On the Mac platform, users have long enjoyed the ability to not only surf the web with the excellent, standards-compliant browser that is Safari, but ever since version 5, they have also been able to take advantage of a feature known as Reader Mode. What this does, when enabled, is turn whatever web page you are viewing into a nice clean PDF-style document, free of the blemishes that beset the web, such as advertisements and user interface elements that can get in the way of reading the actual article.

Enter Readability

Readability is a simple add-on for browsers, powered by JavaScript, designed to essentially replicate the same Reader Mode experience for web pages that can be found with Safari 5 on the Mac. It’s a very simple, yet exceptionally useful, addition that any browser can use, including Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, and many others. All you need to do to install it is head over to their website, sign up for an account, and add a reader button to your bookmarks toolbar. Once the bookmark is added, just surf the net like you usually do and click the button whenever you find a web page that you want formatted in a clean, readable fashion.

In my tests, I found that Readability was nice and fast in the latest version of Internet Explorer. In addition to formatting my webpage, much like text out of a book, I was also offered the ability to send the article to my Kindle device, print the output directly to a printer, archive the article in my account for later viewing and even share the page over social networks like Twitter and Facebook. Images that were part of articles remained within the body of the text while ads were cleaned away as if they never existed.

For those on the go, Readability offers an app for mobile devices, so that you can condense your web pages on phones with browsers that don’t have a reader mode built in. The app can also archive a page you are currently reading to your account so that you can visit it later via PC, thanks to the centralized account system. Readability is also very customizable, offering the ability to change the font type and size as well as the column width of the text within the page. You can also hide images from the page and convert links to document footnotes, a feature which can be very helpful in the event that you print the document out and want to know where the links go.

Unfortunately, I did encounter an issue with the printing in Readability, and I’m not sure if it was just a bug in the pages I tested thus far or even the fact that I used Internet Explorer, but essentially, only the first page of an article would print out properly while the rest didn’t seem to make it to the printer spool. If it’s a bug with their platform, I truly hope it gets sorted out soon, since what I did see from the printer looked very nice and easy to read.

Aside from the issue that can affect how a document physically prints to the printer, Readability is most definitely worth adding to the toolset of the typical web surfer. It’s easy to set up for any browser of your choosing and it’s absolutely worth it. It simply makes the web a much saner place to go.

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