An article from sister site TechRepublic, in Firefox's "Reader View" mode. (Credit: Screenshot: Tom McNamara/Download.com)

You've probably seen a lot of mobile apps adding a dark mode option lately, as it purportedly causes less eye strain at night than the usual bright-white interface. But alongside this is a trend within the web browser market toward streamlining text-heavy web pages for easier reading -- with a dark mode option built in.

Firefox, Safari and Microsoft Edge have sported this feature for some time, while Google Chrome (download for iOS or Android) has been a holdout. But word is trickling down from the Chrome developer team that the Windows and Mac versions of Chrome will be finally be getting a page declutter option of their own.

SEE: Google Chrome Review: How's the dominant king of web browsers holding up?

Google doesn't have an ETA for this update, so don't expect it to be included in the imminent release of Chrome 73. However, one of Download's staff is a regular user of a Chrome browser extension called Mercury Reader, which performs the same function -- though Google's in-house implementation may end up working better in the long run. We'll have to wait and see.

With a reading mode enabled in your browser, everything but article text is stripped away from a web page. Let's take the Reader View for Firefox (download for iOS or Android) as an example. When you load a compatible web page, the address bar will get a page icon at the far right. Click on this or tap your F9 key, and all but the article body disappears.

With the Firefox version of Reader View, the page will show the name of the website at the top of the page as a clickable link, the article title, the author and even an estimated time to finish reading. Images within the article are retained, but everything else is cleared away.

If you want to see the regular version of the page, just click on the Reader View icon again, or tap that F9 key on your keyboard. Either way, be aware that the full version of a web page will be loaded no matter what mode you're viewing it in, so Reader View won't make a web page load faster or use less data. Embedded video clips may also not be cleanly hidden.

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By default, Firefox's Reader View produces black text on a white background, but if you click the "Aa" button to the left when the mode is active, you'll get the option for a dark background, plus the ability to change font size, paragraph width and line spacing. You can also toggle between a serif and sans-serif font.

With Chrome's Mercury Reader add-on, your reading settings are accessible from a gray gear icon that it inserts in the upper-right of the page. Mercury Reader is more limited than Firefox's Reader View, because you can't adjust line spacing or paragraph width, but it should do in a pinch.

Takeaways

  • Various reports indicate that Google is planning on introducing a "reader view" to the desktop versions of its Chrome browser, which its competition has had for some time.
  • Reader modes strip away everything on a web page except for the article and the images embedded within it. This can make an article easier to read and navigate -- and a browser with this mode can also let you display light text on a dark background, which may reduce eye strain at night.

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Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.