Thursday, April 5, 2012

Readability: An Alternative to Safari Reader for Google Chrome Users

The title of this blog post is intentionally misleading: Readability, in fact, was the project that "inspired" the Safari Reader. Nevertheless, many OS X users start using Safari as their first browser and, when switching to other browsers such as Google Chrome, tend to thinking that Safari Reader was the first implementation of such an idea.

Google Chrome has been experiencing a rapid growth since its inception and I recognize it's a great browser that shines, above all, for its speed. However, I never really switched away from Safari for the same reason I haven't switched away from iChat, iCal or Mail, either. Which one? Because of its tight integration, even across multiple Apple devices.

However, running multiple browsers side by side poses no problems and it's pretty common nowadays (most web developers are compelled to do so while testing their applications). Despite being a strong Safari user, Chrome is the browser I use while accessing Google's own services (such as Google+, GMail, Calendar and Blogger).

When Safari Reader made its appearance, I wasn't really impressed and wondered whether I would really use it. I was wrong. I find it's very useful. Not only to actually read a cleaned-up version of a web page (many websites already provided a specific CSS for printing that you can use for this purpose). Safari Reader lets you convert its output to PDF (using the standard OS X print dialog) or send that PDF by email with just one click.

Safari Reader - Toolbar

When I started using Google Chrome, the Reader was the feature I missed the most.

Readability

Readability is a Chrome extension that provides Reader-like features to Google Chrome. In fact, as stated earlier, Readability is the project that inspired Safari Reader (sometimes, though, inspirers are more obscure that fine-tuned copies). To install readability, just open the Chrome Web Store, search for Readability, and install it:

Chrome Web Store - Readability Application

Once you install it, it will be immediately available without even restarting your browser.

You can access the Readability features by using its icon in the Chrome toolbar or using one of its keyboard shortcuts (more on this later).

Chrome Toolbar - Redability icon

Clicking the Readability icon will open its main menu and you soon realize that it offers more than the Safari Reader does: you can Read Now (the equivalent feature of Safari Reader), you can Read Later (Safari also offers this: it's called Reading List) and you can Send to Kindle.

Redability Menu

In this post we will only focus on the Read Now feature. Here's the same New York Times articles as shown by Readability:

Readability

In my opinion, apart from correctly displaying far more pictures than Safari Reader does (as well as some ad too), Readability produces better-looking previews of most web pages I visit.

The features that the "preview" window offers are superior to Reader's:
  • You can print the article (and produce PDF files).
  • You can tweak the page appearance.
  • You can send the converted article by mail.
  • You can share it on social networks (Twitter and Facebook are currently supported).
  • You can produce a short URL to it.

Small Glitches on OS X

I don't know how many OS X are really affected by this issue (given their historic idiosyncrasy to using the keyboard :), but Latin languages speakers (such as Italian and Spanish) surely are.

First of all: the OS X keyboard shortcut to cycle between the windows of an application is ⌘-` (Command-`). Guess which is the default keyboard shortcut that Readability assigns to some of its functions? Yes, you're right. The ` character.

I really don't know what the developers were thinking about when they chose this character. They surely aren't Latin languages speakers, otherwise they would have devised how often this character is used. And they surely aren't Mac users either, otherwise they would have realized how annoying it is, too.

Don't worry, though. They're really easy to change. Just right-click over the Readability icon and choose Options. In the configuration window, just assign the keyboard shortcuts you like or do as I did: disable them all.

Readability - Keyboard Shortcut Configuration

Conclusion

This blog post is not about which browser you should use: it's your choice and, as I stated, you can run multiple ones side-by-side. However, many Safari users switching from Safari often look to alternatives to the Safari Reader as well.

If you're using Chrome, you're lucky because the Readability extension provides the same features provided by the Safari Reader (and even more). Moreover, in my opinion the layouts produced by Readability are superior and far better looking than those produced by Safari Reader. You'll be surprised.

3 comments:

Leon Victor said...

Seem really like, using safari great toolbar it is..

Audentity said...

The Readability extension is also available for Firefox.

Thomson said...

Hi,
As you said readability feature is very useful, we can email the webpage we want to use it later, even I use this and recommend to my friends always.