I often read relatively long news articles or essays online, from blogs and from the websites of newspapers and magazines, and I am a big fan of readability. Clicking on the previous link takes you to a page where you choose the page width and font size and type that you prefer, and you get a button that you can drag to the link toolbar of your browser. Instead of being a link, however, it’s a javascript application that, when clicked on, clears up the page you are reading of all the junk. Only the text and (quite impressively) the right pictures stay. If your article spans multiple pages, and you need to click to advance to the next page, the application is usually able to collect all the pages together. Try it on an article in the New York Times web site, and be in awe as all the clutter disappears, or try it on a post in the complexity blog, and get away from the green background and from the comments.

Of course, for all I know, the application also collects all your passwords and sends them to a server in Russia, but I doubt it. Talking about losing all your password, I was shocked when I realized that, in Firefox, if you go to Preferences->Security->Saved Passwords, it gives you an option to show all the saved passwords in the clear. I can’t imagine any circumstance in which this would be a useful feature, and I can certainly imagine a lot of circumstances in which this is a terrible thing. If you “set a master password,” then it won’t show the saved passwords unless one enter the master password, but then one has to also enter the master password all the time, defying the purpose of saving passwords in the browser in the first place.

I found out about readability from instapaper, which I also like very much, but that requires some set up (signing up, downloading the iphone app) and makes sense only if one reads long online articles fairly often, while I think that readability is useful for everybody. Readability is also available as a Firefox add-on, but I much prefer the simplicity of dragging a button from their site to the toolbar.

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