How can I improve my computer screen reading experience?
November 18, 2013 11:00 AM   Subscribe

I do a lot of proofreading for work, but it's a struggle compared to proofreading hard copies. I already use f.lux to cut down on eye strain, and browser plugins to make text more readable, but I find I'm still straining to keep my eyes from bouncing all over the place. Help!

I don't understand it -- I can read the teeniest, tiniest type on newsprint, but even magnified computer screen text is "slippery" to my eyes and brain. I am nearsighted but my glasses don't help with this problem. Is there anything else I can do?

(I use Windows, by the way).
posted by overeducated_alligator to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe try a tablet or e-Reader? I have a much easier time reading on a tablet than I do a computer screen. It could be that the text is further away on a screen, subtly causing you to lean into the display, or your angle of view, which you have a lot less control over and no way to change with a computer display, is not relaxing for reading long passages.

Also, I don't know if F.Lux controls brightness or just color temperature, but if it doesn't do the former, there's a reasonable chance your display is too bright.
posted by cnc at 11:20 AM on November 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

1. Have you tried the Readability browser extension? It makes text much more readable, in a style that's optimized for most readers.

2. What about the Stylish browser extension? You can pick styles made by others, or create your own styles.

3. Do you have font smoothing turned on? (Go to Control Panel and type ClearType into the search box). Note that some applications use their own font smoothing so you need to adjust each app's settings as well.

4. Have you done monitor calibration to make text look more like printed text?

5. Is your monitor in the optimal position, both height and distance-wise?
posted by rada at 11:29 AM on November 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

How's your ambient light? If you're in a bright room, you might do better in darkness, or vice versa. Changing the position, angle, and distance of your monitor might help, too.
posted by Sullenbode at 11:29 AM on November 18, 2013

A few things that I found help with computer reading.

- The suggested display. (There is no large display except for the quite old Kindle DX).

- IPS LCD monitor. (I am on the computer at work all day and this helps immensely).

- If you can read on a tablet, "retina" screens are nice for reading on. (ie iPad retina, Nexus 10, Nook HD+, Kindle HD/X 9")
posted by wongcorgi at 11:32 AM on November 18, 2013

Echoing Sullenbode, I've heard it can be better if the background light behind the monitor is a similar level to what's coming out of it. (i.e., sometimes having extra light shining on the wall behind the monitor may be helpful.)
posted by spbmp at 12:52 PM on November 18, 2013

Maybe you're already doing this, but it helps me to force as much on-screen text as I can into the same couple of fonts. I've picked a proportional font and a monospace and set my browser to use these all the time. Then I carried those settings over to other software as much as possible. My eyes get used to reading a consistent font, and the shape of words stays consistent, and my brain has to do less work.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 1:17 PM on November 18, 2013

Agree on the IPS monitor. If you've been living with a standard TN monitor, going to IPS or MVA/PVA is a major improvement.
posted by Standard Orange at 4:52 PM on November 18, 2013

Computer eyeware might help.
posted by Dansaman at 6:07 PM on November 18, 2013

All of these are great suggestions, but I figured I'd pop in with something from a more typographic angle. All else being equal:
  • Larger, serif fonts will read better than smaller, sans-serif fonts.
  • Shorter line-lengths (i.e. the length from left margin to right margin) read better than long line-lengths.
  • Left-justified text reads better than fully justified text, at least when it comes to on-screen typography.
  • Text with about 1.2-1.5x spacing between lines (or leading) will read better than text with 1x spacing between lines or too much (2x+) spacing between lines.
  • Reducing the contrast between the text and the background will help reduce eyestrain. Typically this is accomplished by making the text a very dark grey (like around 90-95% black) and the background a light grey or off-white. F.lux should be helping with the worst of this already, though.
If you're able to control those parameters in whatever you use to read documents, great! If not, it's possible to do a few things to get closer to that, depending on what software you use. If you primarily use a web browser, the above-mentioned Readability and Stylish extensions should help. If this is primarily for Word documents, you can try changing the layout to "Web mode" (that's the button with the page behind a globe icon, or View > Web Layout), using the zoom slider to get the font at a comfortable size, and then narrowing the word window to get the line-lengths right. It should look something like this when you're done.
posted by Aleyn at 1:22 AM on November 19, 2013

Shorter line-lengths (i.e. the length from left margin to right margin) read better than long line-lengths.

I want to point this out. When I read on my computer screen, I un-full-screen the software (Word, browser, etc) and size it to about the width of a paperback book.
posted by CathyG at 11:35 AM on November 19, 2013

Response by poster: Follow-up here.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 11:56 AM on November 26, 2013

« Older Should I give my baby the same name as my cousin's...   |   mineral rights Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.