The Techie Scheky series offers tips and tactics for being more productive and creative through technology (especially with a Mac).
All day long, we are bombarded with things to read. Distractions come at us from every direction: things our friends send us, things our bosses send us, things we come across on Social Networks, things we find in our RSS feeds, things that we want to read, but that will take us away from what we really need to stay focused on. Now, there are two options (well really, three). We can stop what we are doing (not ideal), remember to read it later (a fallacy) or find a place to put it. Sure, you can use bookmarks or you can schedule a to-do, but these aren’t ideal solutions, especially when you are on the go. Thankfully a wonderful man1 by the name of Marco Arment has given us all an elegant solution: Instapaper
What on earth is Instapaper?
Explaining Instapaper is easy. Visit their homepage, drag their bookmark onto your browser and create an account. After that, click the bookmark every time you come across an article or a webpage that you would like to read later and like magic, it will be added to your account. Better yet, it will strip out everything on the website, including annoying advertisements, except for the content you want2 in an easily readable format. Best of all, everything is synced through your Instapaper account, meaning that all of these articles are available across all of your devices. Speaking of your devices, you have two ways to read your content, for free on the web or for $4.993 through Instapaper’s iPhone and iPad application.
Instapaper.com – This is probably the weakest part of the Instapaper experience (see the Geeky Quick Tip below for a way to improve this), but it is still a passable way to read the articles in your account. It is feature light, but you can still get quick access to all of the articles and websites in your account. You can use Instapaper for free on their website, but if you really want the service to come alive, you need to try it out on your iPhone or iPad.
Instapaper for iPhone and iPad – This is tied with Reeder as both the most useful and most elegant applications on my iPhone. Both are simple, but both are exceptionally powerful for staying on top of the latest news. In fact, I use them in tandem as Reeder makes it exceptionally easy to send articles to Instapaper. Reeder (and Google Reeder) serve as my inbox and the best articles go to Instapaper, my action box for reading. Instapaper for the iOS is everything Instapaper for the web is not. It is as feature rich as you would want it to be, while remaining easy to use. It is a pleasure to read on and makes sharing your favorite stories a breeze. It also syncs and stores all of your articles so you can stay up on your reading, even when you don’t have cell service. This is an essential feature for anyone who has a Wi-Fi only device, who flies often, or who, like me, is stuck on the subway for nearly an hour two times a day. The application will cost you $4.99 and works on both the iPhone and the iPad. I know I keep saying this, but I assure you, it will be the best five bucks you spend this year.
Only The Things You Want To Read
While there is some truly amazing content out there on the web, there is also a lot of crap. This crap can keep you from reading what you want or even need to learn. Every day, I have a newspaper of my own making in the palm of my hand. No filler, not fat. A perfectly curated reading experience with content hand selected by someone with exactly my taste: me. Every subway ride, every Saturday morning, any free minute I find you will find me firing up Instapaper because I always know that there is something there I want to read and want to learn. And for the few moments where I find my good friend [Instapaper] empty, their Friends and Editors features always offer something worth devouring.
Geeky Quick Tip
This one is for all of you Safari users out there. As I mentioned earlier, the web experience leaves a lot to be desired4, but thankfully Brett Terpstra comes to the rescue with Instapaper Beyond. This Safari Extension adds keyboard shortcuts, which a geek like myself requires, and a slick interface that allows you to move through your articles a lot faster.