8 tools to improve reading online and mobile

[Updated 2009-04-20 TidyRead, Readable, Readability]

Bulk of Internet is text. Sometimes design skills (or lack of any) make that text unreadable or unfitting specific monitor/resolution.

There are quite a few online tools to transform web pages in form better suited for reading so I decided to compare those.

What was I looking for

  • good for widescreen layout (I use 19” 1440×900 monitor);
  • easy and fast to use (via bookmarklet or otherwise);
  • saving traffic for use on notebook with mobile Internet;
  • possibly flexible enough to be used on N810 tablet (its browser could really use some help).

Original page

To not point fingers I am taking my own recent review of Dell Vostro 1310 as example page. Here is how it looks like for those RSS subscribers who should visit site once in a while. :)

read_original

TidyRead

Service works by filling form with URL or using bookmarklet (superior and faster according to instructions).

read_tidyread

Result is presented in overlay over original page. And improvement is quite poor:

  • not much change except font;
  • unnecessary eye candy;
  • bookmarklet didn’t work, saying my post is not a detectable article.

[Updated 2009-04-20]

  • interface got more dynamic, allowing to choose style and print page.

Link http://tidyread.com/


Readability

Only available as bookmarklet that must be first customized by selecting combination of text style, size and side-margins (effectively column width).

read_readability

Clean and customizable looks.

  • correctly determines and shows core content;
  • strips styling from images, which may break layout;

[Updated 2009-04-20]

  • additional buttons for fast reload original page, print and share by email;

Link http://lab.arc90.com/experiments/readability/


Finch

Available as form and bookmarklet.

read_finch

Choice of liquid layout is questionable but filtering is great:

  • URL format is easily scriptable;
  • strips page of everything (including images) except text;
  • encrypted version available.

Link http://finch.ploogy.net/


Readable

Similar to Readability – bookmarklet that requires initial customization. Displays text in overlay column.

read_readable
  • good customization;
  • didn’t work for me at all across different sites and browsers. Fail.

[Updated 2009-04-20]

  • even more customization options;
  • bug fixes to improve compatibility;

Link http://readable-app.appspot.com/


PrintWhatYouLike

Closer to online application. Its goal is to prepare page for printing. Can easily break layout and hardly single-click.

read_printwhatyoulike
  • good bookmarklet if you often print pages;
  • bad and messy for reading.

Link http://www.printwhatyoulike.com/


IYHY

Optimized for mobile. Strips everything (up to styling) except text.

read_iyhy
  • easy URL format but no native bookmarklet;
  • character encoding issues;

Link http://www.iyhy.com/


BareSite

More of a service, displays page framed by own links.

read_baresite
  • strips most of styling and scripts but leaves images;
  • easily scripted;
  • additional services.

Link http://www.baresite.com/


Google

Not even sure how service is properly called. :) Very mobile-centric.

read_google
  • easy URL format;
  • gives a choice of loading or skipping images;
  • downsizes large images;
  • auto-discovers RSS links;
  • splits long pages into few.

Link http://www.google.com/gwt/n


Overall

There is no ultimate choice with clear distinction between services either aimed at desktop or mobile usage. Most suffer from complete lack of options, developers make decision for user which is rarely good approach when text is involved.

My personal choice for now would be:

  • Readability for reading at desktop (customizable, works and looks good);
  • Finch for mobile connection (flexible, good filtering).

I no longer browse from my Nokia E60 smartphone but Google is clear winner for mobile browsing (if not taking in account excellent Opera Mini browser).

[Updated 2009-04-20]
Bugfixes and rapid increase of functionality on some of services. So far Readability is still my main choice and works very smooth.

Do you use any kind of text formatting to read online? What is your way of making reading in browser most comfortable?

Sources

Numerous articles from Lifehacker, Digital Inspiration, Download Squad and MakeUseOf.

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8 Comments

  • Hi, TidyRead has been improved a lot and you can customize page by page. We recommend you to give it another try and sure you will like it.

  • Hello.

    I’m Readable App’s developer.
    You should try Readable App again. V2 was just launched a couple of days ago and it’s a huge improvement — besides the fact that it offers a lot more options for users to tweak according to their preference, it also works much better and on many many more pages.

    I’m sorry you didn’t report the problem with Readable when you encountered it — anyway, it’s fixed now (it was a small conflict with the mootools JS library).

  • @Tidy Read

    Will do, thanks for update. :)

    @Gabriel Coarna

    Most certainly will try it. Sorry for not reporting right away, I am usually happy to but having quite hectic week. :)

    Thanks for notifying me, I will re-check both services and update article accordingly in day or two.

  • Maybe Bro. Rat is missing something here, but he’s able to
    accomplish the same text clarification using the very granular
    screen magnification available in the Opera browser.

    Sure, even IE in v. 8 has more convenient window magnification
    now. But it doesn’t compare to Opera’s by-percent incremental
    adjustment !

    And don’t forget Opera’s Author Mode / User Mode control for
    web pages with bad text-to-background contrast. ( Got to love
    web sites with black text over a dark blue background, or light
    color text over what’s basically a camouflage background ! )

    Yeah, Chrome ~is~ faster than Opera. A lot faster. But it
    hardly has any features ! I’ll give up some speed for useful
    features any day. And, Opera is STILL FASTER than IE 8.

    The DataRat

    .

  • @DataRat

    I totally love Opera screen magnifying but it does break some poorly coded pages to hell. And sadly there are still way too many of such around.

    User mode is also awesome but way too troublesome to setup for lazy people like me. :) Only site I actually use it on is Google Reader and I was pretty much forced on it when Newsgator Online died.

Comments are closed.