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How to automatically enable reading mode for specific sites in MacOS Safari

If you regularly view certain sites in reading mode, Safari has a feature you'll want to start using immediately.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Reviewed by Emery Wright
Woman working on a laptop while sitting at a wooden desk next to a window.
Justin Lewis/Getty Images

The idea behind Reading Mode is simple: To make otherwise busy web pages considerably easier to read. Everyone has experienced those sites before, the ones that often make it hard to read content because of ads, poor layout/design, or simply too many distractions. That's where Reading Mode comes in. By stripping away everything but the content you want, Reading Mode vastly simplifies the experience.

I've often run into sites that render pages nearly impossible to read. Either a poor layout or a plethora of ads drag the web browser to an unresponsive halt so even if the page layout was fine, I still couldn't read what I came for. It's frustrating and often causes me to avoid those sites altogether.

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Thankfully, most web browsers now include Reading Mode as a standard feature, so when you come across a page you want to read but (for whatever reason) can't, you just flip on Reading Mode to get rid of the distractions. Once in Reading Mode, the only thing that displays is the content you want.

With most web browsers, you have to manually turn on Reading Mode case by case. With Safari, however, you can enable certain sites to automatically switch to Reading Mode, so you never have to worry about doing it on a page-by-base basis. I've found this to be a great option, especially for sites that tend to render Safari unusable. 

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One thing to keep in mind is that when Reading Mode is enabled for a site, it doesn't automatically switch the entire site. Instead, it will automatically open pages within the site in Reading Mode. However, if an external link directs you to the site you've enabled, the page will automatically open in Reading Mode.

For many, this feature is quite handy. For others, it will be a must-use.

Let me show you how to enable automatic Reading Mode.

Enable Reading Mode for a site

What you'll need: The only thing you'll need is an updated version of the Safari browser. I'll demonstrate this on a 13-inch MacBook Pro with an Apple Silicon M1 chip.

1. Open a site in Safari

The first thing to do is open Safari and then open the site you want to add to automatic Reading Mode. One thing to keep in mind is that you can only add sites to automatic Reading Mode that are already open in tabs. If you know there are a number of websites open in tabs, you can select any of those for Reading Mode.

2. Open Settings

With Safari open, click Safari in the menu bar, and then click Settings.

The Safari menu drop-down.

Accessing Safari Settings from the Menubar.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

3. Enable websites for Reading Mode

In the Settings window, click the Websites tab and then click Reader in the left sidebar. You should see a list of currently open tabs, each of which will have a drop-down where you can select either Off or On. Scroll through that list of sites until you find the site you want to enable for automatic Reading Mode. 

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Click the drop-down and select On for the site you want to enable. Continue going through the list until you've added all the sites you want to enable. Once you've added a site, it will be listed at the bottom of the pane, under Configured Websites.

The Reader section within Safari Settings.

Enabling Reading Mode for sites is done in Settings > Websites > Reader.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

What sites look like in Reading Mode

Any site you enable for Reading Mode will be stripped of everything but the relevant content (text, images, links, etc.) and nothing more. In this mode, pages are far easier to read and, even better, if you need to print those pages, you won't waste ink printing extraneous elements. 

A sample ZDNET article in Reading Mode.

Reading Mode makes content very easy to consume.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Reading Mode is a great option for anyone who wants a distraction-free experience on a website. If you find the content on particular sites to be overly challenging to consume, let Safari help you out by stripping away everything you don't want.

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