– Instapaper App Review – Definitely one to check out!

Developer: Marco Arment

Available on iTunes

Digireado rating: 9/10

Price: Free for Instapaper Free or A$5.99 for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch

Note: Tested on iPhone4 – Instapaper Version 2.3.2

 

First up I’ve got three things to say about the Instapaper application:

  1. I tried it
  2. I loved it
  3. I bought the paid edition to continue to use it!

Generally speaking this is a blog about Digital Publishing – though at times I’ll divert into anything that takes my fancy. And THIS takes my fancy! If you’ve read my reviews of MegaReader and QuickReader you will know that I found out about this app as it is integrated with those products. Having found that it was so very useful to me I thought it was worth sharing.

Although it’s been around for a while and seems to be loved by geeks everywhere, I hadn’t come across Instapaper, and it sounded like a genuinely useful app! From their own blurb:

Do you come across long web articles and blog posts when you don’t have time to read them? Save interesting web pages for later with Instapaper and read them in QuickReader.

This also works with the MegaReader app by the way.

This may not be hugely appealing to me as a way to ‘lock me in’ to MegaReader or QuickReader but it says that it is also supported by over 135 other iPhone and iPad apps AND you can also send long emails to Instapaper. As all content is then available offline this seems a great way to make sure you have a chance to read later all those articles that seem interesting.

I don’t know about you, but  I’m forever looking at links on my mobile from Twitter and wanting to go back and read them at another time so I favourite them. Despite good intentions I rarely get the chance to ‘read back’ as I’m always ‘reading forward’ the latest articles and news. This seems to me to be a great way to store articles, especially those I may want to refer to when preparing training materials. Not only that, but since I’m such a heavy iPhone user I often click through to links from Twitter to then find I’m scrolling back and forth on my screen to read the type. Ok, perhaps this is also the fact I enlarge the type to counter my fading eyesight!? The most important point though is the way when opening them in Instapaper that they are more easily read on the iPhone.

The fact that this works just as easy with long emails is an added bonus to me!

What’s the Difference between the Free App and Paid App?

The difference between the free and paid edition seems pretty worthwhile to me as you get all the benefits of setting your preferred fonts and text sizes, line spacing and margins and dark mode (called night reading in some other apps). This last feature is a big favourite of mine late at night or when I can’t sleep at all and need something to occupy my mind. The dictionary would be handy as well at times. You can store up to 500 articles (versus 10 on the free app) on your iPhone or iPad, and unlimited articles on their server. You can share your links to Tumblr, Twitter and email. This one is a goer!

How does it work?

To give it a try out I downloaded the Free version and set up an account to synchronize my saved  articles. I only could use this for ten articles but that was definitely sufficient to trial the product. You  can delete those articles you’ve already read, and therefore probably keep using Instapaper for a long  while.  In my case though when I like an app I’m really happy to purchase and put my money where  my use is.

Quick smartly you add Instapaper to your contacts and then when you send articles to this address they are automatically added to your account on the server. Always the impatient type I immediately took to Twitter, found a great article that I wanted to read later. I then emailed to the contact that had been added to my Contacts list and opened Instapaper, hit Update and there it was. Magic of the best kind.

I opened it to a text only screen that automatically fits the screen size.

Voilà – Happy Digireado! Easily read, easily scrolled, all links still embedded and images there to enjoy. I must admit the images were a nice surprise as my assumption had been to expect text only!

Other Features of Instapaper

Instapaper paid edition comes with some other nice features that I’d like to share with you. You can ‘Star Articles’ if you enjoy them so access in a separate folder. If others know your user name then they can also see your starred articles.

You can turn on a ‘Tilt Scrolling’ to avoid the hassle of scrolling manually, but personally I found this one a little unsettling. Can me a traditionalist but I’ll go for the manual method myself!

By highlighting a word you can either copy, define or share. Define function will bring up the built in dictionary from Wikitionary. Share function will allow you a multitude of options including emailing the link, emailing the full text and posting the social networking sites.

The paid version also comes with Editor’s Picks although I’m not sure how or why the Editor does pick them! You may find some random interesting articles in here if you browse.

You can also send ePub or Kindle-compatible files from Instapaper to read on your ebook reader – nice touch Instapaper!

A very new and Beta feature (released but still being tested) is the ability to create print files from your articles.  To me this seems quite contradictory to the whole app – printing something that you can read online or on the iPhone – and they do ask you to be mindful of your paper usage and to recycle paper!

The Online Version of Instapaper

Instapaper account details are available online where you can easily set or change your password and access your articles, create new folders to keep them in, back up your articles if you so wish. I recommend visiting this online to fully investigate the app.

One handy function is the ‘Read Later’ Bookmarklet that you can place into your Bookmarks Folder in Internet Explorer. When you are on a webpage, simply go to the Read Later in the Favourites and it will be instantly available but doesn’t add to your account.

As these days I mostly use Google Chrome when reading the Extras page for Instapaper it comes up with a slightly different method of dragging this element onto your toolbar and just clicking when you want to save an article.

I have to be honest and say that this doesn’t work quite as smoothly for me as it sound! In Chrome the only way it works it to have the relevant page on the Instapaper site open and then drag the Bookmarklet onto the tab of the page I wanted to Read Later. I suspect this could well be my OWN settings that block the majority of cookies and Instapaper themselves say that if you’re having technical issues then:

  • “Make sure cookies are enabled.
  • Make sure Javascript is enabled.”

The feature still works, and content saved this was is easily accessible from both web and iPhone versions of Instapaper, but annoying for me to have to open the Instapaper site to do so. I know this should work more easily, but no matter how many times I tried other methods this is the only way I could get it to work. The Developer says quite clearly in the FAQ’s that he gets a lot of queries about this and is unable to answer individual emails so I haven’t tried that path.

Marco has also said:

“I’m always working to make this easier, but I’m restricted by limits in web browsers. In particular, this process is very easy on Firefox, Safari, and Chrome, but very difficult on Internet Explorer and Mobile Safari.

Complaints?

While they touted being able to read the articles in QuickReader I was a tad disappointed to find that it was the paid version of QuickReader – meaning you had to purchase TWO apps to get them to work together. I’m sure this makes sense and it was just meanness on my part that I wasn’t that keen! AND I’m a little unsure how or why indeed I would want to read my articles in QuickReader when I can access them on Instapaper anyway. I can only assume it’s to keep your content together but I’m fine accessing through Instapaper.

Another complaint would be the fact I wasn’t able to use the Read Later function in the way it was described but as it is possible that my own security settings contributed to this I feel like I’m nitpicking! And besides, for my own use it is on the mobile that I’ve found it most useful.

Conclusion

I recommend you try this app due to easy mobile signup using purely my email address and the fact you get ten articles to try this out. I became such a fan of this app that I bought the paid version within a week! It’s been a great addition to my iPhone and I’m sure would be equally beneficial on the iPad.

Overall Rating: 9/10

I would recommend you try the Free version first – why not? I knew within minutes of using this app that it was worthwhile and only waited until I used my free ten articles before purchasing.  There are other apps of this kind available – but I don’t need them! I have Instapaper!  This one is currently a Digireado favourite so would love to hear what you think.


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