Find out the latest information about our ongoing response to Coronavirus (COVID-19).

  Skip to content

Toggle service links

Techniques for reading online material

All OU modules will require you to study, to some extent, on a screen. You need to make the process of reading online comfortable for yourself.

You can control the look and feel of some web pages and ebooks by adjusting the size of the type, the width of the page and therefore the line spacing to improve legibility for an easier read.

If the text on a page feels cramped, the first thing to do is to increase the type size. This may be all that is needed to make text readable as the lines have fewer words and the larger type has larger line spacing.

The brightness of the screen can also lead to eye fatigue. Try reducing the brightness setting of your screen as the day darkens – you need less brightness in artificial light than in daylight. Take frequent breaks from the screen to give your eyes a rest.

How to control the type size

All common web browsers have the same command to zoom in and out to increase and decrease the page size and therefore the type size: Ctrl + (Cmd + on a Mac). Press this combination repeatedly to increase the size of the type in successive increments. If you go too far and want to reduce the size, use Ctrl - (Cmd - on a Mac). This can either be the minus key on the numeric keyboard or the hyphen key.

You can also change the type size for all web pages that you open by adjusting the default settings in your browser but you can still use the key combinations mentioned above to make it larger or smaller.

If you’re reading using an e-book reader such as a Kindle or iBooks, look for the type controls that often look like AAA or sometimes just A. You can experiment there and set your preferred size and font as the default for all books if you wish. The same area may let you change the colour of the page and text. Try out the different combinations on offer; some of them are easier on the eye allowing you to read for longer with less eye fatigue.

Adjust the page size

When you open a window on your computer, you can resize it to best fit your needs. You can reduce the size of the window using the Restore down icon in the top right on a PC (top left on a Mac). You can then resize the window by dragging the sides and corners. Clicking the icon again will maximise the window to fill the whole screen. You might find a tall narrow window gives you lines that are an easier length to read.

Try narrowing the window of this article. When you get past a certain point the page changes dramatically to a design that’s optimised for reading on a smaller screen. You can continue narrowing until the window is about the width of a smartphone screen and it’s still very legible.

Reader mode

Reader mode has become a standard web browser feature. Using reader mode reduces the clutter on a page that can distract from what you want to read. You'll be able to read more and for longer before fatigue sets in.

Reader mode often allows you to change the colour of the background of the page and adjust the font size to something you find comfortable to read.

If you’re reading material on your module website you might want to switch to “View as single page” (at the bottom of the left-hand column) which is similar to reader mode. You can still adjust the size of the text using the commands mentioned above.

Search “Reader mode” for your chosen browser to find advice on what is available and how to turn it on.

Last updated 4 months ago