Reading on the web at the best of times is an ocular challenge. Those who love reading and a warm blanket, tend to hate reading on a web browser. Personally I am part here, and part there. Browser extensions like Clearly and Readability have made web reading a more enjoyable experience. You can at least temporarily win the battle against webpage clutter.
As some of the above links attest, we have covered numerous tools that help us improve the way a webpage is displayed, and thus read. What more can you do with an article that needs to be consumed with just a browser? You would be surprised.
Designing a better reading experience for yourself on your favorite browser is essential because there’s just too much valuable information that can no longer be consumed in bit-sized chunks. If you had followed my earlier post on the return of some great long form content, you would have developed a taste for it. So, here are 6 reading Chrome extensions that can help to make your reading more productive.
For: Human written summaries and neat previews of Web pages.
The reading Chrome extension’s website takes the name from a web acronym which has pretty much become a colloquial expression – too long; didn’t read (tl;dr). Presumably they have rebranded the extension as Link Preview because that’s the name you get when you land on the Chrome Web Store page. Link Preview condenses a webpage into its gist. Commonly, we don’t read all the content we come across but skim through. Link Preview shortens the process by giving you human edited summaries. The extension works when you hover over a link. You’ll be able to see a summary preview of links, and the summary of the webpage you’re on (if it exists). If the icon in the Omnibox is green, it indicates that a summary exists and it will work as said. The first screen on top shows the extension giving you the summary, while the one below gives you a preview of any information beneath the link.
It will not work on all pages because the summaries are crowdsourced (you too can contribute). The stress on human contributions instead of an automatic algorithm helps to retain quality.
For: Machine generated summaries of long web pages.
TLDR has tools for summarizing long articles on your mobile (iOS, Android) and also on your desktop browsers. Install the Chrome plug-in and click the button on the toolbar. TLDR extracts the essential elements from the long form content and presents it in a neat overlay. As you can see in the screenshot above, the overlay gives you several options for reading various forms of the content. The overlay offers four concise versions of content: short, medium, long, and original. If you are going through a lot of articles and are drowning in information overload, this extension is worth a look.
For: Turn multipage articles into a single page.
PageZipper is a functionally simple bookmarklet which turns a multi-page web article into a single scrolling page. Lots of sites like New York Times, Rolling Stone, Slate etc. have content spread across multiple pages, and it’s a bother to keep clicking through them. Click on the bookmarklet’s icon and it loads the web page as one continuous web page. A notification on top tells you which page you are navigating to. You can automatically scroll down the pages too with CTRL+ Down Arrow.
I like this bookmarklet because unlike an extension, it’s not heavy on system resources. Multi-page articles are more common than you think and it makes reading more productive by saving the time it takes to click through each page.
For: Invert the colors of the page for easier web reading.
My friend Dave said that websites with dark backgrounds suck. I agree with him, but sometimes when it comes to visual accessibility, a dark webpage is often advocated. High Contrast is an official Google Accessibility extension that lets you browse the web with your choice of several high-contrast color filters all designed to make it easier to read text. High contrast color schemes make text standout against the background. Though some inversions could seem too jarring, try out Increased Contrast which is soothing and gives you enhanced contrast on the page as well.
For: Change the color temperature of your Chrome browser.
G.lux takes off from f.lux, the very useful cross-platform software that makes night time computer usage less of a strain on the eyes. If you do any reading at night in a darkened room or otherwise, this browser extension could be worth a look. G.lux gives you several “cool’ color choices to customize the background of the web pages you are reading. The colors selected are more attuned for night reading. The idea is that monitors are daylight balanced which could interfere with our eyes at night and hamper our sleep patterns. The color temperature change is not automatic and you have to refresh the page after selecting one from the dropdown. This is an alternative for users who are unable to install, or do not want to install F.lux. Does it work for better sleep? I have no idea.
For: Go to the top (or bottom) of a never-ending page with a click or shortcut.
Yes, you can use the Home button on your keyboard to go back to the head of a webpage. I have found some sites which freeze on trying to scroll up. So, do try out Scroll to Top Bottom anyway because it gives you some more control over long form articles and websites which scroll down considerably. As the name indicates, you can jump to the bottom of a page too with a click on the button which appears in the top right corner. The Chrome extension has other user-configurable features designed to help your web reading like the scroll speed and scroll distance. The Chrome extension is ad-supported, but you can easily turn it off from the settings.
There’s an information tsunami out there and those who like to consume content know it’s a trade-off with time. Computer screens aren’t made for hours and hours of leisurely reading. Maybe these reading Chrome extensions can help in various ways to make reading on the web a better experience. I would also recommend Matt’s nice article on four more Google Chrome extensions for easier reading. Now, it’s time to ask you for your suggestions. Do you have your own choices of tools that make web reading a more comfortable, a more productive, or even a quicker experience? Use the white spaces below.
Image Credit: Flickr