When was the last time you read a whole article? Not two or three paragraphs and then clicked on to the next one, but the whole thing. What about an article that was more than 1000+ words? The fact is, it’s difficult to read on the web. There are a number of things that could be blamed from ads along side of content that are distracting to our click-happy habits of constantly opening more and more links in our browser.
A developer by the name of Richard Wallis saw this problem too and he created a solution. That solution is a browser extension and a bookmarklet that removes the potential distractions from around the page, but it also addresses something else that he feels is actually the reason behind our poor reading habits online.
In his blog post, he explained his reasoning:
The problem is scrolling. Scrolling is a brilliant way to display a map or an Excel spreadsheet on a computer. But it’s a terrible way to display text.
That’s because scrolling moves the text on a page. And moving text, even if it’s under your control, will break your reading rhythm.
I encourage you to read the rest of his blog post. It’s short, but actually interesting and well written. And while you’re there, you can demo MagicScroll without having to install anything!
About MagicScroll Web Reader
It was already mentioned that MagicScroll is both an extension and a bookmarklet. Although the bookmarklet works across all browsers, the extension is currently only for Chrome.
Let’s take a look at how MagicScroll really makes a difference. For the example, we’ll use the feature article “Tech Through 90-Year-Old Eyes: Are We Really Better Off?”
As you an see, there’s a video ad playing and although I personally love having the most recent and popular articles on the side, it without a doubt adds to distraction and “click happy syndrome.”
As you can tell, this is much more relaxing to read.
The Key To MagicScroll: Automatic Scrolling
I’ll be honest – I thought MagicScroll was just another tool to simplify the web page context. And it is, but it is much more too. It can scroll for you. When I tried it, I was amazed at how much faster I read and how much more I comprehended. See, although I love writing, reading on the other hand hasn’t always been my strongest skill. If I read quickly, I don’t comprehend as well. If I read slow (which I do already), I tend to get easily distracted.
The moving line kept me focused, which helped me retain the information better. Plus, I didn’t want any “hassle” with clicking the back button if I didn’t remember something. Note that I put “hassle” in quotes because it really isn’t that hard, per se – it is just something extra that I didn’t want to do while reading (and lose the focus).
So How Do I Use It?
Once you load MagicScroll on the page you want to read, you will see a completely new layout, but the same content, with absolutely no clutter whatsoever. There is an arrow on either side of the text to manually scroll through. If you prefer to manually scroll with your mouse wheel or touchpad scroll bar, it works great with those too.
On the bottom right are your controls to play/pause and speed up or slow down the automatic scrolling. Hopefully you won’t really be using those, though, as in the left corner there’s a tip to hit “H” to display the hotkeys. This makes the whole experience of using MagicScroll just that much better.
Note that also in the top left corner there is a button to go back to the original page and also one to report bugs – both essential. Although the “reload” button doesn’t technically have a hotkey (at least it’s not listed), the F5 key works like a charm.
TIP: For an even better reading experience, go full screen by pressing the F11 key on your browser. Now even your browser can’t distract you!
How Do I Get It?
This might seem like a ridiculous question – you go to the website, of course! But actually, it’s not the simple (as you can see looking at the website) and to be honest, I was asking myself this same question. Of course, I could find the Chrome extension – that’s simple – but how do you acquire the bookmarklet if you’re a non-Chrome user or bookmarklet lover?
The key is in the blog post. At the very end of it you’re given a link to the Chrome Web Store extension and a bookmarklet link to drag into your bookmarks bar.
MagicScroll certainly isn’t the only web reading aid out there, there’s Clearly, Instapaper, iReader, and Readability, which are among my favorites. They each offer their own benefits such as printing, sharing and/or accessing the article easily on the go without all the “junk” around the content.
However, if reading is what you want to do, I don’t see a better alternative than MagicScroll. I don’t always end up keeping browser extensions that I try and sometimes write about because otherwise my browser would be slower than molasses, but MagicScroll Web Reader, whether in bookmarklet or extension form, will be remaining in my browser for quite some time.
What are your thoughts on the web reading experience? I encourage you to read the rest of the developer’s blog post who talks about the inspiration behind this extension and share your thoughts! Do you find yourself easily distracted when reading on the Internet? And after trying MagicScroll, did you see a difference?
Here are the download links again: