Reading onscreen material as efficently as offscreen
April 17, 2009 3:14 PM   Subscribe

How do I read online material more efficiently?

I remember reading an article once saying that people will read information on a screen worse than they will read information on paper. Apparently, when one reads information on a screen, they'll be more prone to skim it. And I have all reason to believe this is true. With a book, or a paper article, I'd never think of skipping large sections. Yet when I read material online, somehow my eye just skips past large sections of text. I'm sure I'm not alone in this problem, and I'm sure I'm not alone in the desire to NOT have this problem. Has anyone conquered this and found a way to keep their mind on material written on a computer screen? What techniques did you use to conquer the tendency to skim?
posted by Bleusman to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I use Tofu (the software, not the food), which splits text up into nice columns and makes long articles much easier to read on the screen.
posted by gyusan at 3:26 PM on April 17, 2009

Note on Tofu from gyusan's link: Requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later.
posted by marsha56 at 3:53 PM on April 17, 2009

I use Readability, a bookmarklet that reformats web pages with long passages of text into something a little easier on the eyes.
posted by emelenjr at 4:53 PM on April 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The resolution on a screen pales in comparison to paper, an until electronic paper comes of age, we're all going to have to suffer through skimming online.

As for how to improve that, I also use Readability mentioned by emelenjr. The new fonts created by Microsoft utilizing the ClearType technology (Calibri, Cambria, etc.) were created with readability in mind. And of course, if you're using Windows, turn on ClearType.
posted by adverb at 6:12 PM on April 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

If I'm reading on the browser, I find just resizing the window horizontally to make the lines shorter works for me. Also, try resizing the fonts for comfort.

Then, of course, killing IM etc. blinking attention-grabbing things help as well.
posted by phax at 2:14 AM on April 18, 2009

Another idea, if the topic is important try printing it out. It is the only way for me to do serious reading/editing...
posted by mateuslee at 2:52 AM on April 18, 2009

Best answer: I do / use the following tools/ideas;

Firefox ctrl + / ctrl - to size web page content (excellent alternative add on available called Zoom level)

Use Autohotkeys with tailored script to copy paste to other apps as required; say OneNote

Remove ads using Firefox adblocker add on(s)

Force background change or font change for things as required when able (People using 'busy backgrounds with illegible text etc)

Use FF Markup add on to highlight sections on pages that remain through departures/visits until I delete them

Use snagit to catch sections as jpegs for presentation/flashcard type learning or rote repition tasks

...and so on.

Figuring out the right tool/combination of tools relative to the subject is paramount and nothing is better than playing with stuff to figure that out.
posted by DrtyBlvd at 9:06 AM on April 18, 2009

Shameless self-plug: a Greasemonkey script I wrote for my own use, EasyRead, creates a small box in the lower righthand corner of a page. Click it once, then click on one or more paragraphs in the page to make the text more readable (larger black text on a white background, instead of that godforsaken #666 tiny text).
posted by Deathalicious at 10:29 AM on May 12, 2009

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