There is so much content on the Internet that sometimes it can be overwhelming. A place like Wikipedia, for instance, regardless of its reputation for sometimes being less than accurate, has a ton of content. Other places as well are figurative gold mines for people looking to read up on a person or subject. Sometimes, however, whether because of ads or formatting or just lack of caring on the part of the website, these articles can be a little bit hard to read.
Enter an extension for Google Chrome called iReader, which takes these websites and formats the text to make it much more pleasant to read. Using iReader couldn’t me much simpler, which makes it a good tool in my book (made even better by the fact that although it’s easy to tweak the formatting, I happen to like the default!). As is true of all Google Chrome extensions, once iReader is installed you can start using it right away. Unlike some extensions, you don’t have to set it up first, although as I mentioned, you can tweak it to your liking.
With iReader installed and active, any time you are viewing a website that iReader determines is an “article” (I’m not sure how this is determined, whether from a preset list or if iReader views website parameters and makes that determination on the fly), and puts a little icon in the URL bar. Click this icon and the article, newly formatted and much more pleasant to read, is overlaid on top of the original.
Gone are the ads and weird formatting choices. In its place is text, formatted like a book or magazine. Images from the original are still present, as are headings and formatting such as bold and italic. Just look at the screenshot, or try it out for yourself; I find reading articles iReader has formatted a much more pleasant experience. It’s also a lot more efficient. The text is a little bigger, for one thing. Many Web articles make the mistake of using very wide lines of small text, which means your eyes need to travel more than they move up and down. One of the reasons newspapers are comfortable to read is because of the narrow columns. The human eye more easily moves left-to-right across short distances, and iReader makes that happen.
While viewing a reformatted article, move your mouse to the bottom of the web browser window to reveal a few options. You can make the article text larger or smaller as well as printing the current page. You can link to the article on Facebook or Twitter, or email the current page to someone. If the article has too many pictures (or iReader mistook some ads for content images), you can disable them. Finally, click the little gear to access iReader’s options, or the “x” to return to the original (you can do the same by simply clicking the dark background).
If there’s nothing you dislike about the iReader defaults, that’s as far as you need to go. If, on the other hand, you want to tweak the presentation a bit, you can. Right-click on the iReader icon (or any extension’s icon, for that matter), and choose the Manage Extensions option. On the extensions page, find the entry for iReader and choose the Options link.
From the iReader options page you can make a few changes. You can adjust the transparency of the dark border around the reformatted article (by default it appears to be set at somewhere around 80 percent opaque). A more transparent background shows more of the original, while a completely opaque background completely blocks it out. You are also able to use a hotkey of your choosing (instead of clicking the iReader icon), to reformat an article. Two other options exist, one for mailing articles using Gmail, and the other to use smooth scroll, which makes scrolling through the article… smoother!
There are also options to change the text used in the reformatted article, and if you want a wider or narrower article body, as well as a wider or narrower margin, that can also be tweaked. Last is the option to Justify the text. Leaving the text unjustified leaves the right margin a bit jagged, but keeps the text evenly spaced, while a justified margin is more like a newspaper, but can lead to spacing that occasionally looks odd in its unevenness.
I’ve used similar extensions in Firefox (Readability was the main one), and happily, iReader is every bit as good. It’s fast to reformat articles, is good about selecting which websites can easily be reformatted, and quickly gets out of my way when I’m done with it. It makes reading Web articles a much more pleasant experience. For those reasons, I find it easy to recommend this to anyone who surfs and reads a lot. It’s a good piece of software.