Make web pages readable to avoid eyestrain

For many of us eyestrain is a very real problem when using the computer. The average Joe spends a whole lot of time online, and after a while the white backgrounds begin to glare back at us and text begins to run together.

The best way to cope with this is to get up from the desk periodically and change visual and mental perspective. Go outside for a few minutes if possible, or at least do something else around the home or office. Play with the dog, talk to a coworker. Relax your mind and your eyes.

But another way to relieve eyestrain is by making the pages we read easier on the eye. Most people assume that web pages are what they are and nothing can be done about them. But that’s not true.

The easiest thing one can do is change the size of the text. This is usually available in your browser’s View menu. Another thing you may be able to do, a bit deeper in your browser’s Options, is to change the default font to something designed for better screen readability. I suggest you give the font Verdana a try, as it was specifically made for this purpose.

If you’re more technically inclined, and use a more configurable browser than Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, you can create your own CSS style sheet file and use it to determine not only font, but background colors and much more. You actually will be rewriting the page you are viewing as it loads. And what’s more, you can use custom CSSes for individual Web sites.

Some browsers, such as Firefox and Chrome, make this easy through the use of extensions such as Stylist and Stylish. In the Opera browser, the user only has to manually point a Web domain to the desired CSS file for the same effect.

But if invoking style sheet is more than you want to get into, there is another class of helpers that will enable you to change Web page appearances in a big way. These are JavaScript bookmarklets.

It simply works like this: you save the style sheet bookmarklet to your browser’s bookmarks bar. Whenever you reach a page whose appearance you want to change, you simply click that bookmarklet icon, and the page is redrawn according to your specifications.

For instance, here is a shot of a recent article on this blog:

And here it is after I clicked the “r1” con on the extreme left of my bookmarks bar:

Big change, right? Not only are the fonts easier to read, I have chosen a pleasing background color. And side columns are now hidden. You will find that this will kill a lot of busyness and advertising when you’re surfing.

This all began years ago when people began writing simple bookmarklets to change single elements of the page design, such as font or background color. But then a couple of years ago the people at ArcSoft came out with the Readability bookmarklet, which changed several elements at once. And they added a user configuration panel so you could decide which changes you wanted to make.

This was a great idea, and naturally got picked up by others, such as the guy who makes the CleanPages extension for Opera, so now there are a handful of solutions, each approaching the challenge in slightly different ways.

Currently, the one I recommend is the Readable bookmarklet at TastefulWords.com. It’s extremely easy to set up and use, and has many parameters that can be configured. And being a bookmarklet, it has the advantage of being usable in many different browsers. Just go to the site, run through the options, and then save the button to your bookmarks bar. You can even go through the process several times for different effects, saving a new icon for each one, and then choose which one you want to invoke at any time.

It’s not hard to do, and your eyes will thank you for it.

Be blessed,

Paul

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