New Javascript Tool Takes Aim At Web-Site Readability

May 25, 2009

90% of the Web is words, words, and more words. And yet it isn’t a very friendly place for quiet, prolonged reading. That’s a problem this blog means to attack.
So naturally I take special notice of sites or products promising “Readability”.
Recently, on web-standards guru Jeffrey Zeldman’s blog there was a post which mentions briefly, in passing, “Arc90’s awesome Readability plug-in”.
A readability plug-in? Awesome? Then I noticed there was also a mention on web designer Jeremy Keith’s blog, too.
So this I had to see.
Report: It turns out “Readability” is not actually a plug-in or an add-on. As it’s currently designed it’s what’s called a JavaScript Favelet or Bookmarklet. What happens is this:
On the download page, you choose from certain pre-defined formatting options and there’s a box with some sample text that shows you how those options behave.
Then, when it looks right to you, you can save the result as a Bookmark. You do this either by right-clicking the Readability button and selecting “Save As Bookmark” or by dragging the button up to your Bookmarks menu.
You then have a Bookmarklet (or Favelet) named Readability in your Bookmarks or Favorites menu.
From then on, when you go to a site and you’d like to focus in on just the main article, without ads or other distractions, you can click on the Readability bookmark and that’s what you get: just the article, formatted according to the selections you made back at the download page when you created it.
(Tip: You can make and save different versions of the favelet by playing around with the settings and saving each variation under a different name, like: Readability-Newspaper, Readability-eBook, etc…)
Check it out:
Readability Favelet
In other words, it works kind of like an ad-blocker on steroids, filtering out everything but the text of the main article.
After playing around with it for awhile, I can tell you that you’ll see mixed results depending upon the page, and the browser you’re using.
But still, it’s a nice try and still under development.
In a few weeks, I’ll be returning to take another look. No stranger to creating Favelets myself, I’ll analyze exactly how Readability Favelet works under the hood, how it does what it does, and how it compares with alternate style sheets and FireFox Add-ons.

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