Speed reading is one of these ideas that has been on many people’s ‘to-do’ list for far too long, offering significant, time-saving benefits to those who need to absorb large amounts of information on a regular basis.
If you are one of the many that haven’t yet given it a try, ReallyEasyReader is a quick and easy way to get started, combining a series of tutorials and speed-reading advice into a simple software package that allows you to import your own documents.
The ReallyEasyReader application begins by walking you through the concept of speed-reading using a series of tutorials, explaining how it can help and offering some examples of exactly why this skill can be of benefit.
The simple interface is mainly taken up by a blank screen that will display one or more words at the centre when a document is loaded, flashing up at high speeds as you attempt to follow the text. It promises results within 30 seconds and we were quite impressed by how easy it was to read at 400 words per minute (wpm) right from the off, the typical average being between 200 and 300.
One of the apparent advantages of this system is that because text is displayed so quickly on-screen, this means that you are so focused on keeping up with what is being shown that your mind is less likely to wander and you are less likely to become distracted.
This certainly seems to be the case, but unfortunately it means that after a fairly short time, even with a high-resolution LCD display, it was necessary to take a quick break since following this system can put a bit of strain on the eyes and make you feel quite mentally exhausted.
Once you’ve worked through the supplied tutorials and sample text, it’s possible to import .doc, .pdf, .rtf and .txt formats as well as web pages, though some documents may contain hidden codes that make them difficult to read. In this instance, or for any incompatible text files, it is possible to copy and paste plain text directly into the program.
When compared to reading a book using established speed-reading techniques, we were slightly more sceptical over the effectiveness of the software. There were many occasions where it would have been beneficial to scan back over the last sentence or paragraph to restablish the meanings of words or descriptions, which isn’t as easy here.
Also, if you manage to get to grips with doubling the average speed you’ll find that blinking, which you’ll be doing more than normal (let’s be generous and say it takes a half-second to blink and refocus), will cause you to miss three to four words at least, and far more when you increase your speed. Most of the time you’ll still be able to grasp the concept of the message but it’s still not particularly comfortable and can become a little overwhelming.
ReallyEasyReader is obviously aware of these issues and does try to offer solutions. It is possible to change the colour combinations for displayed text to improve readability, as well as font size and style. Speed can be adjusted quickly using the up and down arrows and the text flow can be stopped and restarted by using the space bar.
If you do get lost or want to read a document in the conventional way, a full-text mode is accessible by pressing the Escape key. The ‘flicker’ mode causes text to blink at you at high speeds to help improve clarity and ‘ticker-tape’ shows a few words at a time in a scrolling motion to allow more information to be absorbed. These well-considered tricks and shortcuts certainly help to an extent, but we’d imagine most readers would take the ‘speed’ option in short bursts of a minute or two at a time before needing a short break or a recap.
The fact that the software doesn’t actually teach you to speed read and therefore relies on its own system to provide this service is also a little disappointing, and in terms of day-to-day use it’s not particularly easy to import emails and other documents you might commonly encounter. This does reduce the appeal of what is otherwise quite a clever approach to reading quickly.