Monday, March 11, 2013

Tools for Screen Reading

In "How to read a computer screen: the latest tools to ease on-screen reading",  Nick Blackbourn suggests some applications to make web pages and PDF documents easier on the eyes. Some of my techniques for reducing eyestrain:
  1. Tune your spam filter for less to read: I pay to filter my email for me using the SpamAssassin Spam filter, as well as use the filter in the Thunderbird email reader. As a result I have a lot less email to read. As well as cutting out get rich quick schemes, it also filters out a lot of badly written media releases. ;-)
  2. PDF to text: When commenting on long PDF documents I copy the text and paste it into a plain text file, then add my comments there. Some documents are unreadable when reduced to text, in which case I don't bother reading them. If it is an important document I will reply to the author explaining why their document is unacceptable.
  3. Web Pages with No Style: Some web pages have so much formatting they are hard to read. For these I set "View > Page Style > No style" in my browser and the document is reduced to one column. If the document is still unreadable I don't read it (and might explain to the author why).
ps: Occasionally I will get a badly formatted document which has useful content. So I publish my own simply formatted summary of the document, for the benefit of other readers and as an example to authors. In some cases a web search will direct people to my summary, rather than the original document, because the search engine software (like human readers) can't make sense of the original.

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