What I made on a Sunday afternoon: Spreed, a speed reading Chrome extension

 

I was annoyed at something: I liked using the speed reading app at http://www.spreeder.com/ to blaze through online content, but I hated all the clicks and copy-pasting needed to do it. When I’m annoyed at something, I see if I can solve it. So I decided to develop a simple speed reading Chrome extension. I had never developed a Chrome extension before (though it’s just javascript + html + css anyways), so this was also a great chance for me to try something new.

7 hours later, I submitted my extension to the Chrome web store. As I receive feedback over the next few weeks and refine my minimum viable product, I’ll post more lessons on what I’ve learned in the process.

15 thoughts on “What I made on a Sunday afternoon: Spreed, a speed reading Chrome extension”

  1. Thank you. Spreed is probably THE best extension for Chrome, in terms of advancing knowledge acquisition at-large. I have one request for improvement, as follows. Please adjust Spreed so that it will split tokens on em-dash into 2 rather than processing them as 1. For example the following “then–the world” should be 3 token not 2. Aside from that, the thing is great. Thanks again.

      1. You deserve them. Enjoy the coffee. I wish I could do more but you need to know the product is awesome. Please consider the “auto break work on em-dash feature” that I mentioned, which might very well make the product (virtually) perfect. Thanks again. — Mark Kamoski

  2. Great extension – I was working on making one like it myself until I saw this (and if the source is available, I’d be willing to contribute, as well).

    I have a few suggestions, though I’m not sure if this is the right place to put them:

    1. When installing the extension, it requests access to “your data on all websites.” There is no need for this, as you are only accessing content on the current tab. You can get rid of this permission request (and ease privacy conscious users’ fears) by only requesting the “activeTab” permission in your manifest.json. It should give you the same functionality, but minus the scary warning.

    2. Something like “characters per chunk” would be more useful than “words at a time” – sometimes you get two really long words, which needs more time to process and is harder to see visually, while if you instead just add words until you hit some character limit, you keep the amount of information at each presentation more constant.

    3. It would be really nice if there were an option to just grab the main content div and read that text, instead of having to select it all. This would be a lot more code, though, probably, as finding the main content div across any site is not necessary easily. I would be happy to help with this, though, if the code were an open project, as I mentioned above.

    4. It would also be really cool to keep track of where the reader is on the original page, and highlight it when the playback pauses, for easy backtracking when necessary. This is another work-intensive one, but again, one that I’m willing to help with if I can get access to the source.

  3. Fantastic extension! Two quick ideas:

    1. Separate hyphenated words into two words. (Or provide an option for this)
    2. On longer words I don’t tend to initially focus on the center of the word – I tend to look at the word about 3 letters in. If the long word is centered I’m actually moving my eyes a bit to the left to identify it and it actually slows my reading speed. If long words were actually off-centered I think I’d be able to read even faster with this tool. (I think that’s the idea behind spritzinc.com)

    1. Good suggestions Dave! I’ve noted down the first one, the second one (focus on letter slightly left of center) was implemented in the newest update, hope that helps 🙂

  4. A really excellent extension! I was wondering if it’s possible to make the extension into a chrome app as well? For desktop use with those pesky PDFs and long word documents… =)

    1. Thank you for the kind words Rob! I’m not too familiar with Chrome Apps, but we’ll look into it. Do you have more info on how they work/can help read PDFs and word documents?

      1. Chrome Apps are offline-enabled apps that (I think) launch on the Chrome platform. The way I can see Spreed becoming popular here is with a paste-bin for text to be read, or better yet (and I’m not sure how possible this is) with a built-in file handler that can chop off headers and footers from .doc(x) and .pdf files.
        Also, another feature that occurred to me today, perhaps add visual/textual indicator of the characters per minute/word speed, and also enable changes of this rate during word playback – I think this worked in a previous version, but not any more.

      2. Oh! Another thing I just realised: the Spreed window shrinks a little bit every time it’s launched – it doesn’t retain the size it had when last open.

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