If you're like most people, you see lots of interesting headlines and links through the course of a day. Unfortunately, most of them come at inconvenient times when you can't stop to read it. You could bookmark everything, but that quickly turns your web browser into a dumping ground.
Instapaper is an app & associated web service that makes it easy to collect all those articles, and come back to them when you have time to read them. And instead of a pile of web pages, Instapaper strips down your articles to a clean text-focused format that lets you focus on the actual content.
While you can read Instapaper articles online at instapaper.com, the iPad is by far the best reading experience. Here's how to get started with Instapaper (and stay tuned next week for hints on using Instapaper's advanced features).
For starters, you'll need an Instapaper account, which is available for free. You can sign up online at instapaper.com, or via the Instapaper app, which costs $4.99 in the App Store.
Once you've created your account, start populating Instapaper by saving articles. On a desktop computer, you can install a bookmarklet to add links to your account with a single click. Instapaper also integrates with lots of iOS apps, so you can add links to your Instapaper account via apps you already use, like Flipboard, Tweetbot, Pulse, Reeder, and our own TabTimes iPad app (Free, iTunes), which launches today. Presently, there are more than 140 apps that support Instapaper integration.
Reading with Instapaper
Reading is where Instapaper really shines. On the iPad, the app presents you with a grid of stories, with the most recently-saved ones at the top. The article thumbnail offers a headline, source, and a preview of the text. Tap a thumbnail to bring up the article view.
Instapaper's article view is perfect for reading longform articles on the iPad. The app strips away any design elements, ads, and other web-based distractions, leaving you with a simple, beautiful layout of text and images. You can switch between web-like scrolling, or a paginated layout that switches pages with a quick swipe across the screen.
Instapaper also offers simple controls that stay hidden until you tap the middle of the screen. You can adjust the brightness, as well as switch between black-on-white, black-on-cream, or white-on-black color schemes. Instapaper also offers a dozen serif and sans serif fonts, as well as controls for font size, line spacing, and column-width.
When you're done with an article, you can tap the Trash icon to archive it in your Instapaper account, or delete it permanently. And since Instapaper downloads text to your device, you'll always have something else to read, even if you're out of data range. It's perfect for subway commuters, and anyone with a Wi-Fi-only iPad.
Next week, we'll take an in-depth look at some of Instapaper's advanced features, including folders, sharing articles, and saving articles via email.