PDF (single column) option?

(Max Glantzman) #15

Any updates on this? Still a big headache for us as there isn’t a workaround we’ve found other than downloading the data via the API and building our own HTML templates for the formatting.

(Andrew Wynn) #16

Hi Everyone,

We understand this issue and are working on a couple of big improvements to dashboard printing and PDF rendering. We’re first working to migrate our underlying rendering layer to headless chromium and then we’ll be able to launch these features. As Jeffery mentioned, we’re working on these now and expect them to be fully-developed, tested, and ready fo release in the next few releases of Looker.

Product @ Looker

Printing Looker Dashboards as single column PDFs to include page breaks between dashboard elements
(Joe Schmid) #17

Hi @sondra.orozco or @wynn, When you have a chance, could you provide an update on this? This also been on our wish list for a long time, too. Thanks!

(Andrew Wynn) #18

Hi Everyone,

The new rendering layer will be rolling out as a labs feature in the next release (5.22). Benefits include: more reliable rendering, faster rendering, PDFs are about ~50% of the size, generated PDFs are searchable. Once that is stable we’ll then introduce a feature to allow users to select a paper size when downloading and scheduling dashboard PDFs to solve many of these printing issues.


(Henri Van Dijk) #19

hi @wynn, when do you expect the next update to be released on this? The labs feature for rendering does not solve the abovementioned problems for my company.


(Aleksandrs Vedernikovs) #20

Hi @Henri_van_Dijk,

The new render engine is still under development. We do not have exact timeframe but it should be live within 1-2 next releases.