You Have to See It to Beelieve It
April 27, 2015 8:54 AM   Subscribe

BeeLine Reader makes screen reading easier with multicolored gradients that guide your eyes from line to line.
posted by overeducated_alligator (51 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
"The page you were looking for doesn't exist."

They're right, I've read that pretty quickly!
posted by bigendian at 8:55 AM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

That was incredibly annoying to my eyes.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:02 AM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

I am skeptical but willing to give it a try. The problem at first at least is that a page converted with the plug-ing screams to my eyes DON'T READ ME!
posted by chavenet at 9:04 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I read fairly quickly normally but I sometimes have trouble jumping lines especially on smaller screens, so I was excited until I looked at this. All it did for me was glue separate parts of the paragraph together - some in order, some out of order, but I had to force my eyes onto other sentences. It took me much longer to read text on their site with the colors on. The only version I could read normally was Gray but that just made it look like parts of my monitor are failing.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 9:06 AM on April 27, 2015

OMG, unreadable...they could've fixed it with a blue background.
posted by Chuffy at 9:06 AM on April 27, 2015 [5 favorites]

You can try it at the "Take the Challenge" link about 1/2way down the page.

I don't know. It didn't seem to make a huge difference to me.
posted by bonehead at 9:07 AM on April 27, 2015

If you're looking for an alternative speedreading thing, there's always Spritzlet. No install required, they have a java applet, although if you want to go over 400 wpm you'll need to make an account.
posted by LiteS at 9:08 AM on April 27, 2015

It didn't really do much for me, either. They do say it's best for people with reading and focus disabilities, so maybe we're just the wrong demographic for this tool.
posted by KGMoney at 9:12 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

That's not really a color gradient, is it? It's a pretty rapid shift in color which makes random words seem bold and others italic. They're not really italic, just lighter but it looks, at a quick glance, like italics.
posted by I-baLL at 9:14 AM on April 27, 2015

I love this idea and will try it when i get home. I hate line transition errors because they provide opportunities for me to get distracted, and I've always wanted a fix for them.

It reminds me of code syntax hightlighting, so it'll be easy to get used to.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 9:15 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

* Warning: may sound like a klaxon alarm to people with synesthesia.
posted by scamper at 9:15 AM on April 27, 2015 [11 favorites]

I installed it using Chrome, and it does this to the text color, not the background color, and it is making me all kinds of antsy because OMG MAKE IT STOP.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:15 AM on April 27, 2015 [5 favorites]

Whoa... It gave me flashbacks! Web pages full of text cycling through rainbow colors and with backgrounds made from tiles of animated sparkling stars.

I think they accidentally re-invented GeoCities...
posted by Hairy Lobster at 9:19 AM on April 27, 2015 [5 favorites]

I tried this and it slowed me down fairly dramatically because my eyes kept connecting the colors spread all of over the block of text rather than flow from line to line.

I'm not so sure how effective this can actually be in the real world, especially considering that the problem it tries to solve can already be solved with proper column widths and line heights.
posted by truex at 9:20 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Nauseating. It's like staring at a barber pole.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:21 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

This could be useful for full-screen walls of rambling text without line-breaks or punctuation, I guess.
posted by truex at 9:21 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

posted by Old'n'Busted at 9:22 AM on April 27, 2015

According to the test I read 1% faster with Beeline! I don't know what I'm going to do with all that extra time!
posted by blue_beetle at 9:22 AM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Wow that's annoying.
posted by trip and a half at 9:24 AM on April 27, 2015

I was expecting subtly varying background colors varying from line to line. Doing it like this totally messes with my brain's ability to scan sentences as a block and comprehend their structure. At least they should keep each word the same color. Crazy...
posted by Hairy Lobster at 9:26 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sys Rq: "Nauseating. It's like staring at a barber pole."

But have you ever stared at a barber pole... on acid?
posted by symbioid at 9:27 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Seems like an idea that has potential, but I found their implementation more annoying than useful. Although as KGMoney mentions above it may make a difference for some people. And I didn't actually take the test because it made me feel like I was back in third grade again.
posted by TedW at 9:27 AM on April 27, 2015


That stuff is horrendous.

They do say it's best for people with reading and focus disabilities, so maybe we're just the wrong demographic for this tool.

