Extensions for Easy Web Reading

Try adding one of these extensions to help clean up your webpage
and make reading much easier.

Post by Eric Curts. Connect with Eric on Twitter at twitter.com/ericcurts and on Google+
at plus.google.com/+EricCurts1

First, before we try out these Readability alternatives, we need a web page to clean up. For my example I am using an article from DOGOnews titled “Ants Trapped Inside Abandoned Nuclear Bunker Develop A Unique Society” at https://www.dogonews.com/2016/11/20/ants-trapped-inside-abandoned-nuclear-bunker-develop-a-unique-society.

We will try out each of these 10 extensions on this web article to see how they clean it up. Here is a screenshot of the original web page:

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1) Just Read
Chrome Web Store link

link

Just Read is probably the closest match to Readability that I have found so far. Simply click on the extension and the webpage automatically gets cleaned up. If you want to make any changes, you can click the paintbrush icon in the top right to adjust font size, text color, background color, and more. When done, just click the big “X” in to top right corner to go back to the original website.

Here is what the web page looks like when cleaned up with Just Read:

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2) Notebook Web Clipper
Chrome Web Store link

link

Notebook Web Clipper is an easy second place right behind Just Read. To use the tool, simply click on the extension and choose “Clean View” from the bottom of the drop-down menu (you do not need to sign up for an account to do the webpage clean up.) You will now get a clean version of the article with just the title, text, and article images. To go back to the normal view, just click the “X” in the top right corner.

Here is what the web page looks like when cleaned up with Notebook Web Clipper:

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3) EasyReader
Chrome Web Store link

link

EasyReader is (ironically) a little more complicated than just a single click, but still does a good job. This extension does cleans up web pages, but only the part of the web page that you choose. When you activate the extension, you will see boxes on the page indicating different sections. Simply click on the section you want to read and a pop-out window will appear with that portion of the page cleaned up for easy reading. When done, click anywhere outside of the article to return to the original view.

Here is what the web page looks like when cleaned up with EasyReader:

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4) Read Mode
Chrome Web Store link

link

Next on the list is Read Mode. When you click on the extension the page will reload in an easier to read format. It does remove the background, and it does simplify the font, but it does NOT remove other elements from the page. All the possibly distracting menus and comments and ads still show up, but are simply moved to the top and bottom of the page. As long as you do not mind scrolling down to get to the article you want to read, this is still a useful way to clean up the main text. To return to the original webpage, click the extension again.

Here is what the web page looks like when cleaned up with Read Mode:

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5) Boom!
Chrome Web Store link

link

Boom takes a little getting used to for cleaning up webpages. If you click the extension and then click on sections of the website, Boom will remove those sections as you click them. On the other hand if you want to save a section and clean it up, you have to press SHIFT when clicking on the article portion of the page. Similar to Read Mode, Boom does not really get rid of all of the extra elements, but instead puts them at the top and bottom of the page so you can focus better on the main article. Still though it takes a bit to remember to hold down the shift key when clicking, as I often forgot and accidentally deleted the article many times.

Here is what the web page looks like when cleaned up with Boom:

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6) Purify
Chrome Web Store link

link

Purify does a great job of cleaning up webpages, but adds an interesting twist. When you click on the extension the webpage will get cleaned up as usual. However, instead of letting you scroll down to view the new version of the page, Purify has you scroll to the right, as if you were flipping through the pages of an eBook. This works very well, but depending on the size of the pictures, some pages may end up with very little text on them. Additionally you can adjust the size of the font by clicking the “Aa” button in the bottom right corner. To exit the cleaned up view, just click the little “X” in the bottom right corner of the screen.

Here is what the web page looks like when cleaned up with Purify:

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7) Save to Pocket
Chrome Web Store link

link

Save to Pocket is a favorite extension of mine, but normally I use it to save articles and blog posts for later reading, However, it can actually be used to clean up a webpage as well. Unfortunately there are a few extra clicks to get this done, so other options mentioned above will be quicker and easier. However, if you would like to clean up pages with Pocket, here’s how… First, click the Save to Pocket extension, and from the drop-down menu click the “three dots” button and choose “Open Pocket”. This will open the Pocket website in a new tab with a list of your saved articles. Click on the article you just saved to view it in cleaned up format. You can also click the “Aa” button on the top right corner to change the font size and color scheme for the article.

Here is what the web page looks like when cleaned up with Pocket:

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8) Announcify
Chrome Web Store link

link

Announcify is really billed as a text-to-speech extension which will read webpages aloud for you (similar to SpeakIt! and other such extensions). However, it also cleans up the webpage while it is reading it aloud, so it could be considered an option. The only oddity, which you may find as a positive or negative, is that Announcify blurs out all of the text except for the paragraph currently being read. The student can click the forward and backwards arrows in the floating menu on the left to un-blur each paragraph in the article one at a time. This extra step may be confusing and time consuming.

Here is what the web page looks like when cleaned up with Announcify:

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9) BeeLine Reader
Chrome Web Store link

link

BeeLine reader is a really great extensions, that I would love to place higher on the list because of its functionality. However, the free version only allows you to convert five articles per day. For those five articles though, it works very well. Simply click the extension and the webpage will be reloaded in a cleaned up format. As a useful bonus, Beeline Reader also applies a color gradient to the page text to guide your eye from one line to the next. If you click the extension again, you can also adjust the color themes for the text and the background.

Here is what the web page looks like when cleaned up with BeeLine Reader:

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10) Read&Write for Google Chrome
Chrome Web Store link

link

The last extension to cover is one of my favorites. I have mentioned Read&Write for Google Chrome many times in my blog posts as it is a tool with a multitude of functions. However, like BeeLine Reader it has a free version and a paid version. Unfortunately the option to clean up webpages is part of the paid version. As a teacher you can register to get the full version at no cost, but your school would have to buy licenses for your students to use the tool. To clean up a webpage, click the Read&Write extension and then click the “Simplify page” button on the right end of the toolbar. A new browser tab will now open with just the text of the article. As a bonus feature though, you can click the plus and minus buttons at the top to summarize the article and reduce its length.

Here is what the web page looks like when cleaned up with Read&Write for Google Chrome:

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Bonus

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As a bonus update, it turns out that the folks who used to make Readability are back with a newer and better version called Mercury Reader. It is an excellent tool that works very much like Readability, doing a great job cleaning up a webpage for easy reading. You can install it through the Chrome Web Store with the link below.

 

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