Category Archives: NeatUtilities

Readability

One of the things I’ve hoped to do with this blog is share with you all the little useful Web 2.0 applications, browser buttons, and what have you — that have changed, and are in the process of changing the ways that I (and I suspect many of you) improve our day to day lives with their assistance.

I have a long list of these, but the first that I would like to share with you is an application called "readability". I came across this in a column written by David Pogue of the New York Times (link is here:). This little application (it’s a button really) strips out all of the advertisements and non-germane clutter from web articles and formats them in a pleasing reading format (that you can choose at installation time) for a variety of devices, font styles and sizes, and surrounding white-space.

To install "readability" in Firefox just drag the white button from the readability homepage to your bookmarks toolbar. To install "readability" in Internet Explorer, it is a little more complicated: on the readability homepage, right-click the white button and select "add to favorites", then go to your favorites, find the readability favorite just added, right-click it and select "add to favorites bar" — then anytime you click on the "readability" button on the favorites bar, the readability action will be performed on the currently displayed webpage. Needless to say in both browsers you will need to have the bookmarks (or favorites) toolbar enabled to get maximum convenience from this feature.

The reformatted page is very clean and readable with buttons in the upper left-hand corner allowing you to: reload the page in its original format, print the page in its reformatted layout, or e-mail the reformatted page to the favored correspondent of your choice.

I have mentioned in these postings and elsewhere that I dislike reading from screens; and that I tend to print out most of what I eventually read. This has presented a problem in the past because most modern WebPages are not in and of themselves printable (if you try and print them you get some pretty gosh awful outputs). Some WebPages have buttons to reformat them in a printable form — increasingly, however, webpage authors are not providing these buttons (perhaps for copyright reasons?). I have tended to get around this by manually selecting the parts of the page I wish to read, and then printing these selected parts (not always successfully), or copying the selections to OneNote where (with some light manual editing) a pleasing printable page can be created. Needless to say this can be a labor-intensive process. Lately, with my acquisition of a Kindle DX (more on this in a coming post) the ability to format webpages for delivery to the Kindle and eventual reading has made this capability even more critical.

Consequently, "readability" comes along at a very opportune time (one of the device targets it can format for is the Kindle).

In any event with or without my idiosyncratic reading necessities, the ability to get rid of all of the advertisements and other non-germane clutter should be a big plus for anyone wishing to read a Web-hosted article.

For those of you wishing to bypass the New York Times article and go straight to the readability page, the link is here.

EDIT:

After using this for a while I want to point out that there are some pages that "readability" just cannot process correctly — this is because the add-on misidentifies the parts of the page are important.  The output is still nice and clean, it just doesn’t contain the information of interest.  Still for most pages this is a great add-on.

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