We spend more and more time reading web pages. So much of the information we take in each day comes from the sites we visit, whether that be in the course of work, pleasure, or study. If you have the time to spend on following a trail of links and reading whatever crosses your screen, just as it grabs your attention, you’re luckier than most of us.
Mostly we have to rely on some system for saving things of interest so that we don’t lose out. Today we’ll be taking a look at one tool in particular; QuietRead.
A Range of Apps
Of course there are many strategies for dealing with this glut of sites and interesting information. You can simply Bookmark or Favourite everything; you can drag shortcuts to your desktop; keep a simple text file and add URLs as you come across them; use Yojimbo, Shovebox or a similar app to capture web archives; post to Delicious or Pinboard or Evernote; or use the geek’s favourite webapp, Instapaper, to save things for later.
Bamboo Apps have another option for you: QuietRead, which comes in two flavours, a basic, free version, and a $9.95 Pro version that unlocks a few extra features. Let’s explore what QuietRead is, and how it works…
Grab Yourself a Cup of Words
QuietRead is a menu bar app – it’s the left most icon here, an inviting cup of tea or coffee for you to settle down with for your quiet reading session:
Click on the icon, and you’ll see the app’s main window, a HUD-style dropdown list of articles you’ve saved previously.
Getting pages into QuietRead is easy, and you have two options to choose from. You can either simply drag the URL onto the cup icon – the cursor will display a green plus sign to show you the item’s going to be added; or you can use a bookmarklet that’s available on the developer’s site.
Once you’ve got those pages saved, and finally have a few minutes free to do some reading, you simply click on the cup icon to show the list view, and then double click on whichever article you want to read, and the page will open in your default browser.
You can CTRL-click on items in the list for some options – editing the title, deleting, or opening and deleting. The bulk of other options available are hidden away in the gear icon at bottom-right of the main app window.
In some ways it might have made more sense to instead build them into the context menu for each item, but this setup works well enough.
Click on the gear, and you’ll see the following menu – that is, if you’ve paid to unlock the Pro version, since most of these options are unavailable on the free one:
You can send articles to Instapaper or Read It Later, bookmark them in Delicious, shorten URLs, and email them to your pals. It’s nice, too, that you can export your saved URLs in CSV format – I can imagine scenarios where that would be useful.
Say you were researching a particular topic and lined up a bunch of articles – you could then export them to CSV for later reference or bibliographic use, and delete the links from QuietRead.
More Questions than Answers
So there we have it: a simple way to keep track of things you want to read later, packaged in an attractive, elegant format that’s available from anywhere on your machine (that’s something else Pro adds: a system-wide keyboard shortcut to show/hide QuietRead’s window). It’s a simple idea, well executed. But I can’t really see the point…
I’ve been using Instapaper for a long time, and Delicious for years before that – now I’ve switched over to Pinboard. With these two services, and others like them, I don’t see there being a need for an app like QuietRead. I love that QuietRead Pro can send items to Instapaper, but to my mind that’s an odd duplication of function.
Perhaps if QuietRead could do some of the things that Instapaper does – like providing a nicely formatted reading-version of just about any website you send to it – then it’d make more sense to me.
As it stands, though, I don’t see much point to saving an article in QuietRead and then sending it to Instapaper: why not simply use the Instapaper bookmarklet to send any page I want to read directly to the service?
And then there’s Pinboard’s various bookmarklets, including the über-simple Read Later, which simply adds the page you’re on to your list of unread items, without you needing to interact with the service at all – no tagging needed. Then, once you’ve read the item, you can decide if you want to add a tag and keep it among your bookmarks, or simply delete it.
When I first came across QuietRead, I liked the simplicity of the app, and the elegance of its implementation. Perhaps it would work well with some people’s workflow – I can certainly imagine situations where you’re blazing through a whole lot of sites and want to keep track of links so that can find your way back to them, but don’t want them mixed up in your Bookmarks or your Instapaper account. But I haven’t yet managed to work out for myself why I would opt for this app over either of the services I’ve mentioned above, and which I rely on daily.
The score I’m giving QuietRead reflects the fact that it does what it does pretty well, but there’s also a strong “huh?” factor to my response. If I was assessing it against the various other options for getting a similar job done, I would have to drop my rating down a couple of points.
Let us know in the comments whether you think QuietRead would have a place in your way of getting things done. And even if you think not, it still worth downloading the free version and giving it a spin – and be sure to tell us what you make of it.