Back in Chrome v39, we got a look at a reader mode not unlike many other mobile browsers such as Firefox. However, it didn't even leave Chrome Beta before getting hidden in the flags menu. Features that were not originally in flags but later moved there tend not to come back. Well, the latest Chrome Dev, v45, features a revamped version of reader mode. Now, on pages the browser decides could benefit from it, it gives a prompt that says "make page mobile-friendly." Tapping on that brings the user to a slightly redesigned reader view, though it isn't described as such anywhere.

chromereadermode1 chromereadermode2 Screenshot_2015-06-27-15-01-04

By default, there is no way to reach reader mode without first being prompted. Let me tell you, I really struggled trying to find web pages that will produce such a prompt. I'm not sure whether Google is being overly conservative at first in showing it or if there is just some bugginess. The first time I went to the Google Doodle page (thanks to our tipster Nicholas who found it there) you see in the screenshots, I wasn't prompted. After restarting the browser, I was.

Once there, you can make adjustments to how things look by going to "appearance" in the overflow menu, seen in the third screenshot above.

Options include changing the background color (white, black, sepia), font (sans serif, serif, monospace), and text size.

You can change the circumstances in which you receive the prompt by going into chrome://flags.

Screenshot_2015-06-27-14-57-39 Screenshot_2015-06-27-14-57-29

My experimentation leads me to believe that "appears to be an article" is the current default and is what you would want if you don't want to see it very often.

"With article structured markup" is likely a reference to the schema.org standard for helping search engines understand what's what. This will result in seeing the prompt in pretty much any situation you might want to use reader mode. I will warn though that several sites never did manage to load correctly for me when viewing in reader mode, which might be why the default setting is so conservative.

If you want a shortcut to get to these settings, just copy and paste this into the Chrome URL bar.

chrome://flags/#reader-mode-heuristics

On current builds of Chrome, only the past implementation of reader mode is present. You can go into flags (#enable-reader-mode-toolbar-icon) and it will show up quite frequently. It looks like this:

Screenshot_2015-06-27-15-41-47

In Chrome Beta, things are mostly the same as Chrome Dev. However, turning it on is a little different and it is by default turned off (that is, "default" means the same as "never"). You have to enable the reader mode toolbar icon just as you would for Chrome stable, but you actually won't see the button, only the prompt. It will just say "Reader view (EXPERIMENTAL)." The wording is also slightly different in the settings.

Screenshot_2015-06-27-16-45-09

Screenshot_2015-06-27-15-41-47

If you want to try things out for yourself, you can go to this Google Doodle page. First, though, you need to enable the "request desktop site" setting. That, without changing anything else on Chrome Dev, should bring up the prompt we've been talking about. There are surely other examples that don't require going to desktop mode, but between how conservative the setting is and how mobile friendly the web has become, I just couldn't find any.

Otherwise, you can dive into the settings and make it appear more or less frequently. With the "article structured data" heuristic enabled, Android Police articles will have that prompt and you can try it out right here. If you have all the right settings and it still isn't showing, try using a new tab and/or closing the app entirely before trying again. They don't call it experimental for nothing, after all!

  • Thanks:
  • Nicholas VanDuzee