This is the only rationale I can imagine for this existing. Otherwise, it just needs to stop, right now.
posted by gimonca at 9:27 AM on April 27, 2015

On their sample text it works pretty well but it goes nuts on metafilter. Apparently I read 8% faster with their blue scheme on an my mind/eyes felt less distracty/jumpy. I'm going to try it on news articles for a little while and see how it goes.
posted by edbles at 9:32 AM on April 27, 2015

reading is ripe for woo (patent pending)
posted by Poldo at 9:32 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

i am pretty close to their target demographic and i find this really difficult to use. there was another reader thing where the text is presented as individual words being spelled out at increasingly rapid paces which worked much better for me in terms of keeping me focused and engaged, although that might have been a speed reading app? anyway i hate this, that is my important and valuable input, thank you for your time.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:39 AM on April 27, 2015

I thought it was going to do a subtle gradient of the background. That sounded more promising.
posted by nom de poop at 9:48 AM on April 27, 2015

This may be the first time everybody on MetaFilter has had the same opinion on anything!
posted by KGMoney at 9:51 AM on April 27, 2015 [4 favorites]

I really didn't get much out of the bright red/blue preset they default to on the site, but I found the plugin has a dark theme that I like. I tested it out on longform and while I wouldn't say my reading speed improved, it was easier to find where I left off if I looked away from the screen for a moment.
posted by Dr-Baa at 9:59 AM on April 27, 2015

They do say it's best for people with reading and focus disabilities, so maybe we're just the wrong demographic for this tool.

Datum: I have the latter (ADHD Inattentive). While, yes, my eyes scan the page more effectively with the barber pole turned on, it very quickly transitions from "reading" to "moving eyes side-to-side down a page for no damn reason." That's my biggest problem with reading with ADHD; there's no problem with tripping up (no more than anyone else anyway, I don't think), just with absorbing the information. Speeding up my eyes doesn't help with that. Quite the contrary, in fact.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:01 AM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Not everything needs to be improved upon.
posted by PHINC at 10:07 AM on April 27, 2015

It looks like BeeLine didn't improve your reading speed this time through.

Try the test again using a different topic below, or install our extension and test it out on some webpages that you normally read. Share your results!
Translation: Keep trying until you get the result we want!

I could see this potentially being helpful for long lines of text in big, dense paragraphs. The "challenge" texts they had, though, had short lines, short paragraphs, and big letters (at least on my desktop computer). It was not difficult for my eyes to zoom back across to the right spot without any assistance.
posted by clawsoon at 10:12 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm going to dissent. I love beeline, I was one of the beta testers for the pdf converter, and I'm sad that my iPad is too old to be part of the kindle beta test group. I don't know what's up for the rest of you, but if I could beeline all my documents I would be thrilled.
posted by bile and syntax at 10:13 AM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

I actually liked it a lot and found it useful. Thanks for the link!
posted by harrietthespy at 10:14 AM on April 27, 2015

Well. As a reader, I'd have to say I'm out of practice for adult books and my stamina for reading a wall of text is nowhere near what it was pre- kids. Unexpectedly I think that sped up my reading way more than I anticipated. It was annoying when I looked at the page, but when reading for comprehension and speed - I was able to ignore the colors and fly through the page.
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:15 AM on April 27, 2015

I use my test editor's select feature to mark the last paragraph (or passage) I've read. This helps break a wall of text into bite-sized units. Sometimes I highlight a certain passage if I want to emphasize a line of thought or take my eyes away long enough for sip of coffee. In my case, the issue is to slow my eye-scans down a bit, because I normally read fast, often at the expense of understanding. I agree that it's good to be able to pick up where I left off, rather than having to re-read a portion to get reoriented after a bathroom break.
posted by mule98J at 10:31 AM on April 27, 2015

If you're looking for an alternative speedreading thing, there's always Spritzlet.

I had a YHCHANG memory-jolt strong enough that it felt like an acid flashback.
posted by The Zeroth Law at 10:53 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I thought it was great. I had 11% improvement, and I really tried to read the unchanged passage as fast as possible. I'd love to be able to read .epubs on my iPad like this.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:00 AM on April 27, 2015

Beeline turned on: Remember those textbooks back in high school where the person who had it before you highlighted or underlined random places and it was distracting as hell because it wasn't necessarily the same portion of the text you found to be important? Yeah. Just like that.

Beeline turned off: Their "off" setting turned the text gray. Gray. Text (uncolored portions) with Beeline was darker. So their reading "test" told me that I read text with high contrast faster than text with low contrast.

