About a year ago someone mentioned Instapaper on Twitter, curious I decided to check it out. Now a year later I don’t know what I would do without it. For the uninitiated Instapaper is a bookmarking service, kinda. The actual purpose is to give you a place where you can temporarily store links to different articles / blog posts that you want to read later.
Before Instapaper I had a bookmarks folder on my Mac labeled ‘To Read’ and within that folder I saved all the same things that you would keep in Instapaper. The problem with that system is that I was responsible for removing the bookmarks when I was done reading them – a problem that Instapaper solves. You add items to Instapaper by installing a bookmarklet in your web browser (dead simple), invoking this bookmarklet lets you automatically add the page you are on to Instapaper. Clicking to read something in Instapaper automatically archives that link (there is an option to keep this from happening), thus only showing you the unread items. This would be fairly useful on its own, but it adds to its functionality by storing your old links in an archived section.
You can even star items that you like, allowing others to add your starred items to their Instapaper for viewing (try it with me my username is Showngo). All you have to do is click to add a new folder and then click the link at the top that says ‘add another users Starred items.” Done.
One often overlooked feature is the ability to create folders within Instapaper for sorting links, and you can install bookmarklets that add links directly to that folder. Very handy indeed, especially if you keep a folder specifically, for say, posting links to a blog.
For those that have not used the service this all sounds unmoving I am sure, but have you ever tried reading something with an ad blinking off to the side? If so you know how distracting that can be, Instapaper also solves this by allowing you to read a text-only version of the page with a click of the button.
This of course is all leading to Instapaper’s killer feature: the iPad / iPhone / Kindle integration that developer Marco Arment has taken the time to create. The iPhone app has always been a great way to read your Instapaper items, but add in Kindle syncing and iPad apps – well you really have something special.
When you read your Instapaper items on any of these devices they are presented with beautiful typography and no adds blinking and distracting you. This is especially true on the Kindle as there is no color display. The apps still allow the display of images (I forget if this is the case on the Kindle now) that are inline as part of the story. In other words you get everything you need and want, without all the other crap distracting you.
Instapaper in my opinion is a service worth paying for – yet it is free.