10 Apps & Sites That Bring Back the Joy of Reading

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6. Reader and Reading List in Safari

As I mentioned above, Apple used the free parser developed by Readability to add a text-only reading function to Safari a couple of years ago. That wasn’t an earthshaking event, since Safari has such a tiny share of the desktop browser market—around 6 percent, by most estimates. But it became a bigger deal when Apple introduced iOS5, the newest version of its mobile operating system, and ported the same features to the mobile version of Safari, which is the default browser on the iPhone and the iPad.

In effect, anyone with an iOS device has free, built-in access to a system that replicates many of the functions available from Readability, Instapaper, and Read It Later. But there are a few interesting differences. First off, the Reader function in Safari only becomes available once a Web page has fully loaded in the browser window. At that point, clicking the Reader button (at the far right end of the address bar) brings up a pop-up window with the clean version of the text—“sans ads or clutter,” in Apple’s words. It’s not actually a fully decluttered experience, since the browser chrome and a grayed-out version of the original page are still visible behind the parsed window, but it’s close. (I suspect that Apple stopped short of the full Instapaper treatment in order to sidestep accusations that it was costing publishers page views.)

If you just want to save an article for later reading, you can do that using the bookmarks button, which includes a new “Reading List” area. When you retrieve an article from Reading List, Safari grabs the classic Web view, and you can toggle back into Reader view if you like. So, overall, Apple’s system involves a little more back-and-forthing than the other reading systems. There’s no way to default to the minimalist view—but that’s understandable, since building that function into a browser would provoke a full-on revolt from publishers.

Next app: Reeder.

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Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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