Readable Improves Online Readability

Martin Brinkmann
Mar 16, 2011
Updated • Aug 30, 2018
Firefox, Firefox add-ons

A website's layout, style and formatting may improve or decrease its readability. Black text on a dark background, or distracting menus are just two of the elements that reduce the readability of textual information.

The Firefox add-on Readable, a direct port of the bookmarklet Readable, falls into the same category of tools such as TidyRead, Paragrasp or Readability for the Firefox web browser. The basic principle is always the same.

The script removes elements on the screen that are not necessary to access the core information posted on the website. Or, it extracts the main article or textual content and displays it in its own style that is optimized for reading.

Update: The Firefox extension is no longer available. You can still use the bookmarklet that is linked in the summary box below the article in all modern web browsers though.



Some scripts and extensions do that automatically with barely any configuration options, others like Readable offer an impressive collection of options to create a custom solution best suited for each individual usage scenario.

The Firefox extension places an icon in the Firefox status bar that triggers the action. A click on the icon extracts the main text from the page and overlays a bare-bones version of it on the screen.

The main text, links and images are included in the new version, everything else is removed automatically.

A right-click on the icon opens the configuration menu with options to change the font type and size, the width of the overlay box, the inner margin and the color theme.

It can happen that the add-on is not able to extract the information properly. You can then highlight the information that you want to read first before you click on the icon in the status bar. The add-on will then process only the highlighted parts of the website and ignore all other web elements.

The bookmarklet offers the same functionality. Well, that's not entire true as it lists more configuration options than the Firefox extension.

Among the additional options are the inclusion of video contents, transparency settings, text line height and image alignment.

So what should you use: The Firefox add-on or the bookmarklet? The bookmarklet offers several advantages, mainly better configuration options, the fact that it is not loaded into memory during browser start and that is is compatible with other web browsers as well. The small downside of the bookmarklet is that its configuration page is not that easily accessible.

Interested users can download the Readable bookmarklet from the official website, and the Readable add-on from the Mozilla Firefox add-on repository.

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  1. Ram said on March 17, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    I dislike the floating frame dialog that now appears urging me to use the add-on whenever I use the bookmarklet for the first time. This is due to my clearing all cookies every time I shut down Firefox, but so annoying. WIsh they would stop that.

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