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Save time with Instapaper's advanced features, plus a new Android version

by Ray Aguilera

June 6 2012

Saving and reading stories are Instapaper's core functionality, but this week we go deeper into Instapaper's advanced features. Plus: A look at the brand-new Android version.

Last week, we took a look at Instapaper, the web service/app combo designed as a quick way to collect online articles for later reading. This week, we're tackling advanced features like saving articles via email, and the brand-new location-based updating. 

Get organized

Once you start using Instapaper extensively, your article list quickly gets unwieldy. To add some organization, create folders to sort your articles. To add a folder, in the Articles view tap the folder icon, and then tap the + sign. Name your folder and tap Done.

Going forward, there are a few different ways to use folders. If you frequently save stories to Instapaper from a web browser, you can create separate bookmarklets to send stories to specific folders. To do so, log in to your account at Instapaper.com, and find your Folders list in the sidebar to the right. Click the link for the folder you want to create a bookmarklet for, and then drag the displayed bookmarklet into your web browser's toolbar. 

Now whenever you find a story you want to file in an Instapaper folder, simply click the appropriate bookmarklet. This is useful for separating work-related articles from pleasure reading, for example, or collecting stories on particular topics.

You can also use folders to sort articles you've already saved. To move an existing article, tap the arrow, then choose Move to Folder….

Folders are also useful outside of Instapaper. Each folder you create has its own unique RSS feed, and you can add them to any RSS reader to see your Instapaper articles alongside other news. You could also use  Instapaper folders to create custom content feeds you can share with others, or embed in your website or blog.

Submit by email

Instapaper also recognizes that the web isn't the only way you receive information. Every Instapaper account comes with a personal email address that adds the content to your Instapaper account. To find your address, login to Instapaper's web interface and click Extras. 

Your address is purposefully long and complicated. Instead of trying to remember it, enter it into Contacts, so you can quickly forward long emails to Instapaper. It also works great with apps that support emailing links. Simply send an email with a link to your Instapaper address, and that article will be available for reading in Instapaper. Just be careful not to share your address or post it on the internet, because anything sent there will get added to your Instapaper account. 

Share with Instapaper

When you're reading something great in Instapaper, sharing it with friends and colleagues is just a tap away. To set up sharing, tap Settings > Sharing. From there, you can add various external accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinboard, and Evernote. To share an article, tap the arrow and choose Share….

In addition to sharing with third-party services, the Share… button also provides options for emailing links, opening stories in Safari, copying text to the clipboard and more. If you have other apps installed on your device that support Instapaper, they'll also appear here. For example, I can also post an article to Twitter using Tweetbot, create a note in Simplenote, or add an article to my tasks list in OmniFocus, all from the Share… button.

Update automatically

One of Instapaper's best features is that it pre-loads articles. This is fantastic for anyone who commutes via subway, so that you can read Instapaper articles while out of network range. But until a recent update, you had to remember to launch the app while in Wi-Fi or cellular range on a regular basis. 

Thanks to the new Background Updates feature, Instapaper can automatically update your reading list. The feature works by tapping into location services. It's a clever work-around to keep your device from draining your battery by constantly trying to update. 

To set up Background Updates, go to Settings > Update Locations when you're in a spot where you'd like to update (your home or office are good options). Turn Background Updates on, and tap Add Current Location to enable updates. You can add multiple locations, but it also works fine with a single location specified.

Instapaper, now on Android

Until now, Instapaper has been available only on Apple's mobile devices. Instapaper's developer Marco Arment has insisted that he didn't want to take away from development time on that platform to create an Android version. 

Turns out, he stayed true to his word, handing over development of the Android version to Mobelux. The new Android version of Instapaper is loyal to the iOS original, with a few limitations.

On smaller tablets, available stories are laid out in a single column, much like the iPhone. On ten-inch Android tabs, Instapaper presents stories in the now-familiar boxed layout similar to what the iPad uses. 

There are however a couple of key differences (for now). Instapaper for Android lacks the sepia-tone color option, as well as the ability to browse articles popular with other Instapaper users. And while Instapaper on iOS sports a full-screen mode uncluttered by buttons, the chrome in the Android versions remains visible at all times, cutting down on on space for text. It also lacks the location-based background updating that was recently added to the iOS version of Instapaper. 

Ray Aguilera is the Technology Editor of TabTimes, and is based in San Francisco.

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