When Pocket hired the developer of Read Later — my favorite ‘save for later’ client for Mac — in October 2012, support for Michael Schneider’s brainchild was dropped in favour of developing Pocket’s own app. As a user of both Pocket and Instapaper this left me in quite the predicament as the latter is unsurprisingly not supported by Pocket. That was until I heard about ReadKit.
ReadKit provides the same offline reading function as the Instapaper, Pocket, and Readability mobile apps; however, if you use multiple services, it also allows you to combine all of your accounts right in one app. Join me after the break to find out how it sets itself apart from the crowd.
Instapaper users will need to have a $1/month premium subscription to use their account with this app or any other 3rd party Instapaper app.
Everything You Need in One Window
Having tested ReadKit for a few days, the first thing to strike me is just how simple it is to use. In fairness, read later clients are hardly the most complex app to use, but it can be easy to over complicate an interface or to get carried away with minimalism leaving an app scantily clad. ReadKit balances both aspects by combining a straight forward interface and just the right amount of features to allow focus to remain on your saved lists.
In a style similar to that of Reeder for Mac, a three column design makes up the main window with individual accounts and constituent folders shown on the far left; a list of saved content in the middle; and the article/video/image viewer on the right. Unlike Pocket’s official app, the window can be manipulated to customise what you see when reading.
Having the full compliment of interface elements visible whilst viewing content can be an unnecessary distraction and the ability to alter the window is fantastic. By hiding the first column via the arrow icon beneath the saved list, the widely recognised ‘hamburger’ button is displayed above the list preserving the app’s simple navigation system.
By far the best way to view saved content in ReadKit is with Focus Mode. Accessible via the eye icon underneath the article viewer column the feature hides all interface elements allowing for an unadulterated viewing experience. If you like to follow the proverbial rabbit hole, you can click any inline link or an article headline to view the built-in web browser where you can browse links and easily save new content for later consumption.
Perhaps the only deficiency I found with the interface is the inability to right-click on the saved list. I like to open content in Chrome with a right-click or to share to a social network, and despite the fact such options are available from within the content viewing column, it would be helpful to have the option.
Talking of sharing options, another issue I have is the absence of Evernote. As a serial Evernote clipper I have found its absence to be frustrating as you have to resort to opening items in Chrome to clip a selection. In fairness, such absences can be expected with a newly released app and I’m sure ReadKit’s developers will be looking to expand upon their existing sharing options. It is worth pointing out that Facebook and Twitter require no additional login as OS X Mountain Lion’s built in sharing system is used.
In testing I encountered no problems with ReadKit’s performance and found it be fast, stable and responsive throughout without a crash in sight. The app also breezed through downloading new articles, moving from folder-to-folder, and archiving viewed items with results showing up almost instantly on Instapaper and Pocket’s websites. Overall, you would be hard pressed to find a more polished app, especially one that is still in version 1.0.
One of the reasons I use both an Instapaper and Pocket account is because they excel in different areas. On the one hand, Instapaper is fantastic at parsing text for reading and boasts several beautiful fonts; however, Pocket is far superior when it comes to displaying multimedia content like video and images. ReadKit has managed to blend the best of both in one app by displaying text, video, and images as they would be in their respective apps.
When it comes to video the only services that interest me are YouTube and Vimeo. Unlike Pocket, ReadKit doesn’t display thumbnails in its saved list column, but it does mimic the stripped back approach when displaying video. The app removes comments, descriptions and any advertisements leaving only the video itself at the centre of the page for distraction-free viewing.
For me, ReadKit really shines when displaying text with block-quotes, sub-headings and footnotes all formatted precisely as they would be by Instapaper itself. I greatly prefer the reading experience with this app compared to Pocket, largely down to the far greater customisation option on offer.
As I mentioned, there are various settings available to change the way you view content and they totally blow Pocket out of the water. Whereas Pocket has only one serif and one sans-serif font to choose from, ReadKit allows you to access you Mac’s entire font book and, subsequently, a vast array of additional fonts to download.
Article width, line height, text alignment and theme are all configurable to fit your personal preference. Such options allowed me to create my favourite format: narrow article width and a small serif font. Unfortunately, given ReadKit’s otherwise stellar interface, accessing the preferences is more convoluted than it should be. Instead of being in the app’s settings, a drop down menu with the most important options enclosed from the main window itself would be a better fit.
There are also four themes available to choose from: Light, Dark, Corporation, and Greenlette. Themes are not applied throughout the app, with only the content viewing column receiving a fresh lick of paint. Of the themes, Corporation is my personal favourite with an off white background equivalent to the sepia tone in Instapaper, but the dark option is great for reading at night.
The main reason I use read later apps is because I don’t have time to read whilst at my desktop; therefore, the concept of a desktop client is one I am still ambivalent about. However, ReadKit has surprised me with its highly polished design and solid performance making it a permanent fixture in my Dock from here on out. Aside from a handful of issues, the developers have made a great start with this app, and one I am sure they will continue to build upon. I highly recommend you try ReadKit and it’s only $1.99 for this week only.