3 Simple Tools to Optimize Online Reading


We live in a digital age where information is abundant and readily accessible. Such availability comes with a price though. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. And it’s much easier to skim through heaps of information without learning anything or enjoying the experience.

To avoid the traps of overwhelm and aimless browsing, we need to be clear about what we want to read and how we can do it with ease.

Today I want to share with you some of the tools I use to make online reading more efficient, effective and enjoyable.

You might be familiar with some (if not all) of these tools. If you’ve been using such apps, I would love to know how they’ve impacted your reading. If you’re not familiar with them, give them a try. I hope you’ll find them useful.

3 reading tools


The above is a screen capture of my browser showing the bookmarklets (links to apps) I currently use.


This simple app removes the clutter/ads from an article and allows for distraction free reading. You can customize the font, color and layout and then drag the bookmarklet to your browser.

Once you open an article, click on Readable button and it will format the page for you. It’s the best app to read blog posts.

You can also use it with Google RSS reader to transform an article to the format you’re used to. It works perfectly.

Using this app will help you focus on your reading. The added space and customization will reduce eye strain and possibly increase your speed.

Instapaper – Read Later

This is one of the most useful tools for reading. Instead of jumping from one article to another—especially when you’re checking links on twitter or facebook, you can click on the Read Later bookmarklet and save the article for reading at a later time.

Reading is more pleasurable with Instapaper. You access your account to read—and do nothing else.

Instapaper is easy to use and has useful features. You can read the article in simple text format without having to visit the original publisher. You can also archive your articles or create a publication to read on the go.

Print Friendly

Print Friendly cleans up articles and formats them for printing. It gives you the option of printing on paper or creating a PDF file. I love the PDF feature.

I use it to create PDF files of articles for research or study. Once you save the PDF file you can move it to your smart phone or tablet or keep it on your computer. You can read and annotate without having to be online.

If you use the above tools for reading, consider the following two apps for organizing your notes and links.

2 organizing tools


It’s a very popular note-taking tool. As you read and find something you want to use or refer to again, highlight the section and click on the Clip to Evernote bookmarklet. The application will save your notes in your Evernote account.

Evernote is a great tool to capture text and images. I personally use it for blog post ideas. Whenever I have an idea, I write it down in Evernote. You can use it for learning, recipes and ideas—your imagination is the limit.

You can use the app on your computer, online and on your mobile device. Your info synchronizes seamlessly.


I use delicious for bookmarking pages that I want to visit again. It’s very simple to use. There were rumors of it shutting down. This has not materialized yet. In case the service gets discontinued, you can always export your bookmarks to another service.

If you’re not too keen on using Delicious, you can use Google bookmarks, Yahoo, or your own browser. The most important thing is to set a purpose for bookmarking.

Bookmarking is useful for sites you want to visit frequently or for in-depth research on a certain topic. For example, I use Delicious to bookmark investment research sites, local attractions and government resources.

Whenever you visit a web page that you want to bookmark, click on the Delicious button in your browser to add it to your bookmarks (Google and Yahoo offer their own bookmarklets). Use tags to sort your bookmarks. You can also add notes to each link.

Having your information organized and accessible online and in one place makes it easy to get on with your reading and research.

A final word about using any tool or program: the tool itself doesn’t do anything on its own. What matters is how you use it. Consider the following guidelines to maximize your use of tools.

General guidelines

1. Set a time for reading.

Don’t read whenever you see something worth reading. Set a time for reading, and make it sacred. Read without distractions or multitasking. You will benefit more from your reading, plus you’ll enjoy it more.

2. Perform regular maintenance.

Clean out old stuff from your Instapaper and bookmarks. If you use email or an RSS reader, clear them too.

If you save PDF to your computer or phone, delete old stuff on a regular basis.

I usually clear my Google Reader and Instapaper accounts once a week and go through delicious bookmarks every three to four months. I remove the PDF files once the project is completed. If it’s something I want to keep, it gets filed in a documents folder after I’m done with it.

Clearing old stuff creates space for new reading and reduces stress over items that haven’t been processed and that are not that important to you.

3. Keep it simple.

Keep all of your reading in one place and all of your bookmarks in another. Have a purpose for every tool you use and don’t use it for anything else.

If you use Evernote for taking notes, don’t copy stuff to text files or bookmark the same sites in another app. You’ll complicate things—needlessly.

A word of caution about Evernote: if you don’t pay attention, you can end up with a boatload of information that you may never use. Organize your notes and know why you’re keeping stuff.

The fewer tools you have the better. If you don’t need a bookmarking site, don’t use one. If you read articles on the same day and don’t need to use Read Later, don’t use Instapaper.

Reading is one of the simplest and most pleasurable experiences in life. To enjoy your reading, make it personal. Try the tools above; use what works for you and let the rest go.

Happy reading!

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