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Ever looked at a long piece of writing and thought how convenient a quick summary would be? Felt too lazy to bother even skimming? Curious what the key points of your own writing are?

I tested a number of different free online summarization tools so you don’t have to. Just pick your favourite and off you go, ready to be lazier more efficient than ever at the click of a button.

Testing The Online Summary Tools

I tested each online summarizer tool by summarizing Vox’s 1700 word article arguing why cyclists should be able to roll through stop signs and ride through red lights (aka the Idaho Stop). I chose this article because it is highly structured, presents an argument, is not technical, and has the potential to affect the daily lives of people in a wide variety of countries (like MakeUseOf’s international audience).

There are a few things common to good summaries:

If a human were crafting a summary from scratch, I would also expect it to be written in his or her own words, but for the purpose of automated tools that would be unfair.

The Top 3 Online Summary Tools

Online Summarize Tool

Tools4noobs brings us the service “Online Summarize Tool”. I appreciate the clean design, and it’s neat to see some simple features that can tell you more about your text or control the kind of summary it extracts. You can have it give you a list of the ‘best words’, or set a threshold of how much of the original text to discard.

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Unfortunately, I am not impressed with the quality of summary that it presents. Sentences seem to be placed out of order and with the wrong focus. Additionally, if you don’t manually clean up the text first from some of the details like image credits and extraneous strings of numbers, they can find their way into the summary too.

SMMRY

SMMRY has a minimalist style but there are lots of features to discover. This time, instead of a threshold of how much text to discard, you set the number of sentence you want the text summarized in. It offers the option of pasting in text, uploading a file (only PDFs are permitted), or inputting the URL of the webpage you want summarized.

smmry

Sadly, I could only get the URL input to work out of all the input methods provided. The others resulted in a server error. However, the summary that it provided was coherent and reflected the critical parts of the argument. It also highlights words used repeatedly, colour-coded in order of importance. It even has a variety of other neat features to control the way your summary comes out.smmry-settings

Automatic Text Summarizer

auto-summarizer

For a very minimalist summarizer that produces a simple and clear summary, I recommend Automatic Text Summarizer. There’s no way to choose the length of your summar, but the four sentences it provided were each worth reading, and together captured the essence of the article.

The text it outputs is clean and easy to read, with enough white space to let it breathe.

auto-summarizer-results

Other Summarizing Tools

If you have a copy of Microsoft Word 2007, you can try the built-in Auto-Summarizer yourself, but this feature was removed in subsequent versions of Microsoft Office. Mac users can try the Summarizer tool Summarize Any Text Using This Hidden Mac Tool Summarize Any Text Using This Hidden Mac Tool Need a quick summary of an article? Your Mac can do that, without the need for extra software. Read More Justin wrote about, whose article inspired this round-up.

In the interest of being thorough, I tested a few other online summarizing options.

Free Summarizer lets you choose a number of sentences for your summary, however, it didn’t make the cut because what it included in my test felt not only arbitrary but confusing and out of place.

Text Compactor has a nifty slider bar for inputting how much of the original text to keep, but it doesn’t know how to deal with numbers and file names that copied over, so the test summary didn’t make sense on its own.

SummarizeThis has a pretty layout, but it doesn’t seem to format  the output. My test summary was just a wall of text without line spacing, not conducive to reading, and no option to change the length.

If you’re interested in seeing how each tool handled the test, you can download an .rtf file of test-summaries from each service.

In Closing

There’s no shortage of reading material available on the web. As of August 2014, over 41.7 million blog posts are published every month on WordPress alone. With blog posts, news articles, infographics, internet comments, status updates, and so many other types of content to consume, it’s easy to feel inundated — and maybe you feel like going on an information diet. So, the next time you want the gist of an article by a reputable source, give online summarization a try. If that doesn’t work for you, you could always give speed reading a go Start Speed Reading in Five Minutes with These 3 Free Android Apps Start Speed Reading in Five Minutes with These 3 Free Android Apps How about reading at a rate of 500 words per minute? Read More instead. (But we hope you’ll read MakeUseOf’s articles in full!)

A few final questions: Is it worth the extra couple of clicks to generate a summary, or do you find you get what you need to know by skimming quickly? Do you feel the need to go on an information diet, and why? Conversely, what kinds of writing should a person avoid using a summarizer on?

  1. omar bashar
    April 13, 2016 at 9:52 am

    Use Fluorescent Light Bulbs: You should immediately change incandescent light bulbs and use fluorescent light bulbs, because these fluorescent bulbs consume only 25 % energy comparable incandescent bulbs.

