Call to action: read at least one paper with rapidReader, post your feelings

October 20th, 2007 by jose

We have posted before about speed reading. Note that this term encompasses many different methods, some of which are based on dubious claims (see wikipedia article). The method I’m talking about is rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP), i.e., saving time by avoiding saccadic movements. I really didn’t get much use of it, because when I tried it I found the interaction with my favorite program too cumbersome.

However, I still think that the idea or RSVP holds a lot of promise. I have found a better program, called rapidReader6. It has a 30-day demo. It solves many of the problems that this technique has, although not all.

Instead of listing my impressions, I’d like to see yours. Can I ask you to download the trial, and read one paper with it (try to make it from the beginning to the end)? You will find many shortcomings, but please keep going, and post them here so we can discuss them. Did you read the article faster than before? What made you lose focus?

For example, the fact that formatting is lost (Am I reading a heading, or a footnote?), and that figures and equations are lost (damn, I have to go back to the original document!) is troublesome. Sometimes, when reading a pdf, it picks header and footer as main text. One trick: convert from pdf to word (adobe acrobat does that) and then point rapidReader to the word doc; it usually fixes it).

I’m really interested in knowing what your impressions are.

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10 Responses to “Call to action: read at least one paper with rapidReader, post your feelings”

  1. RebeccaNo Gravatar Says:

    I’m trying, but there are a lot of bugs. I dropped a PDF and found that it had somehow stripped the spaces between the words. Then I took a Word document with endnote citations (common in research writing) and found that it showed every single tag and detail as opposed to just the citation information, making the document unreadable.

    If I have to spend a chunk of time fixing up the document so that it works I’m not sure its a whole lot faster overall.

  2. RebeccaNo Gravatar Says:

    OK – finished an article. Further comments –

    I had a hard time absorbing the findings section of the academic paper I read. The numbers get thrown at you quickly and without the tables this is hard to absorb.

    The software wanted to read me the tables, row by row. Needless to say I had to pop out and skip past those.

    It also read me the references, which mostly I looked at as an opportunity to zone out for a second.

    Let’s not even talk about formula’s….that just hurt.

    I started out at around 350wpm and finished at 275 – 350 was fine for the introduction but the meat of the paper had to be slower. Therefore it wasn’t a whole lot faster than printing and reading on paper, and I don’t think I absorbed quite enough.

    My conclusion is that I don’t think it is an appropriate tool for reading journal articles. It might be OK for more theoretical /philosophical pieces but then you have the formatting issues. Unless they can fix the PDF thing, I’m unlikely to pay money for it.

  3. HaniNo Gravatar Says:

    I tried out the software with a few papers and articles in different formats. Averaging 250-375 wpm. Here are my thoughts:

    - I have to acknowledge that blasting through an article @ 400 wpm with a decent level of comprehension after a few minutes of using the program was great. I actually felt this would be a great reading tool..but (there is always a ‘but’)
    -…I agree with you on the fact that losing document formatting can be very disorienting.
    -…and I am also with Rebecca that this can only be useful with reading long articles with no (or a few and very simple) formulas and numbers.
    - At higher speeds the mere act of blinking can lead to instant loss of focus. Eye strain, anyone?
    - The annotation options are OK but could use a lot of improvement, especially considering how this would be an app targeted to the academic user.

    But lets be realistic for a minute: We do not really want to blast through everything we read at 400 wpm, do we? This is a great tool as far as reading large chunks of “pure text”. When it comes to tables, numbers or formulas, we will want to stop and take a closer look (or two) anyway. At least that’s what I do.

    Bottom line: I like rapidReader6. But seeing the kind of functionality I would typically use it for, I am unlikely to purchase it at its current price point.

  4. ArmanNo Gravatar Says:

    This might a bit off the topic, but thought to share anyway. Recently, I came across a speed reading technique – developed by a Japanese scientist – that is based on a technologically advanced eye training program. I have tried the free demo training on their web (, which lasted for 7 minutes, and had significant improvement in my reading speed. Which was even more interesting, the technique helped me get focused and concentrated for some while after the web training, which made me to go back there just to improve my concentration, instead of speed reading, when I needed :)

  5. tempNo Gravatar Says:

    What’d be the equivalent tool for macs?
    I found and read a nice paper on RSVP:

    Castelhano, Monica S. and Muter, Paul (2001) Optimizing the reading of electronic text using rapid serial visual presentation.

    available here:

    They present two experiments where RSVP is amplfied with some nice features like completion meter (some progress bar to indicate how far you are from the end of the paragraph), RSVP with shortened common word duration (e.g., ‘the’ ‘some’ etc are presented faster), RSVP with punctuation pauses, and all combinations thereof.

    It seems that people disliked RSVP when compared to full page view or sentence view, but their ratinngs indicate that they like it more after using it more (the experiment lasted only one hour! I can imagine you could get used to this if forced to use it for days).

    In exp 2, they manage to find a combination of features (manipulations that emphasize the rhythm of word presentation to make it similar to speech) that users actually like as much as full-page view.

    However, a big flaw that I can see in these experiments is that people were NOT allowed to change the presentation pace (like one can with arrow keys in rapidreader). The presntation ratio was 260 WPM, which can be boring as hell and cause the low liking rates.

    For 260WPM I would not sacrify the niceties of full page view! but if I can do 400 consistently, then we are talking bussiness.

    Arman: I tried your url with 3 different browsers and I got nothing but an empty page. I’m using admuncher, so that might be a problem… can you confirm you can access the page fine?

  6. DavidNo Gravatar Says:


    One try, one small improvement (279 to 317 WPM), and beeing the skeptical that I am, I need to see the first and last text to actually believe the text themselves are not related to that.

    If that improvement is legit, then it’s a good idea indeed.

  7. WillNo Gravatar Says:


    I read your blog and see you have an identity at donationcoders too. That reminded me to leave some input on this topic.

    I thought zapreader did a better job. RapidReader has a quality look and feel when you first open it up. But zapreader’s way

    of letting you read in

    short phrases of the

    piece you intend to read

    is a lot more practical way of

    speed reading, I’d say.


  8. stonelandfreNo Gravatar Says:

    spent days damage him. reaction most in the having probably damage it is a

  9. Here comes a new challenger in the speed reading arena | Academic Productivity Says:

    [...] has several advantages over the previously analyzed rapidReader: it’s open source, and written in perl. So it works under linux and windows at least. [...]

  10. article dudeNo Gravatar Says:

    I have been using it only for about 3 days and I might not know all its features, so take this with a grain of salt.
    Overall it is a good idea, but:

    1) I mainly use Firefox and Opera, and it doesn’t seem to support them.

    2) I use it to blast through my site’s articles before I submit them. The software loads ALL text it finds on the page, including the dropdown box that has about 360 categories so I have to scroll through them to find the start of the article.
    By then I might as well read the article without the software??

    3) It is generally accepted that black text on white background works best for reading, only followed by yellow background. The software defaults to BLACK background. (the worst one you can choose) I am not sure if this can be changed (I did try for a while).

    4) I do a bit of affiliate work via my site(s). If I like something before I buy it I’ll check out their affiliate program.

    There’s nothing better than promoting software you use every day as producing a minisite to sell it from can become a labour of love, you can effortlessly update the site as you discover new features, shortcuts etc.
    Mailing them before buying also helps you see how responsive they are, should you run into any problems.

    I mailed them a couple of days ago and I was waiting for their reply before I made up my mind but after reading people’s comments I am not too sure what to think now.

    Still, if they are responsive and quick at sorting out the bugs it could be a brilliant product and I do hope they’ll sort out these initial teething problems.

    take care


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