I key in on color. Not as much as some people do, but enough that the weird stripey effect was not pleasant to me. I would not want to read a long passage with that turned on. It's visually distracting.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:08 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

It didn't improve my speed, but it definitely felt easier to read. If recipes were printed in this scheme I bet I wouldn't have so many baking catastrophes caused by skipping lines/skimming.
posted by kitcat at 11:30 AM on April 27, 2015

Miles Tinker might have performed this study.
posted by PHINC at 11:35 AM on April 27, 2015

I am pretty sure I made webpages (or forum signatures!) with exactly that kind of colour-changing text when I was 13. I definitely remember using generators that spit out a bunch of <font color="#HEXCODE">a</font><font color="#HEXCODE">b</font> code. Ahhhh, memory Monday.

I find the colours too distracting; my eyes start jumping all over the place and don't track well on the sample texts on the homepage. It did nothing for my reading speed, either.
posted by invokeuse at 11:40 AM on April 27, 2015

I have low vision , strabismus (cross-eyed) and nystagmus (my eyes jerk) so I thought this would be really helpful but I found all the color shifts really distracting. I was expecting a smoother transition. I kept wanting to read the colored sections on bright instead of reading it in a normal way. I liked the subtlety of the greys but it was too subtle for my eyes, no real effect.
posted by Aranquis at 11:51 AM on April 27, 2015

I can't believe no one has noticed that their website was created using the random startup website generator.
posted by monotreme at 11:56 AM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

The red and blue is really ugly (come on, primary red?), but I got about a 20% improvement on their test with two tries. Like Sys Rq, I doubt that means I'd actually absorb the meaning of the text any better...
posted by polywomp at 12:01 PM on April 27, 2015

Conceptually, BeeLine seems like a good idea. Of their two reading examples, the blue alternating felt easier to follow, line by line, than the plain version. But it's also ugly, strains the eyes, and wasn't faster. And their plugin is just... blah. If the plugin provided customization options, it could be on to something. But not this.

Better: use Safari's Custom Reader plugin to format articles into Metafilter-style pages (see below). Metafilter's blue background is easy on the eyes, the narrow column of text is faster and easier to scan, and reduces line-skip errors.

For those interested, you can get CustomReader here (it piggybacks onto Safari's Reader View). Run the plugin, click the little gear wheel on the page of text for options, click the "advanced" tap, then copy/paste the following inside:

body {
background-color: #2d4c73;
#article {
width: 680px;
background-color: #3b6497;
.page {
font-family: Georgia;
color: #f7f8fa;
.page > * {
zoom: 1.6;
p {
margin-top: 1em;
margin-bottom: 1em;
text-indent: 0px;
text-align: start;
line-height: 1.5;
h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6 {
font-family: Helvetica;
figcaption {
font-family: Helvetica, sans-serif;
font-size: 75%;
figcaption p {
margin: 0px;
a {
color: #cccd28 !important;
text-decoration: none !important;
a:hover {
text-decoration: underline !important;

posted by Davenhill at 12:10 PM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Seems to work for me. Trying it, it felt faster, and in the test it said I read 19% faster. Hardly harmed my delicate senses either.
posted by cmoj at 12:36 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I sort of like it, but it's not so great that it needs to be patented, funded, and sold to Amazon for half a billion dollars. Which is to say, it's a mildly nice effect that will end up being buried by a patent troll forever.
posted by phooky at 1:00 PM on April 27, 2015

It worked well for me (ADHD gal here, probable inattentive type but don't really know). I experimented with all the choices on that page and all were not equally helpful but were an improvement in general. In short, MetaFilter: Still No Consensus.
posted by Bella Donna at 3:42 PM on April 27, 2015

Gave it a try and the concept seems like it could be useful.

I'm just really tired of everyone trying to invert the paradigm in which I eat words with my eyes, okay? It's my lawn, and if I want to do a lot of bennies and sit on my lawn in my underwear with all the spotlights on so I can mainline James Clavell's Shogun in one straight reading session, okay?
posted by mikurski at 4:45 PM on April 27, 2015

This reminds me of when one of my teachers was trying to teach speed reading. I'm a natural speed reader and was totally shocked to find that others are so slow because their eyes are bouncing around all over the page willy-nilly. So...I dunno, if anything is trying to stop that, it seems good?

Didn't really have any effect on me though :)
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:36 AM on April 29, 2015

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