Since its launch in 2008, Instapaper has become the go-to reading app for a huge number of multi-platform users. Yet despite an impressive adoption rate, a plethora of features often remain unexplored. Let’s delve into a few here.
Instapaper is a lightweight web and mobile app that allows you to quickly and easily save all the online content you don’t have time for right now (no matter how fast you read), for later offline reading. The app is available for free on iOS, Android, and also within your browser.
Instapaper’s core features – like the removal of distractions from web pages – make it particularly adept at helping you to tackle your ever-expanding list of long-form articles. The years have been kind to users, which means after many upgrades there are a couple of features you may have overlooked.
Note: A couple of these features require you to have the premium version of the app (which in my opinion is worth it) which costs $2.99 per month, or $29.99 per year.
For years we have been reading articles, essays, guides and blog posts, packed to the rafters with information and statistics that have simply drifted from our minds. This content was crafted with the aim of educating us, only to be forgotten the following week, or more likely the following day.
Luckily, Instapaper has a highlighting feature that allows you to highlight those all-important passages, quotes and sentences to revisit at a later date. On mobile and in-browser, simply highlight the desired text and select the Highlight pop-up button. The free version of Instapaper only has a measly five highlights per month limit, but if you upgrade to the premium account, this becomes unlimited.
To review your highlights, simply select “Highlights” from the in-app navigation menu and you’ll see a list of all your individual highlights. If you click on the link back to the original article, you’ll see all of your highlights for that content displayed within the article itself, so you can read these in context.
If you aren’t interested in paying for your Instapaper subscription, you won’t have the full-text search option that allows you to search through all of your saved content. This means that if you’re storing a hefty number of articles, many will simply sit there in the background, are difficult to re-discover and sadly forgotten.
There is a way around this though. By exporting (up to) your most recent 2000 saved articles on Instapaper, you’re then able to export these as a .CSV or .HTML file, to do with as you wish. To export your Instapaper library, tap or click on your username at the top right of the screen, select settings, then scroll to the bottom of the page, and choose the format you’d like.
When exported and opened as a spreadsheet, the data has four columns. The article URL, Title, Selection (source), and Folder (if you sorted the article into a folder). You’re then able to filter the list as necessary in order to only import the relevant articles to other read-later apps such as Pocket (an alternative digital bookmarking service), Pinboard, or wherever else you like.
Personally, I use the following steps suggested by Stephan Millard on Quora to export articles from my individual Instapaper folders, and then import these into relevant Evernote notebooks (you can read our complete guide to Evernote here). This can be a bit fiddly, so a less technical approach you can use is to send individual articles directly from Instapaper to Evernote by clicking Share > Evernote within the app.
A related feature on Instapaper is the “Download” option. When you open an Instapaper folder (within your browser), click your username, then Download. You’ll have the option to download the content of that folder for Kindle, ePub, RSS feed or a very early beta printable format.
Extended Sharing Options
Within Instapaper itself, you can log in to your Twitter, Facebook, app.net, Pinboard, Tumblr and Evernote accounts and choose to publish your liked articles and highlights directly to these accounts.
This is a simple way to publish what you’re reading to your followers, or simply for keeping better tabs on content that you want to be able to find again in the future – and better than constantly copying and pasting.
Sorting and Filtering Content
Instapaper recently added a few new sorting and filtering options. To access these, pull down on the screen when the app is open, and the “Sort By” menu will be displayed.
Although very basic, these add a nice component to the app to help you read the right articles at the right time. Currently, these filtering options are only available on the mobile version of the app.
When it comes to sorting your articles, you can choose between newest saved, oldest saved, longest articles, shortest articles, popularity and shuffle. The filtering option is based on the estimated time to read a saved article. Current options are less than 5 minutes, 5-10 min, 10-30 min, 30-60 min and over an hour.
Back in May 2014, Instapaper announced it’s integration with Zapier, the app automation platform. This means you can more easily (and automatically) save content from tons of other websites and apps to Instapaper. A few examples are those in the above image. To get an idea of what Zapier offers, this short video is a decent primer:
In short, Zapier enables you to easily build simple scripts that integrate your favourite apps and sites with Instapaper (and other apps) using certain parameters to give you control over the content that ends up in your library. If you wanted to only add content from Feedly with the word ‘Android’ in the title, that’s doable. If you wanted to add favourited links in Twitter, and liked posts on Tumblr to Instapaper, that’s possible too.
Along with this, Instapaper also has some If This Then That (ITTT) scripts set up here that enable you to automatically pull content from various sites into your Instapaper account. You can learn how to set up your own ITTT scripts here. A couple of examples are ‘Save ESPN breaking news to Instapaper’ and ‘Save long reads from The Atlantic to Instapaper’, though there’s plenty more to choose from.
This is a very neat way of ensuring your Instapaper account is automatically topped up with content that you actually want to read.
Email Direct To Instapaper
If you receive an email that’s just too long to read straight away, you might want to save and read it later. Other times, a full-length newsletter or article lands in your inbox that you want to save, but don’t want preventing you from reaching Inbox zero.
You can solve both of these issues by simply forwarding these lengthy emails to your personal Instapaper email address. This email address can be found by visiting this page within you account.
Save These Tips for Later
Instapaper is introducing a lot of new features in the hope of simplifying our online and offline reading. Many of these are hidden away, rarely promoted, but can go a long way to ensuring you always have an interesting selection of content in the right place at the right time, that’s recoverable when you need it.
There are of course other ‘read later’ options available including Pocket, Readability [Broken URL Removed] and Kippt, though personally, I prefer Instapaper due to these small, but underrated features.
Which other features do you think Instapaper should be introducing?