No, we’re not talking about extra shoelaces, malaria tablets, or a waterproof matches.
What we are talking about is Reader View, Reading List, and Shared Links.
So let’s forge ahead.
I teach a lot of classes about using the Mac and iOS devices, and this feature may be at the top of the Easily Overlooked But Very Welcome list.
Web pages these days try to be all things to all people. They’re often overloaded with auto-playing videos, rotating ads, crawling text, and other distractions. In the Department of Small Favors, at least the vast majority of them don’t blink anymore. But with a click of the mouse, you can remove those distractions and focus on the content you’re trying to read.
It’s called Reader View, and here’s how it works. (We’re going to use screenshots from a Mac, but the steps are the same on your iOS device.)
Any time a web page offers the Reader View option an icon will appear at the far left end of the Smart Search field.
To activate Reader View click the Reader button. A sheet will appear that will display the contents of the web page in a clutter-free environment.
To change the look of Reader View, click the Format button which appears at the far right end of the Smart Search field and looks like a small A and a large A next to each other.
From this drop down menu, you can:
1. Make the font size smaller or larger
2. Make the background to the text any of four colors
3. Choose from among eight fonts
To go back to the web page’s normal appearance, click the Reader button again.
You’re on the train on the way to work, killing some time by browsing the web. You find links to three different articles you want to read, but the train is about to pull in to your station. What to do?
Enter the Reading List.
The Reading List is like a folder of bookmarks, with a few enhancements thrown in. The primary purpose of the Reading List is to hold a collection of web pages that you plan to read later.
When you add a web page to the Reading List not only can you read it later with a simple click or tap, you can also read it without having to be connected to the internet.
Here’s how to use Safari’s Reading List on a Mac:
- To show your Reading List, click the Sidebar button (if the Sidebar is not already visible).
- Click the Reading List button (the icon for the pair of glasses).
- To add a webpage to the Reading List, move the pointer to the left side of the Smart Search field and click the One-Step Add button when it appears. The web page is added to the top of your Reading List.
Power tip: If you’re browsing a page (say, the New York Times home page) which contains a lot of different links on it that you want to add to the Reading List, you can shift-click the link or drag it to the reading list to add it.
There are a number of things you can do with the list of items:
• To read an article on the Reading list, click it. When you reach the bottom of the article, keep scrolling up to go on to the next article; there’s no need to click succeeding articles in the list.
• To delete an article, control-click it and from the shortcut menu that appears, choose Remove Item or swipe left with two-fingers on your trackpad. You can also clear the list from this menu.
Above the list are a couple of other options:
- Pull down on the list to expose a search field you can use just for the Reading List.
- Click the Unread button to show just the unread items. You can control-click on an item to change its read/unread status.
Just about all of the Reading List features also appear in iOS, but are accessed slightly differently.
To use the Reading List on an iOS device:
1. Open the Safari app.
2. Tap the Bookmarks button.
3. Tap the Reading List button.
4. To add a web page to your Reading List, tap the Share button.
5. Tap the Add to Reading List button. You can also tap and hold any link, then from the menu that appears, tap Add to Reading List.
• To read an article on the Reading list, tap it. When you reach the bottom of the article, keep scrolling up to go on to the next article; there’s no need to return to the reading list and tap succeeding articles in the list.
• To remove an item, swipe left. You can also change the item’s read status here.
• A search field appears at the top of the Reading List, while a button to show only the unread items appears at the bottom of the screen.
One more thing. If you have an iCloud account and you are syncing Safari data, any changes you make to the Reading List (adding, deleting, or reading an item) will be synced to all of your other devices. For example, you can add items to your Reading List using your iPhone on the train to work, and then read them on your Mac at your desk after you arrive.
Right next to the Reading List button is the Shared Links button. So what’s this all about?
The Shared Links list is drawn from your social media accounts (such as Twitter and LinkedIn) and websites that offer a feed that you can subscribe to. (For example, many news organizations offer an RSS feed that will push articles to you rather than you having to periodically visit a news organization’s website to see what is new.)
Any time your Twitter feed includes a tweet with a weblink in it, it will appear here, along with any articles that appear in any RSS feeds to which you’ve subscribed.
To set up a social media feed on a Mac:
1. To show your Shared Links, click the Sidebar button (if the Sidebar is not already visible).
2. Click the Shared Links button (it looks like an @ sign).
3. Click the Subscriptions button.
4. Click Add Account. The System Preferences window will open.
5. Click an account, such as LinkedIn.
6. Enter the account’s user name and password and click Next.
7. Click Sign In.
At the present time, you can’t add accounts using an iOS device.
To add an RSS feed on a Mac:
1. Navigate to a website and click the share button.
2. Click Add Website to Shared Links. (If the site doesn’t have a feed, you won’t see this choice in the pop-up menu.) You can also click an RSS button or subscribe link if one appears on the web page itself.
3. Click Add.
You can disable a social media account (by unchecking its box) or delete a feed (by clicking the remove button next to the feed) in the Shared Links sidebar.
To add an RSS feed on an iOS device:
1. Open the Safari app.
2. Navigate to the website that you believe has an RSS feed and tap the Share button.
3. Tap Add to Shared Links. (If the Add to Shared Links button doesn’t appear, you may have to tap Request Desktop Site and then try Step 2 again. If the Add to Shared Links button still doesn’t appear, then the page doesn’t have a feed to which you can subscribe.)
4. Tap the Add to Shared Links button.
The New York Times home page links will now appear in the feed. From the Subscriptions list, you can turn off social media accounts or delete a feed by tapping its red delete button. The Add Current Site button can also be used to add website feeds.
As with the Reading List, the accounts and feeds in your Shared Links list will sync to your other devices if you have Safari turned on in iCloud settings.
These three tools can make you a more effective web surfer, streamlining the reading process and proactively bringing to your attention things you care about the most. How have you used Reader View, Reading List, and Shared Links to your advantage? Let me know in the comments.