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How to use Reader View mode in Firefox (and when you should)

If you're having trouble viewing articles and posts on the websites you enjoy, it may be time to start using Firefox Reader View mode.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Reviewed by Min Shin
Person using a laptop
skynesher/Getty Images

Every day, I go to read an article or a post on a website, only to find a deluge of ads and other features that brings my browser to a screeching halt. I've even had a number of sites hammer my browser so hard with features and ads that it crashes the software. When that happens, I'm hesitant to return to the site.

Also: The best browsers for privacy

But when there's something I really need or want to read that is hindered by too many extra bits on a site, I get around that issue by using Reader View mode on Firefox.

I've already discussed a similar issue in my piece on enabling reading mode for specific sites in MacOS Safari. I greatly appreciate how Apple's browser makes it possible to whitelist sites for Reader Mode such that any time you open a page on a specific site, it automatically defaults to Reader Mode. 

Also: Firefox for Android got an important Android feature: How it could benefit you   

Unfortunately, not every browser is created equal and the open-source Firefox browser doesn't have such a feature. It does, however, allow you to manually switch back and forth between regular and Reader View modes.

Of course, Firefox Reader View mode does have a couple of added tricks up its sleeve. When viewing a page in Reader View mode, you can have Firefox use text-to-speech to read the article to you and you can even adjust the font to make it even easier to read. 

Also: The best assistive tech gadgets 

The one caveat to the text-to-speech is that, depending on the platform you are using, the voice can be a bit hard to listen to. For example, on Pop!_OS Linux the voice is very robotic and almost impossible to understand. On MacOS, however, the text-to-speech works perfectly (with a very pleasing voice). That should come as no surprise to long-time Linux users, as text-to-speech has always been problematic on the platform.

Other than that little issue, Firefox's Reader View mode is an absolute joy for those who want to discard everything extraneous on a page and focus only on the text.

Also: How to customize the Firefox search tool to better fit your needs

How do you use the Firefox Reader View mode? I'm glad you asked because I'm going to show you how.

How to use Reader View in Firefox

What you'll need: To use Firefox Reader View mode, you'll need the Firefox web browser installed. The feature is available for both desktop and mobile versions of the browser and works the same way. The only difference is the mobile version doesn't include the text-to-speech feature or the ability to adjust the text. I'll demonstrate on the desktop version of Firefox (using the Nightly release).

1. Open Firefox and point it to a page you want to view

Open the Firefox browser, go to a website, and then open a page you want to view in Reader View mode.

2. Enable Reader View mode

Once the page loads, you should see a small icon at the right edge of the address bar that looks like a piece of paper with lines. Click that icon to enable Reader View mode for that page. 

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

You'll notice the Reader View mode icon only appears when viewing a page within a website and not the main page for the site.

The right edge of the Firefox address bar showing the Reader View mode icon.

The Reader View mode icon is the first icon on the left.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

3. Enjoy the content

When Reader View mode is enabled, you can scroll through the content, not having to worry all the extras on the site will interfere with your ability to enjoy the content. You'll also notice four icons to the left of the content. Those icons are (from top to bottom): Exit Reader View, Adjust the layout in Reader View, Have Firefox read an article out loud in Reader View, and Add a page to Pocket.

A news article shown in Firefox's Reader View mode.

Once in Reader View mode, all of the extraneous content and features go away.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

4. Click the headphones button to listen to content

If you click the headphones button, a player popup will appear that allows you to control the playback speed and change the voice from the drop-down.

The Reader View mode listen controls.

Controlling playback for listening mode is simple in Firefox.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

5. Disable Reader View mode

When you're done reading the content, you can always disable Reader View mode by clicking the X in the Reader View toolbar, clicking the Reader View mode icon in the toolbar, or leaving the page you are currently viewing.

And that's all there is to Firefox's Reader View mode. This feature makes it very easy to consume content on a site that otherwise makes it a bit challenging. 

Also: What are Firefox Container Tabs and how do you use them?

However, it would be nice if the Firefox developers took a hint from Apple and made it possible to configure sites such that every article opened automatically appears in Reader View mode. But even without that option, the Reader View mode is there to help you read online content more efficiently and reliably.

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