Google’s side panel Reading Mode has been a work in progress for a while. It serves the purpose of simplifying a web article or page, making it more readable by stripping away ads, images, and videos, leaving just the text. Previously, users might have had to access this feature through the developer flags under the tag “Read Anything”.
The Reading Mode offered a range of options for customizing the reading experience – from text formatting to color adjustments. However, in a move that caught many by surprise, all these settings were tucked into a single cogwheel icon. Leopeva64 had earlier flagged this update on “X”, highlighting how options like font size, font family, color, line height, and letter spacing were now all bundled inside the settings icon on the left side of the panel.
Thankfully, in that version, once users clicked any option from the cogwheel, the dialogue box remained open, allowing for multiple changes without the need to repeatedly access the cogwheel.
This condensed design, however, did not sit well with many, myself included. I described it as horrendous, and others seemed to agree, hoping that Google would revert it. The crux of the issue for me personally was the reduced ease-of-use, even if the intended purpose might have been to create a more “distraction-free” environment or create a space for the audio mode that just arrived.
In an interesting turn, recent observations by Leopeva64 on Twitter, or “X” – see above – suggest that Google has indeed heeded these critiques. At the very least, they happened upon how bad an idea this was on their own. The Reading Mode settings have now been brought back from the shadows of the cogwheel, making them more accessible and user-friendly.
On a related note, some users have commented wishing for an even more immersive Reading Mode – one that would replace the entire web page view rather than being confining to the side panel. I currently have no reason to believe Google will do this, but I agree with those sentiments.