Read Later: “Save As” For The Internet

They say that necessity is the mother of invention. It would stand to reason, then, that with the emergence of the Internet, it would be necessary to have an invention that would help us cope with the massive amounts of information. Of course, the category of RSS readers has been present for some time, but it’s almost as if that isn’t sufficient enough anymore. I can set up my RSS reader to pull from several different websites, but I can’t limit my information absorption to 5 or 20 or even 100 different websites; it comes from everywhere.

Some of the other AppStorm sites have talking about Pocket, a web service formerly known as Read It Later. Pocket, and other similar services, aim to let you save various articles and videos for later consumption, rather than letting them interrupt your workflow. Today we’re going to look at Read Later, which is a Mac desktop client for both the free Pocket and the paid Instapaper. The app was originally released as ReadNow, but it’s evolved quite a bit since we covered it, so let’s see what’s new.

Saving And Reading

Using Read Later with Instapaper requires a paid Instapaper account. Since that’s not something I have, I will be testing the app with my Pocket account. Adding bookmarks to Read Later can either be done externally (my preferred method is using the Pocket extension for Safari) or through the app (drag a URL to the dock or menubar icon). Regardless of how you do it, simply click the sync button in Read Later and all of your bookmarks will instantly show up.

The main view.

The main view.

The default view for Read Later includes a familiar 3-pane window, much like what we’re used to from apps like Reeder. However, the panes can be hidden or shown to form any configuration at all. This is helpful if you want to keep your bookmark list open on the side of your screen even when you’re not viewing an article, hide the sidebar to eliminate distractions while you’re reading, or anything in between.

Your bookmarks display in a very clean, no-frills format, similar to that of Safari’s built in Reader. However, for those times when you’d prefer to view the webpage, Read Later sports a built in browser.

Organizing and Sharing

This is, in my opinion, where Read Later shines. Read Later allows for a folder structure of whatever complexity you desire, and bookmarks can be drag-and-dropped between them. They can also be tagged from the Edit pop-up in the upper right corner. In addition, the bookmarks list can ben sorted by tags, title, URL, or date, and your entire collection can be searched with the magnifying glass icon at the bottom.

Change the title or tags of bookmarks for archival purposes.

Change the title or tags of bookmarks for archival purposes.

While the interface of Read Later doesn’t necessarily mimic that of Pocket’s web app or iOS apps, any of the organizational changes (particularly in relation to tags and read/unread status) are reflected in those counterparts.

News is becoming more and more social, and Read Later doesn’t try to stand in the way of that. Read Later supports URL-shorteners and, Twitter, Facebook, Pinboard, Delicious, and can even send bookmarks to Evernote.

A Few Extras

As I poked around the Read Later interface, I was pleasantly surprised at the immersive amount of customization available to the user. You can change quite a number of settings that affect the way content is displayed (including a dark setting that inverts the colors), the font style and size of the content, the highlight color in the bookmarks list, and how dock/menubar icons are displayed.

You can also change the way that the app responds to certain input. Not only can you set keyboard shortcuts a few of Read Later’s functions, but you can also change the way that multi-touch gestures are used to navigate the app.

Custom gestures.

Custom gestures.

The Verdict

I’ve never used Instapaper, and I wasn’t a Read It Later user (until it became Pocket). I can say as a new user that Pocket has implemented a very effective and attractive sense of style and layout in its iOS apps, and one that I’d like to see continued into a native Mac app.

That being said, Read Later is a very well designed, third-party, multi-service client for Mac, and is currently one of the most elegant options for the offline consumption of your “saved for later” material. It allows me to spend a dedicated amount of time in the morning browsing my RSS feeds and saving webpages that I’d like to look at later, and then proceed with my day without letting the news pester my mind. I know that everything will be waiting for me at the end of the day when I can finally sit down to read.

I’m curious to know your thoughts on services like Pocket and Instapaper. What’s your preferred method for utilizing them on the Mac?


A Mac desktop client for bookmarking services like Pocket (formerly Read It Later) and Instapaper.