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What just happened? Those who have been waiting for an official reading mode to come to Chrome can finally celebrate, though it's not what you might expect. As with other browsers' versions of this mode, it's designed to make reading webpages easier by removing all distracting elements, such as videos. But while its rivals' modes convert an entire page, Chrome's reading mode appears in a customizable side panel.
An official reading mode for the Chrome desktop browser and ChromeOS was one of several education-focused features Google previewed at BETT 2023. Rather than stripping a page down to its basic text to make it easier to read, Chrome's take is in the form of a customizable sidebar that replicates a copy of the currently viewed page, minus certain elements.
Launching in version 114 for Chrome and ChromeOS, reading mode lets users customize different aspects of the text, including spacing, font size, typeface, and colors. The background colors can also be changed to enable a dark mode that makes reading easier on the eyes. The panel itself can be resized, too.
By making the reading mode a separate panel alongside the original webpage, users will be able to see elements such as videos and images on one side while reading the stripped-down text on the other. And from Google's point of view, it also allows the company to keep serving ads to people while reading mode is activated.
Google writes that it partnered with schools like the Landmark School and nonprofits like Understood.org to design and pilot reading mode and other features, designed to aid the one in five children in the US with a learning and thinking difference like dyslexia and ADHD.
"Reading mode lets users create a customized reading experience. It makes reading more accessible for millions of kids with dyslexia and other learning differences. And it gives parents and educators a powerful tool to support struggling readers," said Nathan Friedman, Co-President at Understood.org.
Other Google announcements at BETT 2023 include the rollout of 13 new Chromebooks with bigger screens, more storage, and longer battery life. Check out our top laptop picks, including the best Chromebooks, right here.
Reading mode will arrive in Chrome 114, set for launch on May 24, 2023.