Instapaper: Offline Reading On-The-Go

You don’t have time to read this review. So what are you going to do? You’ll probably leave this tab open in Safari, only to lose it among the 30+ tabs you already have open. What you need is an iPhone app that will let you collect articles you find (both on your iPhone and computer) so you can read them later.

Enter Instapaper – an amazing web application and iPhone app that lets you quickly and easily save an article to come back to later.

What is Instapaper?

Instapaper is an amazing little web service and iPhone app developed by Marco Arment, lead developer of Tumblr.

What makes Instapaper a killer app is that although it only does one thing, it does it extremely well. Instapaper’s single function is capturing articles you want to read later. Then you can read them at your leisure online, or offline on your iPhone.

Capturing Content

It all starts with the bookmarklet: once dragged to your browser’s bookmarks bar, a simple click will store an article for later reading. Of course, this is easy on your computer; Instapaper provides instructions for installing the bookmarklet on Safari on your iPhone. Behind the scenes, Instapaper’s text parser finds the article on the page and captures just the article content and images. There are several others ways to get articles into Instapaper; I usually use one of these methods:

  • Google Reader’s “Send To” feature can send articles to Instapaper
  • On your iPhone, NewsNetWire (a Google Reader app) can do the same
  • The SimplyTweet iPhone app lets you send articles linked to in a tweet to Instapaper; you don’t even need to open the article first

There’s a good chance that tools you are already using take advantage of the Instapaper API.

Reading Later

When later becomes now, hit that Instapaper icon. Instapaper will automatically download all newly captured articles. Choose one, and read! You don’t have to finish it; Instapaper will save your spot in the article and has already cached it for offline reading.

Instapaper

Instapaper

Organizing Articles

Once you’ve put your content in Instapaper, you can do some simple organization if you want to. From both the web interface and the iPhone app, you can create folders and sort your articles. The app takes this feature a step farther and allows you to create folders that pull content from a feed. No, this isn’t a feed reader; Mr. Arment recommends using this feature for feeds with longer articles and less frequent posts.

What’s great about this feature is that even if the site only offers a "first paragraph" feed, Instapaper will still capture the entire document. If you’re not sure what sites are good for this feature, you can choose from a list of sites Instapaper recommends.

Moving Articles

Moving Articles

But you can subscribe to more than regular site feeds. Instapaper offers an Editor’s Pick section and a Long Reads (@longreads) folder. You can even subscribe to other Instapaper user’s starred items. Starred items? Yeah; every web app and his iPhone counterpart offer starring now-a-days. In Instapaper, starring an item is a silent vote of recommendation. As mentioned, other users can subscribe to your starred items. 

Adding a Folder

Adding a Folder

Perks

Although Instapaper strives to be a minimalistic app, it has a few great perks. By far the best one is tilt scrolling. There’s no need to swipe your finger to scroll; just tilt your iPhone backwards or forwards to scroll up and down. You can enable this feature on an article-by-article basis, while reading the article. At first, I thought this was a bad design decision, but after using it, I discovered that that was brilliant. When you turn on tilt scrolling, the angle you’re holding your iPhone app is set to “zero degrees”; this allows you use tilt scrolling no matter what pose you’re reading in. 

Tilt Scrolling & Other Perks

Tilt Scrolling & Other Perks

Instapaper also allows you to share articles on Twitter and Tumblr. You can change your font and font-size for a more personalized experience; there’s a "night mode" as well, which inverts the colours for reading in the dark.

Give It a Try

If you’re a voracious reader, or just enjoy a thought-provoking piece, Instapaper for the iPhone is a great purchase at only $5. Want to test drive it? The ad-supported free version offers a limited feature set, just enough to get you addicted. If you’re serious about reading, the Instapaper iPhone app will earn a good mark in your book.