Google Chrome: Reading Mode for distraction-free reading announced
Google announced the upcoming release of Reading Mode in Chrome today on the company's The Keyword website. Reading Mode is a distraction-free option to access text content in the browser. Chrome removes most elements of a webpage that are unrelated to the actual text content in reading mode, improving accessibility in the process.
Veteran Chrome users may wonder how that mode differs from Reader Mode, which Chrome has supported since 2015. Reader Mode was never enabled by default in Chrome, but users may enable the mode by setting the Enable Reader Mode flag to enabled on chrome://flags/#enable-reader-mode.
This particular Reader Mode optimized the actual webpage for reading when activated. It works well on some websites, but not on others. Here on Ghacks, Chrome displays not a single word of the actual article when Reader Mode is enabled.
Other browsers, including Brave with its Reader Mode feature and Mozilla Firefox's Reader View features, offer a much better experience.
Chrome's Reading Mode feature
Chrome's upcoming Reading Mode feature replaces Reader Mode in the browser; this is not the change change that is coming to the feature.
One of the main differences between the two modes is that Reading Mode displays the content of the webpage in Chrome's sidebar. The actual webpage is displayed next to it. It is unclear why Google made the decision to display the full webpage and the distraction-free text version side-by-side in the browser.
Advertising could be an explanation. Google earns most of its revenue with advertisement, and part of that revenue comes from websites displaying Google ads on their pages. Reading Mode removes advertisement and other unrelated content from articles, and Google might fear that this could impact its bottom line.
Chrome's new Reading Mode works a lot better than Reader Mode. It displays articles on Ghacks fully, and it includes a number of tools and options to adjust the appearance.
Users may change the font and font size of the text, switch to another theme, including dark mode, and modify line height and letter spacing.
Google is testing the feature in development builds of the Chrome browser already. Interested users may activate the new mode in the following way:
- Load chrome://flags/#read-anything in the Chrome address bar.
- Set the experimental feature to Enabled.
- Optional: Enable chrome://flags/#read-anything-with-screen2x to improve the feature with machine learning.
- Restart Google Chrome.
Reading Mode may then be activated through the web browser's sidebar. Click on the sidebar icon in the Chrome toolbar and use the main menu to switch to Reading Mode.
One interesting feature of Reading Mode is that it syncs automatically with the active webpage. Follow a link on the main webpage and the new content is automatically displayed in the sidebar. Similarly, following a link in Reading Mode will load the webpage in the main pane of Chrome as well.
Google Chrome's Reading Mode feature is not as accessible as that of Brave, Firefox and other browsers. Google, for instance, does not indicate if Reading Mode may be used to display the article. It is possible that such an option will be introduced before the release in Chrome Stable.
The display in the sidebar is also unusual, and it remains to be seen how popular that option is going to be.
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