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THE TGB ELDER GEEK: Readability

EDITORIAL NOTE: Virginia DeBolt (bio) writes the bi-weekly Elder Geek column for Time Goes By in which she takes the mystery out of techie things all bloggers and internet users need to know to simplify computer use. She has written several books on technology and keeps two blogs herself, Web Teacher and First 50 Words.

In my last Elder Geek post, I talked about how you can use Zooming in your browser to make reading easier. On that same theme, I want to tell you about a nifty little gizmo called "Readability" that will make reading articles online even easier.

Readability is a bookmarklet that will eliminate clutter from a web page and leave you with a clean and readable version of the article you want to read.

Are you wondering what a bookmarklet is? That's the geeky part of the article. It's a small bit of JavaScript that you add to your browser's bookmarks bar. If you aren't sure what your browser's bookmarks bar is, I'll get to that in a minute. When you click the bookmarklet, the script runs. In the case of the Readability bookmarklet, the script removes all the extra material from the page and leaves you with just the article in a very easy-to-read format.

Find the Website
Go to the Readability [http://lab.arc90.com/experiments/readability/] site. The page is an experimental project from the arc90 company. I sincerely hope they keep it going, because it is a great help.

Readability-settings

Start by selecting the settings you want. You can choose the style of display you like, the size of the text you need, and the amount of margin you want.

Drag and Drop the Bookmarklet
Next drag and drop the Readability bookmarklet from the web page to your browser's bookmarks bar. If your browser's bookmarks toolbar is not visible, you can make it visible by going to View > Toolbars > Bookmarks Toolbar.

Readability-bookmarklet

To drag and drop the Readabilty bookmarklet, left-click on the big button that says Readabilty and hold the mouse button down. Move the mouse, dragging a ghost-like image of the Readabilty button along, until your mouse is over the Bookmarks Toolbar. Then release the left mouse button. You should see the word Readability appear where you "dropped" the button. It no longer looks like a button, it's just a word.

Readability-toolbar

What happens when you click it?
For example, suppose this is an article you want to read. There is a lot of extra material on the page. The article is squeezed in among it.

Readability-before

Click the "Readability" bookmarklet in your bookmarks bar. The result is a clean and easy to read version of the article with no clutter, as you see in the image here.

Readability-after

Isn't that just the best thing since sliced bread?

Okay. I read the article. Now what?
To return to the original display with the navigation and other material you need after reading, use the "Reload Page" link at the bottom of the article after you read the article. If you don't read the entire article and don't reach the "Reload Page" link, you can click the browser's Reload or Refresh button to return to the original display.

Reload

In most browsers, the Reload or Refresh button is a spiral looking, going-around-again kind of button located in the upper left.

An important thing to remember is that you don't use the Back button to get back to the article in its original view. You are still on the same web page, but through the magic of the script in the bookmarklet you are seeing it displayed in a different way. To see it in the original way, reload the page.

I hope that between the zooming with the NoSquint Firefox add-on and the Readability bookmarklet you will find a comfortable way to read everything that interests you on the Internet.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sydney Halet tells us about his father and a Note.]

Comments

I tried it, but it doesn't seem to work. When I click the Readability button in my bookmarks toolbar it just displays the Readability button in the main browser screen, I lose the page I'm viewing.

Perfect! And it took all of 10 seconds. Why didn't I know about this earlier? I'm an early adopter of just about everything, or so I like to think, but this one got past me...

Thanks.

Anne: Firefox or Microsoft for your browser? I'm using Firefox/Vista and it never seems to give me the problems that IE did.

I will try that later today, though I fear it is above my level of expertise (or the lack thereof).

Anne, Try dragging and dropping the button to your bookmarks toolbar one more time. Let me know if it works then.

Great idea. Doesn't seem to work with my Google toolbar. Dragging and dropping don't work. If I right click on the button, I am instructed to add it to favorites. I don't actually use favorites, so I don't think this is as useful to me as I first thought.

Also, not addressed in the article is how you select the article to be displayed in the decluttered format. Sometime I see several articles on a page, as with Huffington.

Also, can you print from the reformatted screen?

Sometimes you get lucky with a special printscreen view that allows reading (and of course printing) w/out other surrounding clutter.

Virginia, I experienced the same problems as Sophronia when I tried to use this clever gadget in IE. It simply would not drag. And even when I added it to favorites, as instructed, it still didn't work very well. Yet it drags - and works - perfectly in Firefox.

Now that's a tekkie hint I'd walk a mile for! Thankfully I don't have to because Virginia's made it so easy. I admit I had to make a couple of trys (I usually do with tekkie things), but when I followed her prompts exactly, it worked beautifully, and it's something I will use again and again. I can't thank her enough for this hint! (One more hint I would add, it's easier to do this sort of thing when you open a new tab, so you can click from one window to the other, read and reread instructions, go back and try again until you get it. Saves a lot of time.)

Sophronia, You need to click the article headline to go to the page where the article is displayed before you click the Readability link in the bookmarks toolbar. Sorry I forgot to add that point.

For those of you having trouble in Internet Explorer, I only tested it in Firefox, Safari, and Opera. It works in all three of those. I don't have Internet Explorer anywhere on my computer. I think it should work in Internet Explorer, but I can't test it. Has anyone been able to make it work in Internet Explorer?

Hi, Virginia and all. I had the same issue with IE (7 on this computer) that Marian and Sophronia had: the Readability button just would not drag to the Links toolbar. I finally got it there by right-clicking and saving to Favorites as the others did, then going to Favorites and manually moving it to the Links folder. Then it appeared on my Links toolbar and seems to work just fine once it's there. (Thanks for the info on this bookmarklet!)

Looks like it's not good news for the IE people. If you can organize or manage your Favorites in IE, you can use Kathi's method. If not, I apologize for driving you straight into frustration.

I'm secretly hoping to convert you all to using Firefox, so maybe this will be a burr under your saddle blanket.

Tried again with this. It is such a good idea. I got Readability into the favorites, but it won't go anywhere via drag and drop and it won't open w/ a right click. Frustrating.

All I need is to have to learn a new browser. I was a late adopter of IE, holding onto Navigator for as long as feasible. But honestly, it is too much trouble to switch now.

Yes indeed, it worked on second try. What an important new idea! One problem, I now have two Readability buttons (one working, one not) on Firefox toolbar.

And have not been able to discover how to delete.

Thanks, Virginia

Naomi, In Firefox, go to Bookmarks > Organize Bookmarks to move or delete bookmarks.

I hesitate to try to recall where this is for those in IE. It might be Favorites > Manage Favorites.

Thanks so much! This is fabulous!

Hi, Virginia.
I have a new question and I'm not sure how to get it to you...

Will you comment on the repercussions of leaving things like Skype & Twitter & Napster running in the task bar, please? That seems to be the default settings for those programs and I am concerned that it leaves a door open to my computer.

Thanks!

Kate, I was able to look at my son's Windows Vista to see about this. Items in the taskbar are only "running" if you opened them, or if they are set to open automatically on startup. In Vista, you can set the things you want to start up automatically by going to Start > Control Panel. At this point you want to switch to "classic view." Then find Taskbar and Start Menu and double click it. You can decide what you want in the Start Menu by clicking on that tab. So if Skype or Napster is set to open automatically in the Start Menu, you can deselect it. Then close the Control Panel. If you have Windows XP, it may not be exactly the same, but it should be reachable in the Control Panel somehow.

That is a great gadget.

Is there a way to change the font size when I print a web page? Sometimes they come out so small.

My eyes are dim, I cannot see, I have not brought my specs with me.

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