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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

What I Use: The dark side

Sometimes I’m not ready to go to sleep. My wife likes to say that she goes through the motions of reading in bed; it always seems like a good idea, but within a page or two she’s falling asleep. And so, some nights, I am wanting to read more after the lights are off.

So what am I to do? If I’m using a Kindle, it’s not much of a problem. I can crank the lighting on my Kindle Oasis down low and still read with ease, without feeling like I’m disturbing my wife on the other side of the bed. (Oh, how that brings memories of the early days of the Kindle, when this sophisticated electronic book-reading device didn’t come with its own book light, so I’d have to clip a goofy battery-powered light onto the kindle in order to read in the dark. So dumb.)

But then there’s the iPad. It’s big and bright. When the lights are out, it’s almost laughably bright, even at the lowest brightness setting.

Back in the iOS 10 days, I tended to use an accessiblity feature that dimmed (really, added a semi-opaque overlay) the screen on a triple click. It wasn’t ideal, but it did help a bit. But the advent of iOS 11 has brought a new feature that has potential to replace my previous approach: Smart Invert Colors.

Smart Invert Colors is the cousin of the original Invert Colors feature, which did exactly what you’d expect, namely turn your iPad’s screen into a negative of itself. This worked wonders as a way to make black text on a white background less glaring when you were reading in total darkness. But it had weird side effects, most notably that any graphics were also inverted. So the photos that went along with that story would look like negatives.

Smart Invert Colors is a new feature in iOS 11 that solves this problem. When I triple-click in Twitterrific for iOS (I’m using a beta version, but it should be out soon!), the text areas invert—so black-on-white becomes white-on-black—but the images stay as they are! Apps have to be updated to support this feature—basically, they need to specifically mark media items that shouldn’t be inverted—but when it works, it works really well. Some of the late-night reading apps I use don’t yet support Smart Invert Colors, but I’m hopeful. Triple-clicking to kick off Smart Invert Colors (I now have it set as my accessiblity shortcut in the Accessibility section of the Settings app) is now my preferred way to read bright pages of text when the lights are out and I’m not ready to close my eyes for the night.

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