Ben Crowder

Archive: Instapaper

Instapaper 4.2

The Instapaper 4.2 update dropped last night, and mmm, it’s tasty.

First, there’s a new fast pagination mode. It’s fast. Really fast. And smooth. I love it. (There’s also a new iBooks-style mode where you get a page turn animation. It’s okay, but I’m hooked on fast pagination mode.)

If you’re using pagination instead of scrolling (and I recommend that you do), the scrollbar has been moved from the thin line on the right down to a series of dots on the bottom. Since with pagination you’re moving left and right instead of up and down, it makes more sense this way. And it feels more right.

There’s a new auto fullscreen feature that switches to fullscreen after a few seconds. I hadn’t been using fullscreen mode before this update, but it’s nice and I’m liking it.

Finally, the release fixes a couple bugs (like opening into an archived article instead of into the main inbox).

All in all, a great update to an awesome app.

Readability: a review

A few days ago the new Readability iOS app finally came out. Since I have a verging-on-unhealthy obsession with reading, and a large chunk of that happens in Instapaper, and apps that have anything to do with reading make me giddy, I gave it a shot.

My initial verdict: Ooh, shiny. And shiny it is. Readability is really slick, and both the icon and the UI are ├╝ber tasty. After using the app for a couple days, however… Well, I’m sticking with Instapaper, for the following reasons (not in any order):

  • Pagination. I love it. I don’t have to keep track of where I am every time I scroll down. It’s a small detail but it makes a difference, and it’s one of the main reasons I prefer reading articles in Instapaper instead of on the web.
  • Fonts. Yes, yes, I know Readability has fonts that aren’t the standard iOS fare, and that’s a very good thing (I love Charter in iBooks), but the fonts in Readability feel off to me — not very good for reading. (Whitney is lovely for headings, though.) Instapaper has Georgia, which is admittedly boring but hey, it’s a good, solid font for reading lots of text. From the reviews I’ve read, however, other people do like the fonts, so this is probably just a matter of personal preference.
  • Instapaper’s reading list shows you how long each article is and how far along you are in it.
  • In the reading view, Instapaper has a thin little progress indicator showing you how much more of the article you have left to read. (Yes, a scrolling view does give you an indicator as well, but only when you’re scrolling.)
  • I’ve had noticeably better success saving articles in Instapaper. Sometimes Readability just couldn’t save an article when Instapaper could.
  • Instapaper can save posts from a private Blogger blog. Readability can’t.
  • If Readability can’t download an article, it just doesn’t show up in your reading list. No notification, nothing. (At least nothing I could see anywhere.) Instapaper shows the article title in the reading list but lets you know that it couldn’t download it (and then gives you the option to re-download it or open it in Safari).
  • Instapaper’s reading list is more compact, so you can see three and a half articles instead of Readability’s two and a half. I do love the heavy bold Readability uses for the article titles, though. I just wish the entries didn’t take up quite so much space. Again, not a huge deal, but I apparently really like being able to see more articles on the reading list.
  • Instapaper has folders.

Consider this more of an ode to Instapaper than a “let’s diss Readability” post. It’s great that there are other apps out there doing similar things, and I wish the best for Readability. Hopefully it’s a good fit for other people who aren’t burdened with nitpicky designery quirks. I wanted to love it. I really did. (Man, that icon is delicious.) But Instapaper is still king of the offline reading app hill for me.

Instapaper shoutout

I just finished reading Merlin Mann’s excellent post Instapaper 4: Deciding to Read and got an itch to finally write up a post about my love of Instapaper. Then I poked around in my blog archives and realized that eighteen months ago I already did that. There’s a lot of stuff I didn’t mention in that post, though, so there’ll be some more gushing here and now. Prepare yourselves.

First, for the ungeeks who haven’t heard about Instapaper, it’s a service that lets me save online text to read later on my phone. That’s the gist of it. I run into something long online and want to read it but don’t have time at the moment, so I save it to Instapaper and read it that evening or the next day or whenever it’s convenient. It’s a brilliant idea, and it’s executed very, very nicely. The iPhone app is well worth the five bucks it costs. (Oh, and you can still use Instapaper even if you don’t have a smartphone — you can read articles on the Instapaper website.)

So, how do I get stuff into Instapaper? I use the Read Later bookmarklet the most, but I often send things to Instapaper from Google Reader (the “Send To” option) and Reeder and Tweetbot on my phone, and lately I’m emailing stuff in as well (missionary emails, David Farland’s Daily Kicks, etc.).

While I do have an iPad, I hardly ever use it, so I do all my Instapaper reading on my iPhone. I don’t have set times of any kind for reading in Instapaper, but since I usually don’t have games on my phone (except for occasional binges, followed by purges the next day ~cough~), I end up turning to Instapaper or iBooks. We’ll see how much I use Instapaper on the Kindle Touch when it arrives.

As for what I’m reading in Instapaper, it’s primarily fueled by blogs I read, links people post on Twitter, and online publications. Here’s a sampling (which is mostly LDS stuff):

Most Dawning of a Brighter Day and A Motley Vision posts end up in my Instapaper queue. Like I mentioned before, the Maxwell Institute has a lot of great books online, along with other papers and transcripts. And most of the older BYU Religious Studies Center books are online (looks like everything published before 2010), as are a bunch of articles. I’ve enjoyed reading through the FAIR conference transcripts. And I’ve saved all of the talks from this past general conference to Instapaper.

I’ve also been reading through all the past Writing Excuses transcripts, and Brandon Sanderson’s novel annotations are sweet, too. (Speaking of which, I never thought my wife would read epic fantasy, but she’s over halfway through Mistborn and seems to be enjoying it.)

So, that’s me and Instapaper. If you like reading, get it. It’s bliss.

Why I love Instapaper

I’m in love with Instapaper. Seriously, it’s so, so, so awesome.

And it’s even more awesome now that I’m using it to learn things. I wanted to brush up on Python a few weeks ago, so I saved the tutorial to Instapaper and read it on my phone on my walk home from work. I’ve been wanting to play around with RenderMan, so I dumped the spec into Instapaper. I wanted to learn more French, so I found some tutorials on French grammar and put them in Instapaper. I wanted to catch up on some old BYU speeches, so I saved them to Instapaper. You get the idea.

Why is this cool? Because reading on my iPhone is more enjoyable than reading on my computer. (See @craigmod’s piece on the iPad screen — he’s got it right.) And I have my phone with me all the time, so I can read while I’m walking home from work or waiting in line somewhere or whatever. Much more accessible. Not to mention that Instapaper strips out everything but the text and formats the text nicely.

Even better, I just found that the first fourteen volumes of Hugh Nibley’s collected works are free on the Maxwell Institute site, and they load perfectly into Instapaper. Delicious.

Oh, and did I mention that there’s going to be an iPad version? I can’t wait.