Reading The Web

webAdThe World Wide Web has a wealth of information but reading it is becoming more and more frustrating as ads appear all over web pages. Many people have given up even using the web, replacing it with smartphone or tablet apps or social network sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Those who chose to not be chased away from the web have employed ad blockers in their fight against the bloat and distraction of ads. I have not yet installed an ad blocker, but I do utilize a number of tools to make reading more enjoyable.

My desktop browser of choice is Chrome, although I wish it had the reading modes available in Firefox and Edge. You activate the reading mode of both browsers by clicking a button in the browser address bar that removes ads and displays text in a font of a size you specify. Pages seem to load instantly, partly because it has already been retrieved by the browser so it is simply being reformatted. I wish there was a way to make the reading mode a default, or to tell the browser to use it before loading a web page.

I really like Microsoft Edge, mostly because it is noticeably faster than any other browser on my Surface 3, but it doesn’t support plug-ins, which means Lastpass is not available and that renders the browser nearly unusable for me. Even though Chrome is slower than Edge, I still prefer it because of how well it handles the web apps I use.

Evernote’s Clearly extension for Chrome provides the same reading mode built-in to Firefox and Edge, and it has the added benefit of providing a way to highlight text and save directly to Evernote, which is my personal information database. Clearly also works with Firefox.

Another tool I use to read the web is Pocket, which provides a way to save web pages to read later as well as providing a clean reading mode just like those built-in to Firefox and Edge. Pocket apps are available for smartphones and tablets, so I can save pages to read later on any device.

I use the River4 RSS aggregator to retrieve articles from hundreds of web sites and when I find an article that I want to read, I right-click the link and click Save To Pocket. Unfortunately, there is not a similar way to save a link to Pocket in Chrome for Android, instead you have to first load the page then use Android share to send the page to Pocket.

Firefox for Android has a built-in reading list that works like Pocket, and you can tap and hold a link and then tap Add to Reading List. If the Firefox reading-list synchronized between the Android and desktop versions I would probably use it instead of Pocket, and with that use Firefox more than I do today. My understanding is that Mozilla is working on adding the reading list to the desktop version (for a period of time it was included) but for now Pocket is integrated by default.

You can configure the reading list to display by default when you open a new tab in Firefox for Android, which means my reading list is just a tab away. I like the reading list feature so much that Firefox has become the preferred browser on my Nexus 9. I’ve even configured Firefox to be the default browser for Android, and find it to be faster than Chrome on the Nexus 9.

Another way to add items to the Firefox reading list is via the Android share function. For example, in Nuzzel on Android, tap the share button on an article and then tap Add To Firefox. Of course, you can also tap Add To Pocket. I wish Android provided users with a way to sort the order that options appear in the share menu.

It is unfortunate that web content providers have let their desire to monetize make the web horrible for reading. Long time Internet users will point out that what we now have was inevitable as soon as the Internet become available for commercial use. Fortunately, several tools are available that make reading the web better, but I fear we may be in an ever escalating war that will just turn the web into a commercial wasteland.

About Frank

Mobile enthusiast and author
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