PostHeaderIcon Text View

For we news and politics junkies, much of our web surfing is in pursuit of interesting articles to read. We are interested in the text itself, not all the distracting animated graphics, advertisements, photo albums, and other inducements to keep one clicking up advertising revenue for the site. I do have sympathy for their motive, and understand why they tend to break up longer articles into several page views; but I just don’t have time for game.

One of the reasons I came to prefer my iPad for news and commentary surfing, was the availability of popular apps that allowed one to create a reading list for later viewing offline, and a ‘text’ mode, which combined multiple page articles into just one continuous single column text file, without any extraneous graphics (although some can be configured to include inline pictures, graphs, and videos that were part of the article itself). The colors, font type and size, the margins to establish column width, and day/night mode, etc. are configurable. I couldn’t live without them.

The two most popular were ‘Read-It-Later’ (now called ‘Pocket’) and ‘Instapaper.’ I have both; but generally settled on Pocket, because it had a add-in for Firefox on my Windows machines, which is kept in sync with my iPad by their server. I can trash the article after reading it, or save it in my archives. These utilities are so popular, that a native reading list and text view are now part of mobile Safari and some other iPad browser apps.

When on the first page of an article, all one need do is tap the ‘text’ button, and the rest of the site disappears, leaving only the complete text of the article in an easily scanned, newspaper-like, column down the middle. This, of course, could be zoomed to full screen width for tired old eyes, by simply double tapping on it. Marvelous! For those articles I wanted to read right away, and doubted that I would wish to archive, this became my standard procedure. I have been spoiled by Safari having it, and wish Firefox did too.

Thus, when I acquired my new Windows 8 laptop, with the maxed out 4th Generation i7 processor, 8 GB of ram, and 1 TB hard drive, with super graphics card’s HDMI output plugged into a 27″ touch screen monitor, I had a few problems trying to turn it functionally into a 27″ iPad. For instance, the double tap in Windows is generally the same as a double mouse click, rather than a zoom command. This is understandable, because with all that screen real estate, one would rarely be interested in zooming a column to full screen, and if one did, pinch to zoom works quite well. Generally, however, it is only the text font size that I would like to increase. If done by expanding a column full screen on a 27″ widescreen monitor, one could wear out one’s neck swivel.

This led me to discover some of the marvelous tools Windows 8 offers for the visually impaired. (gulp! I’m officially now a gimp! Rather late, I have discovered that Windows 7 has most of them too.) I also installed a couple of compatible add-ins for Firefox, which elegantly regulate the zoom levels and minimum text sizes, both on a global and site specific basis. They work really well, and I wish I had found them years ago. (if interested, ask me for the particulars) With my visual experience optimized, I still wished for the convenience of that ‘text’ button.

My Pocket add-in includes a right-click context menu command for ‘send to Pocket’ which is simplicity itself for building myself a morning newspaper, from Drudge and other aggregation sites; but when I want to read something right away, using it just to generate a text only view, requires a multi-step process that is somewhat cumbersome and time consuming for just a quick read. I have found an alternative, which is almost the equivalent to the Safari command. It turns out that Instapaper also has a Firefox add-in, which puts a button on the add-in toolbar.

While on an article’s first page, all one need do is tap (or click) on this button, to immediately open a text view of the whole article, in a new tab. Having both views open gives one the opportunity to watch videos and see what else interesting the site may have to offer; but for actually reading the target article, the text view cannot be beat. It is the best of both worlds, and I highly recommend both the Instapaper and Pocket add-ins for Firefox. ◄Dave►

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