Readability: makes web pages—you guessed it--readable

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Alan Henderson
Great-granddad, Navy engineer & diver way back, Kiwi, environmentalist, Apple user, ships’ chief engineer, learning economics
I spend far too much time on the web keeping up with the news: politics, the environment, computer stuff, the Experts Exchange. It's never-ending. But many of the most informative web pages are overwhelmed with noise: scrolling banners, flashing text, confusing multiple columns, blaring ads, unbeatable offers, once-in-a-lifetime promos and barely readable colour schemes.

It would be nice to get rid of some of that clutter. Maybe it would even reduce my surfing time: I could heed my wife's plaintive pleas for me to paint the house.

David Pogue's excellent New York Times blog came to my rescue. David writes many of the excellent "Missing Manual" IT books  and makes his living doing what many of us do for nothing. He keeps track of what's happening in IT and personal technology.  One of his recent finds is Readability, which he introduced in a blog post with "Readability has changed my life."

I wouldn't go quite that far, but if you’re addicted to news and information on the web you're going to love it. With one mouse click, Readability takes a cluttered web page, removes all of the extraneous noise and presents you with the text and images from the page's main content section pre-formatted in a beautifully readable large font on a white page very similar to a printed book and better than a Kindle. You pre-select your preferred font face, text size, margin width and background colour when you install it.

It’s a javascript “bookmarklet” which takes a page like this relatively well-designed example from Time:

Before activating Readability

and with one click turns it into the easily readable text like this:

Installation couldn't be easier. It takes about 10 seconds to set up in your browser, it works on most pages containing large chunks of text and on any operating system. It's compatible with Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Chrome. All you need to do is select your text preferences on this page at arc90 Laboratory then drag the Readability link button from their page into your Favorites or Bookmarks, preferably on your Favorites or Bookmarks toolbar.

If you wish to return to the previous cluttered version, just refresh your browser page » Ctrl+R in Firefox, F5 in Internet Explorer.

Get it here

"But wait!" I hear you cry, "How is the web's owner going to make a buck from advertising?" "You'll kill the web!"

Well, there's that. I guess you'll just have to read the ads before you click the button. More importantly, web publishers shouldn't fill their pages with irritating flashing and blinking distractions in the first place. My computer screen isn't Times Square.

If you use a bookmarks synchronising add-on, like the excellent Xmarks, don't worry. Install the bookmarklet on one browser on one computer and it will be synchronised between your other computers and your various browsers.
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