About the Reading On Screen site

New to the site? Download our quick guide first [PDF].

Who this site is for

  • Anyone spending lots of time reading on screen
  • Anyone looking to ditch pen and paper
  • Anyone wanting to know how to get the most out of their mobile device

What we offer

  • A ‘cheat-sheet’ to get you started: Reading On Screen Handout [PDF]
  • Helpful tips and tricks for different devices and documents (search at top)
  • Links to guides and videos

What you can do

  • Rate the pages that work for you
  • Comment with your feedback and suggest other resources we should link
  • Complete the form below to help with our research

We’re really pleased to launch this site available in direct response to student feedback at the University of York.

More than ever before, students have such a vast amount of digital literature available to them via the University Library and resources their teaching staff have posted on the Yorkshare VLE to support their studies.

We find that the techniques used for paper-based study are different from those required to engage with digital resources. What we have found from discussions with students is that these techniques are not taught, and are often unknown. Annotation, as one example, is a different process using digital devices than with pen and paper. At first, digital annotation may seem laborious, but, as with all things, practising the skill makes it easier. Similarly, the way documents are presented on screen can be improved with a few simple tricks such as using full-screen view or reading views built into software.

Our aim is to help students discover these tricks, tell us which ones work, and encourage comments and contributions with your suggestions and approaches to reading on screen.

Happy reading!

Matt Cornock
Department of Social Policy and Social Work, University of York

Blayn Parkinson
Elearning Development Team, University of York


New Evernote Widgit for Android

Evernote-logo-153x1731Making the most of Androids customisability Evernote have revamped their widgit for even greater functionality to the home screen. Previously the widgit has been a separate app, now it is baked into the Evernote App streamlining it’s functionality.

The widget comes in three flavours…

  • Action widget (1×1) – Quick access to a note, camera or search.
  • Action bar (4×1) – Choose from 11 different actions to be displayed
  • List Widgit (4×2) – Shortcuts to  key actions and a list of notes.

For more information read the post on the Evernote blog here.

Google Voice Typing

Microphone iconFor a while now Google has been perfecting voice recognition. You can now dictate instead of typing into any Google Doc from either a desktop or mobile device.

Voice typing supports 40 languages and to use this feature, open any document from Google Docs in the Chrome browser. Go to Tools and select Voice typing. Then click on the microphone and start speaking, Google will transcribe what you say.

Type with your voice (Guide)


Using Voice on Android

Google Voice Typing on Your Android Phone


Evernote Web Clipper now works better with Gmail, Youtube and Amazon

We have mentioned Evernote’s Web Clipper several times on this site. Along with the Evernote Clearly app for making web page’s it’s probably one of my most often used applications and an invaluable part of my daily Knowledge Managment routine.

The Evernote Clipper now works better with applications such as Gmail, Youtube and amazon allowing you to clip and save exactly the content that you want. Evernote Web Clipper even allows you to Clip email attachments from Gmail.


Updates to the site: Chromebooks and Note-taking

The start of term is coming upon us again soon, so I thought I’d update the advice on our Devices and Note-taking pages to cover Chromebooks.

Chromebooks are hybrids of tablets and laptops, offering the perks and flaws of both. However, they are not to be overlooked when choosing a device to bring to university. Certainly, if you are needing to use any form of specialist software (i.e. more than a web-browser and basic office-type programs), then Chromebooks are not for you. Yet, some of the newer models coming out boast battery life that is double that of a laptop, increasingly important if you want to bring your device to use in lecture rooms ill-equipped for charging laptops.

I’ve managed to get my hands on a Chromebook for testing and recently debated with myself whether I would buy that or a netbook-type laptop. Chromebooks are ideal for Google Docs – the cloud-based way of creating and managing files. In-class, Chromebooks have been used to facilitate collaborative working, sharing documents and doing on-screen analysis of data with add ons like the Fusion tables (see this video on Fusion tables). I tend to use Google Docs a lot, particularly when I’m creating documents or spreadsheets just for my admin, note-taking, or deliberately as ‘work in progress’ collaborative docs.

