How to Use Chrome Reading Mode

September 7, 2023 • Shannon Flynn


Chrome Reading Mode could be the solution to your online reading struggles. Ever tried to scroll through an article online but found yourself caught up in endless ads? Maybe you found a page that looks interesting but has an unusual font. 

In situations like this, a new feature from Chrome can be extremely helpful: Reading Mode. This free feature is available to all Chrome users, but it can be tricky to track down. Our complete guide will show you how to activate and use Chrome Reading Mode. 

What is Chrome Reading Mode

Chrome Reading Mode is a new feature available in Google Chrome that extracts text from web pages into a more readable, distraction-free sidebar. As of 2023, this is still an experimental feature. That means Google’s developers are still polishing it and haven’t made it a default feature in Chrome yet. 

Reading Mode is still available to anyone if you know where to look, though. It’s designed to make web pages easier to read without requiring an extra extension or ad-blocker. In the Reading Mode sidebar, you can change the font of the text, how large it is, and the color of the background. 

It’s worth noting that Chrome Reading Mode is different from the Android reading mode feature available on mobile devices. 

Chrome Reading Mode is designed for laptops, Macs and PCs running the Google Chrome browser. You’ll need to make sure you have the Chrome browser installed and ready to use on your computer to access the Reading Mode feature. If you plan to use it regularly, you can also set Chrome as your default browser with a few easy steps. 

Chrome Reading Mode Setup

The hardest part of using Chrome Reading Mode is getting it set up for the first time. Many people don’t know about Reading Mode yet because it isn’t visible in Chrome by default due to its status as an experimental feature. It is still safe to use, though. It may simply have bugs from time to time while developers finish fine-tuning it. 

Setting up Reading Mode is fairly simple when you know where to look. You first need to navigate Chrome’s experimental features settings, which is not in the main settings tab on the browser. It is accessible by typing “chrome://flags” in the address bar. As you type, Chrome should recognize the address and show a small blue icon shaped like a chemistry flask. 

The “chrome://flags” address should take you to Google’s Chrome Experiments page

The “flags” command in the address bar should pull up Chrome’s official Experiments tab. 

Before proceeding to turn on Reading Mode, make sure you carefully read Google’s warning about their experimental features. Reading Mode is relatively harmless, but other experimental features may have a more significant impact on your Chrome experience and security. Google does not advise administrators or businesses to use experimental features. 

The Experiments page shows a variety of available and unavailable experimental features. Use the search bar at the top to quickly find Reading Mode. Once you locate it, select “Enabled” from the dropdown menu and you are ready to go! 

The Experiments page should show you a prompt explaining that you will need to relaunch Chrome for the new feature to activate. Go ahead and relaunch the browser using the button on the prompt. It should reopen Chrome with all of the pages you currently have open. 

Once you relaunch Chrome, you can try out Reading Mode. Find a website with some text on it, like this page. In the top left corner of your toolbar, right below your minimize/window/close buttons, you should see a button that looks like two rectangles pushed together. This is the sidebar button. 

Select the sidebar button to view your different sidebar options. In the dropdown menu, one of the options should now be “Reading Mode”. When you select it, it will turn the sidebar into a text-only space where you can read this page or any other distraction-free. 

Some tools at the top of the sidebar allow you to customize your Reading Mode experience. You can change the font, choose a background color and adjust the font size to make it easier to read. If you hover over the left border of the sidebar, you can also make it wider or narrower if you want. 

How You Can Use Chrome Reading Mode

Now that you have Chrome Reading Mode setup and ready to go, you can use it anytime you want a streamlined reading experience. You might still be wondering what Reading Mode is for, though. 

Reading Mode was originally designed as a feature for students and teachers, announced in March 2023. Anyone can use Reading Mode, though. Check out a couple of main use cases. 

Minimize Distractions

Everyone knows the feeling – you’re trying to read an article online but ads and popups are making the text virtually unreadable. Ad blockers can help with this problem, but they require extra extensions and take ad revenue away from creators. You can use Chrome Reading Mode as a creator-friendly alternative. 

Reading Mode allows you to read through a page while eliminating distractions. This is great for people who live with ADHD, ADD or other attention-related conditions. It is also helpful for quickly reading a page without getting sidetracked by ads and links to other articles. 

The ability to minimize distractions is especially helpful when you’re working or studying. It allows you to concentrate on the text alone so you can focus on what you’re trying to read. 

Make Pages Easier to Read

It’s an unfortunate reality that a lot of pages online aren’t well-designed. Maybe a page is using a font that’s too big or too small or simply distracting. Maybe the page’s HTML needs some work, making it buggy or slow. 

Chrome Reading Mode is handy in situations like this. You can extract the text from the buggy page and read it in the well-functioning sidebar instead. 

This is also helpful for people with dyslexia or vision challenges. A lot of fonts make pages unnecessarily difficult for these people to read. With Reading Mode, they can choose a more comfortable font and adjust the size to maximize readability. This makes the Internet more accessible for everyone. 

What’s Next for Chrome Reading Mode?

Chrome Reading Mode is still an experimental feature. So, its capabilities and availability are somewhat limited in 2023. The next big milestone for Reading Mode will be its graduation from experimental status. As of 2023, Google has not yet announced when Reading Mode will become a standard feature of Chrome. 

Beyond that, it would be nice to see Google add a text-to-speech option to Reading Mode. This might be possible with the help of Google’s growing AI capabilities. It would further expand accessibility and convenience in Chrome. However, there is no word yet about when or if such a feature will be available.