How to add Safari’s Reader function to Android for clutter-free mobile browsing

As much as I like Google’s(s goog) Chrome browser for Android, I still can’t fathom why there’s no simple function to show just the content of a web page. Apple’s(s aapl) iOS has this feature, it’s called Reader, and it’s outstanding. While on any web page, you just tap the icon on the left side of your address bar and the page is instantly transformed into only the text and relevant pictures of the page. No ads, no pop-ups, no sidebar images, nothing.

safari reader

I’ve actually recommended a Chrome extension that does the same — it’s called Evernote Clearly — however, it only works on the desktop version of Chrome. So this past weekend, I had an epiphany: Why not try using a method similar to Clearly but on Android’s mobile version of Chrome? The good news is: I found a way.

I remembered that Readability offers a bookmarklet to do exactly what Clearly does. Bookmarklets are small bits of code that are applied to the currently shown web page, which is the exact situation here: I want to transform the current web page on Chrome for Android so that it just shows text. Here’s how to do that:

  1. Using Chrome for Android, navigate to the Readability bookmarklets page. You should see three different bookmarklets. Tap and hold the first one called “Read Now”. You should see a pop-up menu of options. Choose the “Copy Link Address” option, which will store the bookmarklet code in memory.
  2. Next, create a bookmark to this page. If you’re not sure how to create a bookmark, just navigate to any web page in Chrome and tap the star icon that appears in the top right menu of Chrome. You should see this screen:
    Read bookmarklet
  3. Edit the Name of the bookmark. It can be anything, but I recommend something that’s quickly accessible from the keyboard. I named mine *read. You’ll see why I chose to start the name with the asterisk sign shortly.
  4. Next, edit the Address option of your bookmark by deleting the current URL and pasting in the bookmarklet link you saved in step 2. You’ll see some messy code here because you’re actually pasting JavaScript. Don’t worry.
    saved bookmark
  5. Click the Save button to save your bookmark in the Mobile Bookmarks section.

That’s it. You should be all set to clean up the clutter from a web page. To test it out, just navigate to any web page that has a decent amount of content; preferably one that also has ads and other distracting bits. Here’s an example of a long, current New York Times article, complete with ads, trending stories and more.

NYT clutter

To de-clutter the page, just tap in the address bar of Chrome and the Android keyboard should appear. Swipe your finger from the ?123 key to the asterisk key and Chrome should show the *read bookmark; tap it and Readability will convert the page to this; a much easier page to read.

NYT declutter

This should help explain why I chose to name my bookmark *read: It’s a simple shortcut that’s quick and easy to tap on the keyboard.

Note that Instapaper also has a bookmarklet to accomplish the same thing. If you prefer, you can substitute that JavaScript in step 1 above. I like how Readability offers the page reading time but it’s a personal preference, of course. Regardless of the service you choose to clean up the reading experience, both have an option to save the page offline. That way you can read the content in either the Readability or Instapaper app or on the web in a browser.