App review: Instapaper

Sim Ahmed considers the very real first world problem of managing information overload

There is a lot of interesting content on the internet but the great tragedy of life is that none of us will ever get to read all of it. The Herculean problem of trying to read all the things you want to is being tackled by different services (with varying levels of success), but Instapaper is leading the pack.

A very long time ago I was quite content with saving interesting tidbits using Internet Explorer’s bookmarking tool and as I grew savvier with the web I started using web apps like Delicious to store all the things I wanted to view later.

Now, with my iPad with me everywhere I go, I actually have the opportunity to catch up on the move.

For this I exclusively use Instapaper, which is also available as an iPhone, Android and web app. The app isn’t free, but $4.20 is a small price to pay for the peace of mind that you won’t lose track of that great article you wanted to read later.

The core functionality of Instapaper is saving web pages for offline reading. It does this by scraping the content on a page and downloading it to your device. Parsers remove peripherals like menus, ads, and comments - leaving only the article you’re wanting to read, along with any embedded media.

The scraping and processing is all conducted on Instapaper’s servers. This means you only download the final offline version which saves on data charges. At the moment you can only store 500 articles on your device, but all articles are kept backed up on the Instapaper web app.

The reading environment is the best part of Instapaper, and it uses every precious inch on your device. The minimalist display is a pleasure to read from, especially if you’ve grown tired of the constant pinch-zooming required on some sites.

Organisation is a more difficult than in competing apps like Pocket. The folder and tagging system is cumbersome to the point I no longer use it. Instead, all my recent articles just pile up messily in the main folder.

Instagram wouldn’t be a modern app without some sort of social integration grafted on to it. In this case you have the option to automatically download the articles which have been shared by your friends on Twitter and Facebook.

4 Stars

$4.19 - Apple App Store

$3.19 - Android Play Store

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