How to make reading webpages easier

By | July 18, 2016
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I think the web is amazing – there’s just so much on there. From an online encyclopedia to websites about news, weather and sport. From cookery recipes to advice on investing your savings. From daft jokes to out of print Victorian novels. Almost anything you can think of.

Videos of all sorts, too. But when I spend time browsing the web, I’m usually reading things – reading webpages of different kinds.

The thing is, some webpages are easier to read than others. Some are nicely laid out with a reasonable size of writing. Others are cluttered messes with tiny writing in a pale colour, and video or animated adverts playing all over the place.

I’m not set against adverts on webpages – after all, they pay for a lot of these webpages to exist. But some are more distracting than others.

It would be a shame to just ignore the ones that aren’t so easy to read, though, and that’s where what I’m about to tell you about comes in, both on PCs or laptops and on tablets (or even smartphones).

It’s called reader mode or reading mode and it’s an option in your web browser that makes some web pages much easier to read – stripping out the bits you don’t need and putting them into a better order.

It doesn’t work on all webpages but it can be really useful.

If you’re using Microsoft Edge or Firefox as your browser on your PC or laptop, next time you’re on a page that’s a bit hard to follow with lots of distracting adverts or strange bits of graphic on the page, look near the top, just to the right of where the web address is shown. See if there’s a little picture of an open book there and if so, click on it. That’ll put it into reading mode and should make it much easier.

If you use Chrome on your PC, there is a reader mode, but it’s hidden away as they’re still working on it. It seems to work fine for me, and if you want to try it, you need to first close down Chrome. Find the shortcut you use to start it, right click on it and choose “properties”. Find the bit that says “Target” and add this:
–enable-dom-distiller
To the end of that box, after the last “ mark.

Then click apply and continue to allow it to make the change.

Now you can turn reader mode (or distill mode as it’s called in Chrome) on from the menu you get when you click on the three little lines above each other in the top right, just under the cross that closes the webpage.

What about on a tablet?
If you have an iPad and use the built in browser, Safari, then when it’s on a page that it’ll let you use reader mode on, all you have to do is tap on the symbol that looks like a paragraph of writing, just to the left of the address bar. It’s three full length lines with one shorter one underneath them.

If you use Chrome on a tablet, you might be out of luck. There is an experimental reader view, but it’s less convenient. You have to start Chrome up, type chrome://flags into the address bar, find the reader mode option (it’s a long way down the page – you could use the “find on page” option in the menu to find it). Then change that to one of the other options – always for example.

It won’t appear on all pages, even so, so you might not have much luck with it. I’m hoping at some point Google will bring out a proper option in the menu to use it – we’ll see.

If you use a smartphone, you might be able to try the same thing – certainly it can be used on an iPhone. And some pages can be quite hard to read on the small screen, so it can be quite useful. Worth knowing about!

7 thoughts on “How to make reading webpages easier

  1. Sheila Newble

    Sorry to be so dozy, Tim, but I am trying to activate the reading mode in Chrome. What do you mean by
    “Find the shortcut you use to start it” ? I I clicked on Google Chrome on the start menu, but it didn’t come up with anything that said “properties”.
    Sheila

    Reply
    1. Tim Post author

      Hello
      it depends on what version of Windows you have, but sometimes it won’t let you access properties through the start menu – you should usually have a shortcut on the desktop or on the taskbar and those should let you do it.
      If you don’t, you can click on the one in the start menu and drag it to the taskbar or the desktop to get one, then use that shortcut.
      Have a look at my other comment about auto-correct, too, to make sure you get the right bit of text!
      Hope that helps!
      Tim

      Reply
  2. Tim Post author

    STOP PRESS
    Do you know about auto-correct? It’s a generally quite useful feature that capitalises the first letters of sentences, adds in missing letters or full stops and so on.
    Unfortunately, when I was writing the above, it also changed what I’d typed when I was saying what you had to the end of the Chrome shortcut. When I put two short dashes in it thought I must want a long dash and replaced them for me… which meant it won’t work if you type that in.
    So in the above, where it says:
    –enable-dom-distiller
    it should be
    --enable-dom-distiller
    And in case it autocorrects that again (though I’m checking to make sure) that first bit is two minus sign type dashes. That’s two of these

    Then it should work.
    Tim

    Reply
    1. Lawrance Hurst

      –enable-dom-distiller doesnt do it for me even with two short dashes

      Reply
      1. Tim Post author

        Hello
        it might be something odd on your PC that’s stopping it – but one thing to try is make sure there’s a space after the ” and before the two dashes.
        That might help – but as I said, they’re still working on this, so it might be that it won’t work on all PCs.
        Tim

        Reply
  3. David

    My laptop is a MacBook Air. Google Chrome is my default browser.
    My MacBook has a trackpad and I don’t think I can “Right Click” on it.
    I have also looked in the Chrome Toolbar but can’t find “Properties” or a name like that.( eg under “Preferences” and “Services”)
    So how can I set Reader Mode?
    Thanks in advance.

    Reply

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