How to enable Google’s clever new Chrome Reading Mode right now

Look, this is slightly awkward, but I’m not gonna sugarcoat it: Reading stuff on the web these days can be a pretty painful experience.

You know what I’m talkin’ about, right? (Insert awkward pause here.) On most modern websites, you’re bombarded with an army of over-the-top pop-ups, promos, and other assorted ads every time you try to open up an enticing article. (Insert awkward eye-darting here.) Media is a business, of course, but still: As a mere mammal trying to ingest interesting info, it can sometimes get to be a bit much. (Insert forced awkward smile here.)

The business part is what makes the whole thing especially tricky — ’cause for better or for worse, online publications and the lowly internet scribes who power ’em rely on revenue from all that advertising in order to exist. That means if you use some sort of aggressive ad-blocker, you’re hurting that company’s odds of survival and potentially also jeopardizing the content creators’ ability to earn a paycheck.

But fret not, my friend, for Google’s got an awesome new answer for us. It’s a smart system that empowers you to view a sane, sensible, and dare I say even enjoyable version of any web page you’re viewing. It’ll be free from ads and other distractions and optimized for easy reading. It’ll even be customizable, if you’re feelin’ fancy and want to take control of exactly which fonts, colors, and spacing settings are present. And despite all of that, it’ll still technically allow ads to be shown and the page’s full original form to load at the same time, whether or not you actively view it.

Best of all? It’s available on any computer running Chrome this second — if you know where to look.

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Google’s secret Chrome reading mode switch

In a weird but all-too-Googley twist, Google actually announced the new Chrome Reading Mode feature nearly two months ago, back in March. But the version of Chrome that includes it still hasn’t rolled out broadly, which means most of us are still stuck waiting.

That Chrome version is currently scheduled to start making its way into the world next Tuesday, May 30th, for most desktop operating systems — and the following Tuesday, June 6th, for Chromebooks.

But c’mon: We’ve already been waiting two months for this. Who wants to wait any longer?!

Here’s the secret to enabling Chrome’s Reading Mode this second, no matter what kind of computer you’re using:

  • Open up Chrome on your computer.
  • Do a spritely jig and/or yodel merrily in anticipation.
  • Type chrome:flags into the browser’s address bar.
  • Type reading mode into the search box at the top of the screen that comes up.
  • See the line labeled “Reading Mode”? Click the box next to it and change its setting from “Default” to “Enabled.”
  • Click the blue Relaunch button at the bottom of the screen.

And that’s it — you’ve done it! Told ya it was easy, right?

Now, once Chrome restarts, here’s how to find your snazzy new reading setup:

  • Open any article-style web page with lots of text on it — like, y’know, this one.
  • Look for the little side panel icon in Chrome’s upper-right corner. It’s a box with a dark bar on its right side, and it should be at the far right of the address bar area, between the puzzle-shaped extension icon and your ravishing profile picture.
  • Click that son of a gibbon and click it good!
  • Now, in the panel that pops up, click the little dropdown menu at the top. (It probably says “Reading list,” to start.)
  • Select “Reading mode” from the list that appears.

And hey, how ’bout that? You’ve got a clutter-free, distraction-free, nicely formatted version of whatever page you were viewing right in front of you — next to the original.

Google Chrome Reading Mode panel JR

Hang on, though: Before you go galloping off with glee, we’ve got a few important points to take note of within your purty new reading panel. Ahem:

  • First, you can make the panel wider by hovering your mouse over the line between it and the main web page area and dragging that divider to the left.
Google Chrome Reading Mode panel - expand JR
  • Second, you can change the font from its standard default option to something more visually pleasing by clicking on the “Standard font” dropdown at the panel’s top edge.
Google Chrome Reading Mode panel - font JR
  • And finally, you can adjust the size of the text along with the color scheme, the line height, and even the letter spacing to create a delightfully customized view by aping around with the other options in that very same area.
Google Chrome Reading Mode panel - customize JR

And there ya have it: You can now view any article on this rusty ol’ interweb in a way that doesn’t make you want to gouge your eyes out and doesn’t make you feel guilty. And all it takes is one quick click to make it happen.

But wait: What about Android? Oh, yes — we should mention: Google’s new Chrome reading mode panel isn’t presently available on the Android front. But that doesn’t mean you have to suffer.

Android actually has its own reading mode setup, and it’s even more impressive. It’ll work in any app on your phone, not just Chrome, and it even includes a text-to-voice option that effectively lets you transform any article anywhere into your own on-demand podcast.

The only catch is that it’s incredibly out of the way and rarely to never promoted, so you’ve really gotta go out of your way to find it and get it set up. Once you do, though, your Android reading experience will be improved immensely.

So take two minutes to get Google’s official Android Reading Mode up and running next. You won’t regret it.

And if you want even more Googley knowledge beyond that, be sure to sign up for my Android Intelligence newsletter. You’ll get three new things to try in your inbox every Friday and more than a few tasty extras.

Ahh — progress. Ain’t it grand?!

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.


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