Q. Is the Reader button in the Safari browser the same thing as an ad blocker?
A. The Reader mode, built into Apple’s Safari browser since 2010 and available on macOS and iOS, strips away web advertisements and the page’s navigational design to present an article’s text and basic images in a clean and uncluttered format. However, Safari’s Reader mode is not in the same category as a dedicated extension that stops ads from downloading and displaying on the page.
Instead, when you click the Reader button in the Safari address bar, the program analyzes the page for article text and relevant images and puts a reformatted version onto a separate layer on top of the original web page. When Reader displays a page, you can print or email the streamlined version. (Not every webpage is compatible with Safari Reader, and the mode doesn’t work on home pages with links to multiple articles.)
In the latest iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra systems, you can also set the browser (or certain sites) to always open in Reader mode, by pressing the Reader button in iOS or right-clicking the Safari address bar in macOS to get to the controls. In recent versions of Safari, you can customize the look of the Reader mode by clicking the double-A icon on the right side of the address bar and choosing your preferred font and background color.
Safari is not the only browser with a reader-friendly mode. For example, Microsoft Edge and Mozilla Firefox include similar tools, and browser extensions like the Mercury Reader for Google Chrome can also give you a distraction-free reading experience.
Personal Tech invites questions about computer-based technology to firstname.lastname@example.org. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually.