Three great ways to make reading the web on your Mac easier

Most people spend a good amount of their time online reading. What you might not realize is your mac has some built-in features that can make the reading experience so much better. Here are three simple ways of making reading easier using tools that are already built-in.

Reader

The Safari web browser has a built in feature called Reader. Reader will become available when Safari notices you have loaded a webpage with an article or news story in it. When Reader is turned on it pulls out just the text an images related to the article and hides the rest, giving you a distraction free reading environment.

1. Visit your favorite news website and click on an article you are interested in.

For example I visited the blog TUAW which I check out frequently. Scrolling down I found this neat article on the upcoming iOS 7 and clicked on it.

2. Click the blue "Reader" button at the top of the window and to the right of the website address.

When Safari is able to identify the article content on a webpage the "Reader" button will turn blue. If the "Reader" button is not blue then make sure you are viewing the articles page and not the websites main page, click the article headline if you are not sure. Reader might not be available on all news websites and blogs.

Close up of the Reader Button with an emphasis on the blue color. 

3. Move your cursor to the bottom of the page to adjust the font size, email, or even print the article.

Somedays I love to make the font nice and big so I can lean back are read comfortably. Reader also gets rid of all the extra junk on the page when you want to print an article out, although sometimes the images print larger than I would like.

Screen shot of the Reader mode showing the control bar at the bottom of the window.

Resize any webpage with a keystroke

Reader might not work on every webpage but this next trick will. This one couldn't be simpler and will make the content on any webpage larger and in most cases easier to read.

1. Hold down the Command (⌘) key and press + or - to increase or decrease the size of the webpage.

Screenshot showing the TUAW article magnified to a very large size.

Make your Mac read to you

Mac's have been coming with text-to-speech built in for a very long time but most people I talk to don't know how to use it. All you need to do is turn in on in your System Preferences and setup your own keyboard shortcut. Starting in Mac OS Lion (10.7) Apple even added the ability to download dozens of high quality voices in a variety of languages and accents.

1. Go to System Preferences -> Dictation & Speech (or simply Speech on pre-10.8 Mac's).

2. Click on the "Text to Speech" tab.

Dictation & Speech System Preferences Panel with the Text to Speech Tab highlighted. 

3. Choose a voice from the "System Voice" pull down menu. Click Play to preview your voice selection.

If you are using a Mac with Mac OS 10.7 (Lion) or higher you'll see a "Customize" option. Choosing Customize will take you to a menu with a large selection of world voices and accents. Click the checkbox next to the voice's name then click "OK" to download the new voice. Keep in mind digital voices can be a couple hundred MB each, which can add up quick.

Select Voices window with list of several voices

4. Click the Checkbox next to "Speak selected text when the key is pressed."

5. Click the "Change Key…" button. A window that says, "Set a key combination to speak selected text" will appear. Press a combination of keys like Command+Option+Control+S to set your keyboard shortcut.

As the window explains to create your keyboard shortcut you will need to press and hold one or more modifier keys (like command, shift, option, or control) and then press another key (like a letter or number key).

Set Keyboard combination prompt window.

6. Open a website or document, select some text, and try out your keyboard shortcut.

Now that you have your shortcut key selected you can use it over and over again anywhere you can select text.

Extra Credit

  • On most new Macs with a trackpad you can also pinch with two fingers to zoom in and out in Safari.
  • In Safari you can set a minimum font size for websites by going to the menubar under Safari -> Preferences and clicking on the Advanced Tab.