How to Easily Strip the Unnecessary Clutter From Google Reader

Justin Pot 14-04-2012

google reader clutterFlush away the crap you don’t need in Google Reader and get back to what’s important – reading. “Google Reader Readable” is both a Chrome extension and a userstyle How to Fix Small Annoyances on the Web With Stylish [Firefox & Chrome] Web designers have an almost impossible job. They need to come up with one design that pleases everyone. When talking about a service like Gmail, used by countless millions of people all over the world,... Read More that removes basically everything from Google Reader except for you what you want – the article you’re reading right now and your lists of feeds.


Gone is the black bar, the Google logo, the unnecessary search bar and the various Google Plus-related nonsense. Even better, your lists of feeds is hidden unless you’re mousing over it, meaning you can focus on what you’re reading and nothing else.

If you love Google Reader but find it wastes too much screen space for things you don’t care about, you really need to install this extension now.

Using Readable

We all know how Google Reader looks by default. At the top is a black bar; below that is the Google logo beside a search bar and some Google Plus notifications. Below that is the stuff you care about – your articles.

google reader clutter

Install Readable and all that useless stuff at the top of the screen is gone, leaving you with only the article you’re reading:


clean up google reader

Are you worried about the missing sidebar? Don’t be. It shows up when you move your mouse to that side of the screen.

google reader clutter

There are no options to configure here – everything just works.


Keyboard Shortcuts

Read the comments for this extension and you’ll find more than a few people complaining about the missing “Mark All As Read” button. This is annoying, but a simple keyboard shortcut gives you access to this functionality: “Shift + A“.

Knowing the Google Reader shortcuts really helps when using a stripped-down version of Reader. “J” and “K”, for example, allow you to quickly jump from article to article.

You could also check out Google’s page of Reader keyboard shortcuts.


Firefox and Chrome users can download the Google Reader Readable userstyle here. You’re going to need the Stylish pluging for Chrome or Firefox How to Fix Small Annoyances on the Web With Stylish [Firefox & Chrome] Web designers have an almost impossible job. They need to come up with one design that pleases everyone. When talking about a service like Gmail, used by countless millions of people all over the world,... Read More in order to use it.



Early on Google earned a reputation for minimalism. Its home page was simple, featuring only a logo and the now-famous search bar. Hints of this minimalism remain: the homepage is still more or less clean and white backdrops and text ads still define most Google services.

Google’s recent changes, however suggest that while aesthetically Google still leans towards whitespace,  other concerns – the need to integrate Google Plus into everything, for example – are trumping that functionality. So we get red notifications for Plus when we’re reading articles or looking at our email, and a black bar hovers over all of our Google activity.

It’s a shame, because simplicity was one of the reasons we loved Google products to begin with. Geeks like us will always find a way to get the functionality we want, and to remove the functionality we don’t; it’s why you’re reading this article. Everyone else, however, might just look for a replacement.

Will you be using Google Reader Readable? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments below, along with any other relevant hacks for removing clutter from websites.


Oh, and be sure to check out Minimalist for Everything if you want to strip functions from sites yourself. I’ve been meaning to review it for a long time, but it deserves a mention here.

Related topics: Feed Reader, FeedReader, Google Reader.

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  1. rhoslug
    July 18, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    I agree that the zen-like simplicity of Google is what makes its products attractive. While they do seem to be migrating toward a more Plus integrated experience, I think they have still, like you said, retained some of the simplicity they are known for. IMHO Google will keep the simplicity. It has worked, continues to work, and will work. They know this, just like Apple, and they discard it at their own peril.

  2. Andri Agassi
    April 29, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    I'd just use feedly, it's so much better and cleaner too.

    • Justin Pot
      April 30, 2012 at 6:37 pm

      For some reason I just can't get into Feedly. I suppose I should give it another shot, though, because people keep praising it.

  3. Jason
    April 16, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    I like the new style, but I've become used to using the "Mark all as read" link in the regular Reader view. This style seems to remove it entirely. Any way to bring it back, or better yet add it to the hidden sidebar?

    • Justin Pot
      April 16, 2012 at 10:10 pm

      You could change the code to do this; I can't help you with that. Alternatively, you could use the keyboard shortcut: Shift + A

      • Jason
        April 16, 2012 at 10:13 pm

        I'm not a coder, but that shortcut is gold! Thanks!

  4. Swanny
    April 15, 2012 at 1:33 am

    Gotta admit, I wouldn't have put Google Reader and clutter in the same sentence, but ok, I guess some people just have pretty high standards for "minimalistic" :P

    • Justin Pot
      April 16, 2012 at 1:19 pm

      I guess I'm just a freak, then! :)

  5. reygun
    April 14, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    I use Google Reader = Chrome + Reader Plus is very nice

    with theme Mac OS in windows xD is very usefull

  6. Tug
    April 14, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    I actually like the black navigation bar...

    • Justin Pot
      April 16, 2012 at 1:22 pm

      To each their own, then! I don't find it useful when I'm trying to read.