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How to enable and use Google Chrome's Reading Mode

If you're a Google Chrome user and you'd like to add a reading mode feature, here's how you do it.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Reviewed by Min Shin
Person using a laptop
PeopleImages/Getty Images

Reading Mode has become my best browser buddy. With it, I can see through all the noise and get to the heart of the matter… reading the content I want and not getting taken down by distractions or ads that bring my browser to a crawl.

Sadly, not every web browser offers a reading mode enabled out of the box. And even once enabled, some reading modes aren't nearly as good as others. From my perspective, the best Reading Modes are Firefox and Safari

Also: How to add reading mode to your Android devices (and why you should)

If you're a Google Chrome user, you're not totally out of luck. Although it falls well behind the competition in usability, the browser does have a Reading Mode -- you just have to enable it. And that's exactly what I'm going to show you how to do.

For those who don't know, the purpose of Reading Mode is to dismiss all of the extra bits on a page and display only the relevant content. This makes the web exponentially easier to consume.

With that said, let's get to Google Chrome.

How to enable Reading Mode in Chrome

What you'll need: This trick can be accomplished on any Chrome-based browser (such as Opera). So, all you need is a running instance of Chrome or a browser based on Chrome. 

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I will demonstrate this on Chrome running on Ubuntu Budgie, but the operating system doesn't matter. The only constraint is that this doesn't work on the mobile version of Chrome, so you're limited to the desktop.

1. Open Chrome

The first thing to do is open your Chrome browser.

2. Open the flags page

In the Chrome address bar, type chrome://flags and hit Enter on your keyboard.

The Chrome address bar.

Go to chrome://flags to access the heart of Chrome configurations.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

3. Search for Reading Mode

In the Search field, type reading mode. 

Also: Too many Google Chrome tabs open? Here's how to take back control 

Then, hit enter on your keyboard.

The Chrome flags page search field.

The Chrome search field is not case-sensitive.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

4. Enable Reading Mode

In the Reading Mode listing, click the drop-down and select Enabled.

The Chrome Reading Mode option.

Enabling Reading Mode from the enable/disable drop-down.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

5. Restart Chrome

At the bottom right corner of Chrome, click Relaunch. Once Chrome restarts, Reading Mode is ready to go.

How to use Chrome's Reading Mode

Chrome's Reading Mode isn't exactly like other browsers. Instead of a single click of the Reading Mode icon (as it is in Firefox and Safari), here's how you use it.

1. Open a page to be read

Point your browser to a page you want to read, such as How to easily install a cloud service at home in an hour or less

2. Open the sidebar

Once the page loads, click the sidebar icon near the top right of the window to open the sidebar.

3. Select Reading mode

From the drop-down in the sidebar, select Reading mode.

Switching from Reading List to Reading Mode in Chrome.

The sidebar icon is directly to the left of the profile icon.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

4. Highlight the text to be read

In the page you want to read, use your cursor to select the text to read. 

Also: I spent $130 on these reading glasses and can never go back to cheap readers 

It will automatically populate the sidebar, where you should be able to more easily read the content.

The Chrome Reading Mode in action.

It's not the best Reading Mode on the market but it works.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

And that, my friends, is Google's answer to Reading Mode. No, it's not the best option available, but if Chrome is your browser of choice and you want to work with Reading Mode, this is what Google has to offer. If you find the built-in Reading Mode to be less-than-ideal, you can always install and use the free version of the Reader Mode extension to get you by until Google takes Reading Mode seriously.

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