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Is there any service enabling a "Reading mode" for Chrome across devices?

Usability concerns

The possibily best solution would be a bookmarklet. Due to same-origin constraints, it cannot load external scripts, which is why the forked Readability bookmarklet does no longer work. Neither does Readable, which was suggested in an answer.

On mobile, not all webpages are viewed in the browser directly. In these cases it would be useful for the solution to be accessible through the system-wide "Share" menu.

Browser extensions would be possible on Desktop, but come with major caveats.

  • Privacy. Browser extensions have been known to get sold to or hacked by malicious companies, and thus to turn into spyware without warning, to the point that bloggers recommend against using any, if possible. A reader-mode extension needs full access to all websites, hence they are among the extensions most vulnerable to just abuse.
  • No mobile support. By their nature, extensions don't help on mobile devices, where Chrome doesn't allow any.
  • Invisible distractions. Some extensions (Just Read, Purify) have been suggested. Both provide a more readable overlay over the original article, but don't replace it. As a consequence, some intrusive practices are not prevented by them -- such as CPU heavy ads, which for fairness sake I do not want to block wholesale with an adblocker.

Reference solutions, and why they don't apply.

On iOS, Safari provides a reading mode, that strips articles to the bare basic for distraction-free reading. As a bonus, it also works in apps like feedly that open an in-app Safari overlay.

Chrome on Android now implements a reading mode. Like with safari, it is offered for Chrome Custom Tabs too. Which would be great, if its heuristic agreed with me on which webpages need it. As it is, it is useful when it is offered, but it isn't offered half the time, and even inconsistent within articles of the same webpage.

Chrome on iOS devices and Windows PCs has no reading mode at all out of the box.

Why ad-blockers don't cut it.

Leaving aside the ethical conundrum of depriving websites of their income, ad-blockers don't affect non-ad distracting design choices, such as

  • Side-bars. Often with navigation elements and links to other articles of the website.

  • Overly wide lines. If columns are too wide, more frequent loss of the vertical position adds distraction.

  • Small font size. (especially on mobile); Zooming in results in horizontal scrolling, which is about as badly distracting as it can get. Some webpages even disable zooming in by using a meta-tag.

  • Floaters. Elements with a fixed on-screen position, that often significantly reduce the effective screen size and force distracting clutter into the field of view. Typically used as navigation bars (a less intrusive example being used here on stackexchange too), for social media "share" widgets (especially useless on mobile, where we have a share menu anyway), and some of the most intrusive ads (adblockers may end up blocking the content, but not the floater itself). These are typically implemented with the CSS setting position:static.

  • Javascript scroll bars. A lot of webpages have started overriding scrool bars in favor of a reinvent-the-wheel solution. The result often shows unexpected scrolling behavior (different scroll speed, enforcing smoothing scrolling on desktop), and is frequently laggy.

Existing extension-based solutions

Some Chrome extensions (Just Read, Purify) have been suggested.

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I recommend the Just Read extension by Zach Saucier (he's active on Stack Overflow and Graphic Design as well), available for Chrome at https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/just-read/dgmanlpmmkibanfdgjocnabmcaclkmod?hl=en

It is open source, actively developed, and also has a premium version with even more features.

Just Read's description:

With one click (or less!), you can remove distractions like:

  • The page's styling
  • Ads
  • Popups
  • Comments

And read the article in a customizable, simplified format - like a read mode but better! No login and completely free!

Users can:

  • Use the default theme
  • Modify the default theme using a graphical editor or CSS
  • Use a theme someone else has made (found at https://goo.gl/Z59SM4 )
  • Use their very own custom styling
  • Auto-run Just Read format on specific sites
  • Auto-enable fullscreen when Just Read is started
  • Use a keyboard shortcut to run Just Read
  • Print the custom-styled version of the article
  • Use the selection mode to choose exactly which text they want to select for reading
  • Use the deletion mode to remove any unwanted content after selection
  • Edit incorrect meta information generated
  • Control which options Just Read uses

View the plugin's code and full details on GitHub:
https://github.com/ZachSaucier/Just-Read

Disclaimer - I know the creator personally

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    I was using it before, but at the time it didn't sync settings. This apparently has been changed in the meantime. It does however come with a serious limitation: While it reformats the page, it keeps the original running unchanged behing the reformatted pane. As a result, it doesn't prevent the onslaught of running ads from making laptop fans spin like crazy (thanks to how javascript affects Intel's turboboost). For that I have my own bookmarklet though, so, I'll give it a try again. Doesn't help on mobile though. Nice detail: The creator has posted an answer too :) – kdb Oct 6 '18 at 11:31
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Try Readable. I am on mobile so can't easily write a full answer, but I think it meets your requirements.

  • The website doesn't work, because cross-origin constraints prevent it from loading external libraries. Even when downloaded as a local HTML file, with all javascript files stored locally, it isn't allowed to load them... – kdb Oct 6 '18 at 11:24
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    I got it to work, by displaying the local HTML file, with all resources downloaded locally, through python's minimal webserver. But the bookmarklet still doesn't work, again due to cross-origin constraints. A bookmarklet cannot depend on any external resources sadly. – kdb Oct 6 '18 at 11:25
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    I reached out to the creator yesterday about it no longer working. We'll see if he responds. – Zach Saucier Oct 6 '18 at 12:10
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One potential extension to try is Purify. It is a Chrome extension available here: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/purify/kjiappjpfpaekdfeioanaphpihpojemc

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