Two Must-Have Tools for a More Readable Web
Here's how most folks use the Web. You get a link in email, Twitter, Facebook, IM, whatever and you open it in a new tab.
Then, at some point in your copious free time, and possibly while reading other more pressing things, you'll read these 43 tabs, right? Even better, some of the articles are 8 pages long so you'll load up pages 1-4 and 6 and you don't even know why.
Then, maybe your browser crashes or your system reboots or something locks up or you get confused as to why you wanted to read that in the first place.
This is not cool and I refuse to use the web in this way anymore. Here's what I do.
Consider this new workflow. You'll either Read It Now or Read It Later.
First, Reading Stuff Later
Whenever you find something long that you KNOW you want to read but you just don't have time now, don't open a tab. Save it to Instapaper. I've got a bookmarklet for Instapaper in my bookmark bar on all my computers in all my browsers. This important, hence the bold.
If it's not setup on all your machines in any browser where you might find content, you'll fall back to old habits and not use it. Take the 10 minutes and do it. The bookmarklet even works from within Google Reader. Anywhere you find stuff you want to read later. You can even have your Instapaper queue sent over to your Kindle if it makes you happy.
Lets say I see this article by Phil Haack tweeted. I visit the page and while it looks interesting, he's SO loquacious and I'm busy now. I'll read it later.
I'll click "Read Later" in my bookmarks bar, and I see this notification.
Fast forward some hours. I've got time and I've collected a few interesting bits that I'm looking forward to reading. I visit Instapaper and see this:
There's the articles I've saved lately, with new ones first. It knows what I've read, what I've starred and what's been articled.
Here's an interesting bit, while I can click the link for Phil and visit his site, I don't. I'll click "Text" for Phil's article using a filter. The Instapaper filter is a lot like Readability (more on that later) in that it removes the non-content parts of the article. It also adds a little bar at the top where I can select between readable fonts, change the width, font size and line spacing. Everything here is focused on text and making the content I'm consuming more soluble.
I can of course also read from my phone (I'm working on a Windows Phone 7 version) or whatever device makes me happy. It's the same queue.
Second, Read It Now - with Readability
Sometimes I want to read something right now, but the site I'm looking at is just too busy. Recently I wanted to read this article on overclocking my motherboard. However the site looked like Las Vegas.
I have another bookmarklet called Readability.
There it is...
And as Rob Conery likes to say pressing it "is like closing the car windows while driving on the freeway."
I find that the simple introduction of these two tools, Instapaper for Reading Later and Readability for Reading Now not only allow me to consume and collect MORE information than before, but I'm slightly less stressed out while I'm doing it. Goodbye 43 tabs.