    Save Clean Water : You should not waste clean water, because clean water has become less, experts see the water crisis in the future.

    Use Electric or Hybrid Car: You consider purchasing a hybrid or electric car, in place of gasoline car.

    Switch Off Electric Appliances: When electric appliances are not in your use, then plug them off, because they use some energy even in off position.

    Don’t Leave Fridge’s door open for a Long Time: You take or put things in your Fridge quickly, because if you keep open your fridge door for a minute, then its motor will remain operative for more than a half hour.

    Since trees absorb carbon dioxide, so reduce the carbon dioxide in your surroundings.

  2. Qadir Khan
    January 13, 2016 at 5:05 pm

    Some very good summerization tools shared here specially SMMRY is a very good tool, I would also recomand GET2GIST http://www.get2gist.com/, A very good tool for summarizing text with a very information word cloud that was missing in above list.

  3. gp_20
    August 13, 2015 at 10:02 am

    Recently came across another free online summarizer called t-Conspectus.

  4. ThomasV
    December 1, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    There is a new app called https://skim.it that allows you to summarize webpages, store them in an online folder and share it with your friends or colleagues. You are welcome to try it.

  5. Mikllovan
    August 26, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    I tested all the tools and im impressed with Autosummarizer. Im comparinh the results of the Summary generated by Yahoo News App (Summly) with Autosummarizer and im impressed .. so far i compared around 40 news articles and the result are pretty much the same.

    • Jessica C
      August 26, 2014 at 5:02 pm

      Wow Mikllovan, that's amazing! Good effort.

      Was the Autosummarizer one that impressed you not in this roundup, or is that just a shortened name for Automatic Text Summarizer?

    • Mikllovan
      August 26, 2014 at 5:07 pm

      Yes, im testing autosummarizer.com .. impressive results

  6. Saikat B
    August 23, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    Text summarization is more difficult than it looks. In fact, there's quite a lot of movement in the field of text extraction from web pages and language processing. I haven't tried this, but also came across this Web tool later -- https://semantria.com

  7. Shahar
    August 23, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    Thanks, good stuff.
    But "download an .rtf file of test-summaries from each service"? It would have made much more sense to have these summaries inline as part of the text, rather than the hassle of downloading a file.

    • Jessica C
      August 23, 2014 at 4:42 pm

      Hi Shahar, thanks for the feedback. I had considered it but ultimately felt it would have made the article too long. So, for the readers who are really curious and want to see how I came to my conclusions, they can. Like an appendix in a textbook.

  8. Adam B
    August 21, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    Are there any summarizer Chrome extensions you would recommend? I'd like to try one at the click of a button, instead of having to paste text into another page.

    • Jessica C
      August 21, 2014 at 9:23 pm

      Hi Adam, not having to leave the page to do a copy and paste is indeed the next question! I haven't tested these personally, but give them a try:
      TLDR: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/tldr/giepilabiomhlcmlefmbfkgeoccfhhhc?hl=en
      And this one we wrote about before, Cruxlight:
      http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/cruxlight-a-google-chrome-extension-to-summarize-online-articles/
      Hope that helps!

    • Farhad
      October 23, 2014 at 6:58 pm

      CruxLight has been shut down because the developers were bought by a company that was subsequently acquired by Intel.

      TLDR is indeed a Chrome extension that will allow you to summarize by click of a button.

      I would like to introduce a Summarizer that I wrote which installs not as a Chrome extension but as a Bookmarklet on MOST browsers. The installation amounts to dragging a button from the product Web site to your favorites bar or bookmark bar. You can summarize any article, any selected segment of an article (needed for password protected pages or those that are created by script, like NY Times) as well as documents from your local drive at a click of a button. Supports many languages and file formats. Please give it a try at ShowSummary.com.

  9. Stephen
    August 21, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    In summary:
    I tested a number of different free online summarization tools so you dont have to.

    I tested each online summarizer tool by summarizing Voxs 1700 word article arguing why cyclists should be able to roll through stop signs and ride through red lights .

    This time, instead of a threshold of how much text to discard, you set the number of sentence you want the text summarized in.

    For a very minimalist summarizer that produces a simple and clear summary, I recommend Automatic Text Summarizer.

    Free Summarizer lets you choose a number of sentences for your summary, however, it didnt make the cut because what it included in my test felt not only arbitrary but confusing and out of place.

    • Jessica C
      August 21, 2014 at 6:54 pm

      Very meta.

      I'm glad it got the Automatic Text Summarizer as the recommended option.

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