There are many speed reading tools that come for free. If I think of my hands, fingers, brain or eyes then I already have the most important reading tools on hand to fine-tune my reading strategies.
Additionally, there’s a bunch of web-based tools available. Some of them are very useful; others will just strain my eyes. This post overviews the most known and popular tools.
Important: All free tools are designed to help you read faster, but they may not replace a professional course. For guided learning, you may consider a software or course such as Iris Reading (visit website) or Spreeder (view website).
Speed Reading Tools At A Glance
1. Physical Tools
What does the phrase ‘speed reading’ trigger in your mind? Could it be reading at a speed of 1,000 words per minute? Or, going through a book in one hour? It’s certainly a tempting imagination.
On the other side, the term may just induce this kind of association, because we learned reading the wrong way in school, and therefore think we could be slow readers.
But there’s no real magic in regards to fast reading: Try using your finger as a pointer when going along the line.
As your eyes follow motion, you will hold your focus and instantly increase in speed.
It’s called hand pacing, and is absolutely free of charge.
The use of a pointer tool will focus your eyes on the line. If you learn to read word groups you can even hop along the line and double your speed again.
2. PDF Booklets and Converters
The reading of word groups is certainly a bit tricky at the beginning, but our brain and eyes are predestinated to learn this technique quickly, and it’s also free.
What you need to do is train your eyes and brain to recognize more than a single word at once.
These two speed reading tools will help learn the skill rapidly: Free PDF booklets that focus on practicing 2, 3, 4 and 5 words in a row.
The other tool is suitable to convert your own text into groups of 2, 3, 4 or 5 word columns. Booklets and converter are my personal favorites and are initiated by Ron Cole, the author of ‘How to be a super reader’.
Both tools require some physical and mental work, but there are web apps that allow you to lean back and just watch the words passing by.
3. RSVP Web Readers
The technology behind these web tools is called Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP), and both premium speed reading software as well as free video apps back on it.
Good RSVP readers allow importing individual text material, setting words per minute and choosing how many words to read at the same time.
Examples are Spreeder (view website), Zap Reader, Shaks or iRead Fast.
4. RSVP Bookmarklets
A bit handier for daily web browsing are RSVP readers that come with a fancy bookmarklet.
Sometimes I get distracted by pictures, links or banners. A Firefox add-on to avoid this is called Readability, an effective application that simplifies a website’s layout.
Readability is a free speed reading tool that will help you focus on the text, and thus improve comprehension and overall speed. In fact, it converts any web page into a plain and print-ready text presentation skipping ads, boxes or images.
The default settings are already very effective, but there are a few other buttons to tweak it to your needs.
5. iPhone and iPad apps
This is cool stuff when you have an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. The bottom line is that you read your eBooks and practice speed reading at the same time.
QuickReader is an eBook reader that supports speed reading techniques and touch-free reading.
Inside the menu, you can set words per minute and fixations per line to better read chunks of words for example. Fewer stops mean more words are grouped together per line. More stops are easier for starters.
The text will be highlighted and all you have to do is to lean back and enjoy reading. This works well for non-fiction, but give fiction a try too.
QuickReader Lite is the free version, giving you access to thousands of eBooks, which you can download to your iPhone or iPad. It also connects with Project Gutenberg, which is a great source of free eBooks.
6. Organization and RSS Readers
When we have to work on something we don’t like, we tend to come up with a bunch of ideas we could do instead.
To keep myself updated on speed reading-related topics I also use RSS readers to bundle new information into one place. The already well-known tools include Google Reader, MyYahoo or NewsGator.
7. Desktop Applications
This area isn’t really developed, but there are a few programs available. I already mentioned iReadFast, which is a speed reading tool for Mac users.
Software suitable for Windows is Speed Reader Enhanced. It’s a 230k zip file only and turns any electronic text into an exercise without the need to be online. The downside is that you can’t choose the number of words placed per line.
8. Speed Reading Test
In case you are after a free speed reading test Google Search suggests a bunch of websites offering such a test. Alternatively, you can use Ace Reader’s test for free, which determines your speed at different levels.
What speed reading tools do you use? Please, leave your comment below!