You’re on your iPhone surfing the tweets and you come across a link to an article or discussion you want to read. You click it and start reading. But the text is too small so you two-finger zoom. But that makes the text too wide for the screen, even in landscape mode. And now you’re stuck feeling like a blooming idiot swiping your finger side to side down this long page while you try to read it. It distracts you from the thing you’re trying to read and it takes too long.
I Like Stuff That’s Not Horizontal Scrolling
The iPhone’s Safari browser can’t re-flow text in wide columns on web pages. For people like me, this is a deal-breaker. Scrolling side-to-side over and over again just to read a web page is time-consuming and annoying. It’s the primary reason I switched to Android a year and a half ago. Android’s browser fixes this problem exactly the way you would want: if you two-finger zoom into some text it immediately re-flows the text to fit the new screen size. I love it.
In iOS 5, Apple finally introduced Reader mode. A little “Reader” icon appears in the URL bar of some pages. Clicking it enlarges and reflows the text for better readability. It’s nice–when it works. Apple says “Reader in Safari smartly recognizes when there’s an article on the page,” but unfortunately it’s not as smart as they claim. There are plenty of pages where the text is too wide but the Reader icon doesn’t appear, so you’re still stuck scrolling side-to-side as you attempt to read.
For an example of a page that doesn’t re-flow nicely and doesn’t offer Reader mode, use your iPhone and try reading this discussion of Safari text re-flow on the Apple Support Communities site.
Opera Mini to the Rescue
There are other browsers that can claim they can reflow text on the iPhone. I’ve tried a bunch of them. The one I find does the best job of re-flowing text with minimal hassle on a wide variety of pages is Opera Mini, which is free and fast.
Here is the aforementioned discussion thread. The first picture is in Safari after zooming in to a readable font size. The second is Opera after doing the same. See the difference? In Safari you have to scroll side to side to read it. In Opera you don’t.
To enable text re-flow, go to Settings and turn on the “Text Wrapping” setting.
But Safari is the iPhone’s Default Browser
So that’s all well and good but what about that little story about surfing the twitterverse and clicking a link? Whenever you click a URL in any other app like email, Twitter, Facebook, etc., the iPhone will open the page in Safari. Apple doesn’t give you a choice. You can’t tell it to open in Opera. Sure, you could click in the URL, then long-click it, then choose Select All, then choose Copy, then launch Opera, then click the Opera URL bar, then click Paste. But by the end of all that it’s time to go to bed.
Well I just figured out a little workaround that costs nothing and lets you send any page from Safari to Opera in two clicks. So at any time you’re two clicks away from reflowing your text.
The trick is to use a bookmarklet I made called Send to Opera.
- First click: the Bookmark icon.
- Second click: the Send to Opera bookmarklet.
To add it, go to this Send to Opera page and follow the instructions.
How does it work? It simply inserts the letter “o” at the beginning of the URL. For example if the URL is http://ilikestuffblog.com/, Send to Opera tells the browser to open ohttp://ilikestuffblog.com/. With an O at the front, the request is sent to Opera.