Chrome is finally getting an official reading mode, but it’s weird
Among the most well-known browsers, Chrome’s held out on offering a proper reader mode. Firefox, Edge, and others have long included an official way of displaying webpages as basic, easy-to-read text and and images, but not Chrome. Unless you were willing to dig into its flag settings to activate a hidden Reader Mode, you had to accept exactly what websites served you.
But with the recent announcement of a forthcoming Reading Mode, Chrome finally is joining the party. Well. Kind of. As you might have guessed from the wording, Reading Mode is not quite like other browsers’ Reader Mode.
This new feature is a customizable sidebar and part of Chrome’s updates geared at education. Launching in version 114 for Chrome and ChromeOS, the sidebar loads a second copy of the open page that lets users strip away distracting elements. You can kill images and video as well as adjust other visual elements like typeface, font size and spacing, and the colors of the text and background.
But unlike a traditional Reader mode, the sidebar does not spans the full width of a page, as it does in Edge or Firefox’s reader modes. As an education tool, this difference may be more functional—reading from the pared down version of the page while still seeing its original form could help with processing the information—but for those seeking a simplified, more book-like experience, Reading Mode is still not quite the desired feature. In fact, this mode stems from Chrome’s Read Anywhere mode, which first appeared last year, rather than the hidden Reader Mode. The latter, which launched in 2019, is still considered experimental. With the upcoming release of this new Reading Mode, it could remain in in purgatory for awhile longer (if not forever).
Reading Mode begins its rollout in Chrome 114 on May 24, 2023. In the meanwhile (or if it’s just not what you wanted), you can enable Chrome’s buried Reader Mode by typing chrome://flags into your browser, then searching for “reader mode.” On webpages compatible with Reader Mode, an open-book icon will appear to the right of Chrome’s address bar.