The limitation comes when you want to do photo editing, create complex documents or utilise specialist statistical analysis software – i.e. you want a real computer. As such, Chromebooks may be adequate for in-class use, but not as a general workstation computer. That informed my decision, so I got a netbook. Though low-powered, and not as much battery life, I’m not attending many lectures these days so for my use case it was more suited.

Anyway, I hope the new guidance and some of my thoughts will help inform your decision making:

Printing PDF documents with Comments

Adobe Reader X LogoPDF documents are a very popular document format for everything from Assignment submissions, papers, to minutes from meetings. Just like word documents comments can be added to PDF documents for example feedback on your essay submission.

A common problem faced is when the document is printed out. For example, students like to be able to see both their submission text and the comments made on the same page this guide shows what preferences you need to have in Adobe Reader and print settings selected at the point you send the document to print to be able to achieve this.

Printing PDF documents with Comments Guide (HTML)

Are you using the new tablets?

We’ve recently seen UK supermarkets releasing low-cost tablets to compete with Amazon’s Kindle Fire, Google’s Nexus and Apple’s iPad. We’re interested to know what you think of them. Have you bought one? What is it like? Is it well-built? Are the apps we suggest available on your device for reading PDFs or note-taking for example?

Share your thoughts and experiences here to help other students who are deciding what device to use.

Guardian write-ups:

Choosing a device to bring to university

For a lot of new students the choice between a desktop computer, laptop or tablet is a difficult one. What device is best for university?

The short answer is: it depends and there is no one device that does everything the best.

Choosing the right device

When thinking about a computing device, the following considerations may help you make a decision:

  • Does it need to be portable?
    • You may decide to have a ‘base’ computer (large laptop or desktop) for a ‘settled’ place of work, with a smaller device for on-the-go work, group work or for use in class.
  • How long is the battery life?
    • Different laptops have different battery life. It’s important to check this as usually the cheaper models have shorter battery life.
  • What sort of software will I need for my course and what files will I be expected to use?
    • Is specialist software only available on a PC or is it also available on a Mac or as a mobile App?
    • Does the functionality of programmes or files differ between versions/platforms?
    • Does you require a higher level of processor power, memory or disk space?
  • Will I need to print things?
    • It is difficult (sometimes impossible) to print from tablets and mobile Apps. However, most (if not all) institutions will have computer classrooms and printers.
  • Does it have a USB connection and can I back up my files easily?
    • Having a USB stick allows you to save backups of documents offline and in a physical form. Though you can also save to ‘the cloud’ (which is also highly recommended) this is dependent on having an internet connection to upload/access the files.
  • What activities will I be undertaking with the device?
    • If you will be primarily reading, you will want a device with a screen that is best suited to displaying and annotating documents (e.g. a tablet).
    • If you will be typing long essays, you will want a good keyboard to avoid uncomfortable typing positions (e.g. a desktop, laptop, or blue-tooth keyboard-compatible tablet)
    • If you are doing programming, multimedia work or data analysis, this may determine what device you can use by the platform or software you have to use.
  • How much is the device and how much is it to insure?
    • Insurance for theft and damage is a must for any computer equipment that is going to form an essential part of your study life.

Computer classrooms

At this point in time most, if not all, institutions have computer classroom facilities, which provide computers with specialist software for your course and printing facilities. Whilst these are provided, you are restricted by location and possibly availability if they are also used for teaching. Hence, most students do come to university with their own computer, if only to give them the flexibility to work where and when they want.

Mix of devices

Many students will use more than one device, whether that’s their own personal laptop and smart phone in conjunction with institutional computer classrooms, or a desktop with a tablet.

Take a look at our quick guide to the pros and cons of different computing devices for reading on screen to help you decide:

Current student/tutor? Share your experience

If you’re a current student or tutor, post a comment below with the devices you recommend or chose to bring to university and why, and help out new students starting this Autumn.

Young people ‘prefer to read on screen’ (BBC News)

WWW IconAn interesting article from the BBC commenting on a recent survey by the National Literary Trust on peoples reading habits. In short it appears the young people ‘prefer to read on screen’!

With the ubiquitous status of mobile devices such as smart-phones and tablets also with computers and other devices we are more likely to engage with written material through a digital medium, 52% express a preference to reading on screen as a posed to 32% preferring printed material.


See the full article here.