Readability on the iPad

I bought an iPad recently, mostly because many of our customers in the video production field seem to be finding them useful for all kinds of things. I couldn't really see why I personally would want one very much since any time I would use an iPad I could probably just as easily use a laptop. But I was completely prepared to be convinced that it is as cool as people say.

And mostly I like it. It's got a nice form factor, it's surprisingly snappy for surfing the web, it's a great ebook reader, etc. Dropbox has a very nice iPad app that makes accessing files on my other computers pretty easy. I still haven't found the killer feature that makes it indispensable, but it's growing on me.

There are only two things so far that are bugging me. The first is the whole model of getting files onto the iPad. It is based on synchronizing with a single computer via iTunes. But I want to put movies onto it from one of several computers around here where they are being produced. The only way seems to be to pick one computer as the master for sync with the iPad, copy all the movies onto that computer, import them into iTunes and then sync. Ugh. It's baffling to me why it has to be this inconvenient.

The other minor annoyance is the readability of the browser. This may seem ungrateful of me because Safari on the iPad is surprisingly good as is. It's fast, you can resize it easily and quickly with a multitouch gesture and it's just all around quite beautiful.

But often, once I've found the page I want to read, I don't want to have to resize it and move it around to get it framed just right on the screen. It would be much better if there were a button that I could press to reformat the main content like an ebook. Thanks to the Readability™ tool, you can get pretty close to just that. There are just a few little steps to get there. :)

The general idea is that the Readability tool is a bookmarklet that needs to be added to Safari. Here's how. (Thanks to Ken Clark for explaining how to get bookmarklets on the iPad.)
  1. Go to the Readability site using a browser on your computer. (I used Chrome on a PC.) Set up the options. I used the following: Style=Newspaper, Size=Extra Large, Margin=Narrow.
  2. Drag the Readability badge to your bookmark toolbar to create a bookmarklet there. Edit the bookmarklet, copy the text of its URL and get that to your iPad. You could mail it to yourself, for example, and read the message on the iPad. I used Dropbox.
  3. On the iPad, copy the text to the clipboard.
  4. Open Safari and click the "+" to bookmark any page. Change the name of the bookmark to Readibility and save it in the Bookmarks Bar.
  5. Go to the Bookmarks manager, navigate to the Bookmarks Bar and click Edit. Paste the text into the URL field of the Readability bookmark.
To use it, open any page that you want make more readable. Go the Bookmarks manager and click the Readability bookmark. It will take a few seconds to reformat the page (it has to fetch some CSS from the Readability site, etc.) but after a short pause you will have a wonderfully readable page.

Here is a movie review from The New Yorker as displayed on the iPad. (Click the image to see a full-size version.)

And here it is after applying the Readability bookmarklet.

Update: It works on the iPhone too. I'm still experimenting with the best settings.

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