The Chrome browser for Android is full of hidden features. Some will eventually become a major part of the browser; many will remain hidden, accessible only by enthusiasts and power users. The awesome Reader Mode feature will almost certainly end up in the former camp, but for now remains experimental.
Reader Mode works on the same principle as the similar feature built into many desktop browsers, such as Safari on a Mac, as well as that in popular bookmarking apps like Pocket or Instapaper.
In simple terms, Reader Mode strip away all the formatting and excess functionality on a webpage to present the main content in an easy-to-read form.
Essentially, it turns the content you’re reading into a kind of ebook, and is ideal for longer posts.
Setting up Reader Mode on Chrome is a straightforward process, although it does involve rooting around in a part of the app that you may never have known even existed. This is called Chrome Flags, and is the home to Chrome’s many hidden features.
No technical knowledge is needed, though, and your device does not need to be rooted. You will just need to ensure that you’re running an up to date version of Chrome, so head over to the Play Store to check for any updates.
With that done, let’s begin.
Find Chrome Flags
Open Chrome and tap in the address bar. Instead of typing a URL for a webpage, type chrome:flags to launch the experimental features screen.
You’ll now see the Flags screen—a long list of available settings accompanied by a scary warning about how that may or may not work.
Scroll about halfway down the list until you locate the option labelled Enable Reader Mode Toolbar Icon. Below this tap Enable (you’ll see that it has been done when the option turns to Disable. You can use this to disable the feature in future).
Using Reader Mode
Exit and relaunch Chrome and navigate your way to a page that contains a large amount of text.
Not all webpages are compatible with Reader Mode, or indeed suitable for it, but where they are you’ll see an A icon in the toolbar at the top of the browser screen.
When you see this icon tap on it. Within a second or two the page will reload showing just the text from the main part of the page.
Links will still work, and some images will be loaded. You can also copy text to paste into other apps.
To exit Reader Mode simply tap the icon once more, and the original page will be reloaded.
Reader Mode is a great hidden feature in Chrome, and one that we’d expect to see become a part of the main browser in future. Until then there’s no downside to leaving it activated through Chrome Flags.