Sometimes it seems that writing is more important today than it’s ever been in history. From Facebook status updates to txt messages, we’re all writing and reading almost more than we’re talking and listening. And while the internet has hastened print media’s troubles, many of us still read tons of text online weekly.
Whether you’re reading news articles, a great longform story, or a review of a new app here at the AppStorm network, sometimes the internet just isn’t the best place for thoughtful reading. From small font sizes to cluttered layouts, the web often takes the joy out of reading. Here’s some of the best ways to make your online reading experience better no matter where you’re reading.
Improve Your in-browser Reading
When you talk about improving your online reading experience, most people think of Instapaper and other apps for saving articles to read later. Those are still a great option (see below), but your browser can still be a great place for reading. Sometimes it simply makes more sense to read right when you come across an article. Here’s some ways to make your in-browser reading experience the best it can be.
The original way to get a clean online reading experience, Readability’s bookmarklet is still a great way to clean away the junk and get your online articles in a beautiful layout. Readability has now grown up with a paid web app to save your articles and read them on the go, while helping contribute to the writers you love. Its bookmarklet, though, is still free for anyone to use, and works great. Just drag the bookmarklet to your bookmarks bar, then tap it whenever you want to clean up an article. Readability will convert and save it with a new URL so you can save and share the cleaned up version.
Apple took Readability’s original open source bookmarklet code and built it right into Safari, first with the Windows and Mac versions, and then into the iPhone and iPad versions of Safari. This gives you a quick and convient way to clean up your articles without even leaving the original page. Just tap the Reader icon in the address bar, and the article will open with just the content you want. Best of all, Safari will automatically load the extra pages in the article if it’s been broken up into pages, so you’ll get to read the whole thing at once. That’s a way to speed up your reading and make it nicer at the same time.
Firefox and Chrome users need not feel left out, either. The free iReader Extension brings a very similar feature set to your favorite browsers, except this time, you’ll need to click a purple book icon in your address bar. If you’re still using Internet Explorer, well, perhaps it’s time to switch.
The Readable bookmarklet might be less popular than the other tools mentioned, but it might be even better for you if you enjoy tweaking your reading experience. This tool lets you pick your favorite font, size, colors, justification, width, and even lets you add extra CSS to style articles exactly the way you want. Once you’ve got the bottom preview looking just like you want, drag the bookmarklet to your bookmarks bar, and you’ll be ready to get your own tweaked reading view whenever you want.
Tweak Your Browser Settings
Truth be told, your browser itself can help make your reading experience better too. If you’re always frustrated by tiny fonts, or you want to change to your favorite font for the defaults, then you’d be best to tweak your browser’s settings. Every browser has them a bit different, but the basic settings are the same.
Another way to help your in-browser reading is to increase your page’s zoom. Most browsers do a fairly poor job at zoom, increasing font sizes while making the whole page look increasingly scrambled. Safari for Mac and Windows, though, now uses a smooth zoom that increases the size of the entire page, much like Safari on the iPhone works. It gives a great viewing experience without messing up the overall layout. The latest version of Safari is still not as fast as Chrome, but if you need to use zoom a lot, it might be worth trying.
Read on Your Own Time
No matter how nice you make your in-browser reading experience, often you simply won’t have time to read everything right when you come across it. Here’s two tricks for keeping the article you want to read handy for the times when you’ve got a few minutes free to do some catching up on your reading.
Bookmarks Bar or Safari Reading List
The latest version of Safari includes a new Reading List sidebar that lets you save articles to read later. They can even be automatically synced to your iOS devices, leading to some online speculation that Apple was out to kill Instapaper. The final version is much more innocuous, and is really just an extension of the bookmarks bar. Truth be told, the bookmarks bar is never good for storing hundreds of bookmarks; it’s best for saving links you’ll either use all the time, or that you don’t want to keep bookmarked forever.
So, when you come across something you’d like to read, but you don’t have time to read right now, just quickly save it as a bookmark to your bookmarks bar or the Reading List in Safari. Then, once you have a chance to read it, you can quickly remove the bookmark to clean your bookmarks bar back up. It’s a great little trick, and with native browser sync in Chrome and Firefox, your links to read later will be ready whenever and wherever you are.
Instapaper, Readability, Read it Later, and more
One of the best ways to save your extra reading is to use Instapaper, Read it Later, or Readability to save a clean, nicely formatted copy of your articles and sync them to your other devices. I’m personally fond of Instapaper, and its iPad app makes reading during a few minutes of downtime very nice. Much like the other tools above, just add the bookmarklet to your browser and tap it when you come across something you want to read later. Then, you can read the articles anytime you want from your browser in the respective web app, or sync the article with the native app for your smartphone or tablet.
Want more info about the most popular apps for reading pages later? Check out our recent articles on them below:
With all of these tools at your disposal, you shouldn’t ever have to fret over how ugly a site’s design is anymore. Whether you’re wanting to read in your browser, or want to save articles to read later, there’s a tool here for everyone. The best thing is, many sites are making increasingly reader friendly layouts, so perhaps the popularity of tools like these will eventually make them not as needful. For now, though, I’d hate to browse the web without any way to clean up some sites!
What’s your favorite way to clean up articles for reading? Do ugly, cluttered sites ever bug you, or would you rather just quickly read on any site and go on with life?