How to Use Safari’s Reader

Every so often I show my Mom something on her iPad (or her iPhone, or her Mac) and her reaction is incredibly enthusiastic. Actually, sometimes it’s more along the lines of “I wish you’d shown me this before.” Either way, when that happens, I write it up for everyone. This is one of those times.

Safari’s Reader feature has been around for a bit but since Mom didn’t know about it I’m assuming that there are at least a few others who don’t know about it too. In a nutshell, it makes web pages easier to read by eliminating the ads and other distractions. It’s available on the Mac, on the iPad, and on the iPhone. It makes a huge difference in readability, especially on the iPhone. You really ought to try it.

Here’s an example of a web page on the iPhone, in the normal view:

Here’s the same page, after clicking the big grey “Reader” button at the top of the page:

Which would you rather read? Of course you’d rather read the second one. It’s a million times more readable. Note the buttons at the top for changing the font size and for sharing the page by email or printing or Twitter or whatever. There’s also a “Done” button which takes you back to “normal.”
Interestingly, the Reader button is blue when using Safari on a Mac, while it’s grey on the iPad and iPhone. Double-interesting: when Reader can’t figure out which part of a web page is the “real” content, it disables itself… and on the Mac, it indicates “I can’t do this in Reader” with a grey button while on the iPad and iPhone, the button simply doesn’t show up. Just to confuse things more, when you’re using Reader on the iPad, the button turns purple, and you tap it again to turn leave Reader and turn the button grey. Save us, Jony Ive.

Interface inconsistencies aside, Safari’s Reader is a fabulous feature. You should try it.

BONUS: you’ve probably had to deal with stories on the web that are split into multiple pages, such as the one shown below (with the “next page” buttons highlighted). This screenshot is from an iPad.

Sites that cut their stories into pieces that way do it because it gives then another chance to display ads, which means money for the site. It also means it’s more difficult for you to read because you have to read-click-read-click-read. Safari’s Reader feature takes care of sites like that by “reading ahead” so that page 2 follows page 1 without a click.

Here’s how it looks in Reader:

Did I mention you should try it?

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4 thoughts on “How to Use Safari’s Reader

  1. This really is a great feature. Thank you. I hope future Safari can improve it for use in every site since there are a few sites which it doesn't support

  2. Reader works best on sites where it's clear what the "main" story is. It's not so good (and the Reader button won't even appear) if Safari can't figure out what is "main" and what is fluff.

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