Pinterest Stumbleupon Whatsapp
Ads by Google

readability-iconOne of the killer features of the new Safari 5 announced yesterday is the “Reader” which Bakari discussed earlier The 4 New Useful Features Of The New Safari 5 Browser The 4 New Useful Features Of The New Safari 5 Browser Read More . This feature makes it easier to focus on an article you’re reading by removing design elements such as sidebars and advertisements. It shows you only the article you’re trying to read.

I’m sure you’re wondering: how long will Chrome and Firefox users have to wait to get such a feature?

The answer is about twenty seconds. The good folks over at OMG! Ubuntu! managed to find a Reader-like plugin, called Readability, that works for both Chrome and Firefox. They may be a Ubuntu blog, but don’t worry: this guide brings the feature to Windows and Mac fans of Chrome and Firefox as well.


Amazingly enough, these plugins are not a Reader clone. As it turns out, actually, the Safari Reader feature is actually made possible with code lifted directly from the the Readability project. More on that later; for now let’s get Readability set up on your computer.

Using Readability

Getting started is dead-simple. Just head over the the download site – here for Chrome, and here for Firefox – and you’re good to go. Once the plugin is installed you can quickly convert any webpage into a readable article with the click of a button – on the right side of the statusbar at the bottom of the window for Firefox users and to the right of the address bar for Chrome users.

If you’re reading Wikipedia, for example, you can turn this:

Ads by Google

readability-wikipedia1

into this:

readability-wikipedia2

As you can see everything is removed but the article itself. Combine this with your browser’s full-screen function and you can very quickly make your laptop or netbook feel like a full-blown ebook reader.

With some sites you’ll retain your pictures within the articles – this was true for me with Slate and MakeUseOf, for example. With other sites pictures will disappear completely – this was the case for me with The Economist and The New York Times.

Readability-configure

There are very few options that need to be configured to use Readability, but there are a few. You can customize the look of the re-worked webpages within certain constraints. There are five main themes you can pick from, and you can also configure the size of the font and the width of the margins. To configure these options simply right-click the Readability icon to bring up the preferences.

Readability Is Not A Reader Clone

The article recognition technology these plugins use is powered by the webapp Readability.  Hilariously enough, Safari’s “Reader” function is also based on Readability, which is an open source project under the Apache 2 license. That’s right: Apple lifted the code from the Readability project.

Readability isn’t just similar to Safari’s reader; it’s pretty much identical. And as it turns out the Readability team was never notified Apple was making use of it’s code.  Totally legal under the terms of the Apache license, but kind of odd I think.

Similar Tool

There is a similar tool to this we’ve featured previously at MakeUseOf: Instapaper. David wrote all about it in a piece called “Manage Your Bookmarks & Reading List with Instapaper Manage Your Bookmarks & Reading List with Instapaper Manage Your Bookmarks & Reading List with Instapaper Read More

Conclusion

Readability certainly makes the web more readable, but some content providers are worried it will cost them advertising revenue. Wired even wrote a piece accusing Apple of integrating the service into its browser specifically to scare online publications into creating iOS apps.

For me Readability isn’t cool for its ability to block ads, however; it’s cool for its ability to clean up a given page’s format and let me focus on the thing that matters: content. I’ll still look at the ads when I open the page, and will even click through if I find them relevant.

What do you think? Is Readability a good or a bad thing for sites like MakeUseOf? Are you less likely to look at ads if you use it? Or are you already a die-hard Adblock user who forgot the web ever had advertising to being with?

Additionally, do you think this is a useful tool, or mostly useless? Sharing in the comments below is awesome, so you should do that.

  1. rerhart
    July 24, 2010 at 8:12 am

    Readabitity is simply great!

  2. jhpot
    July 17, 2010 at 2:30 am

    Actually, not with the license Readability uses. Apple's improvements won't
    necessarily ever make it upstream.

  3. Donot ask
    July 17, 2010 at 12:25 am

    and if you use and extend an open source project - shouldn't you feed your changes back up the project tree?

    • jhpot
      July 17, 2010 at 12:30 am

      Actually, not with the license Readability uses. Apple's improvements won't
      necessarily ever make it upstream.

  4. jhpot
    July 12, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    It's true; Apple didn't do anything wrong. The word "lifted" is too harsh.

    Still, they could have written the Readability team an email before they released this...

  5. Bobi
    July 12, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    The term "lifted" in the article seems to imply informal theft or plain plagiarism. I don't think it's fair. Apple used open source Linux libraries (from KDE) to develop WebKit which is in turn now used in hundreds of other open source applications. As Readability is also open source, why not use that code? Apple is in its right and with their history of contributing back to to community, I think it's far from a bad thing.

    So, that my motive for saying apple isn't lifting, in a morally deficient way, anything from anyone.

  6. Bobi
    July 12, 2010 at 10:37 am

    The term "lifted" in the article seems to imply informal theft or plain plagiarism. I don't think it's fair. Apple used open source Linux libraries (from KDE) to develop WebKit which is in turn now used in hundreds of other open source applications. As Readability is also open source, why not use that code? Apple is in its right and with their history of contributing back to to community, I think it's far from a bad thing.

    So, that my motive for saying apple isn't lifting, in a morally deficient way, anything from anyone.

    • jhpot
      July 12, 2010 at 3:10 pm

      It's true; Apple didn't do anything wrong. The word "lifted" is too harsh.

      Still, they could have written the Readability team an email before they released this...

  7. blueshell
    June 12, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    I'm glad to have new Safari 5' s killer feature "reader" on my FireFox and Chrome browsers. It's cool. Thanks for sharing it.

  8. semainwaring
    June 12, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Thanks for pointing out the Readability extensions for Chrome and Firefox, while I have only been using the functionality on Safari for a couple of days it is already changing the my reading experience online. Now that I can have that functionality in all my regular browsers which is fantastic.

  9. jhpot
    June 11, 2010 at 1:40 am

    Legitimate criticism. I've found greasemonkey scripts that can do this for
    certain pages, but Readabitiy certainly can't handle it for you the way
    Safari does.

  10. Boywithcar
    June 10, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    I found Readability fails to work as well as Safari Reader in term of combining several separated pages together. Thus, I have to "reload" the original page and click "Next Page" for the next page.

    • jhpot
      June 10, 2010 at 11:40 pm

      Legitimate criticism. I've found greasemonkey scripts that can do this for
      certain pages, but Readabitiy certainly can't handle it for you the way
      Safari does.

    • Imshays
      June 11, 2010 at 12:16 pm

      Agree with you. This is my only gripe with Readability.

    • George K.
      June 26, 2010 at 10:44 pm

      tidyread

  11. Kevin Reynolds
    June 10, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    I just re-down loaded Safari. I always kind-of liked it. I tried the reader (on one of Make Use Of articles of course) and didn't like it. It was not full screen just as wide as the article. I didn't like that. I could still see everything else on the screen. Though it was clear and easy to read. I imagine I would use it on the rare occasion. It's no real habit to get into though. I won't be adding it to my Chrome browser. Add-ons slow things down and I really don't like that.

    • jhpot
      June 10, 2010 at 10:27 pm

      You'll find that the solution I just outlined is easier to customize than Safari, and also is full screen without the background. Still, only install things you'll actually use.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *