Andrew Burke

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Reading Sideways
Posted on: 2006-03-04

I have a lot of books in PDF format these days - like the Ruby on Rails and Ruby Pickaxe books from the Pragmatic Programmers. PDF is great for quickly looking up references and searching for content and for being able to bring an entire reference library with me when I travel - but actually reading a lot of text on the computer has tended to be a nuisance. The resolution and display of text has improved a lot in the last few years, especially on OS X, so it's not so hard on the eyes any more, but books tend to be laid out for regular pieces of paper, not computer screens, so I can never get the whole page at once. I could zoom out to see the whole page, but then usually the text is too small to read - so I'm stuck with scrolling up and down to get everything.

Well, this morning, while reading the fun new book from 37signals, Getting Real on my laptop, I figured it out:

  • Most PDF viewers let you rotate the page - so I set it to 90 degrees.
  • Now the whole page shows up sideways on the laptop screen - so, put the laptop sideways!
  • Zoom in until all the margins etc. are gone - for most books you will now have nice, large, legible text.

This may not work so well if your laptop doesn't have flat-ish sides, but generally it works nicely - in fact, the V-shape can stand on its own, so you don't even have to hold it with your hands. You may also need to get used to the arrow keys and mouse control.

Now if only I could get my computer to flip the entire display 90 degrees! Then page layout and long listings would be a cinch.

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