Instapaper: Managing your ‘To Read’ list

I have this dreadfully bad habit of leaving lots of tabs open in my browser. Since the day Firefox introduced tabs, they have been my default way of “managing” large numbers of articles that I want to read. Whether someone has sent me a link by email or IM, or I spot something on Twitter, I’d open it up in a tab, glance at the headline and think, “Oh, I’ll read that later.” Then it would sit in my browser for weeks, sometimes months, whilst I did other stuff.

When Firefox grows to 60+ open tabs it becomes a bit of a resources pig and more often than not would crash horribly, maybe taking down the rest of the OS with it. I’d be forced to restart my Mac and when Firefox reopened I would feel compelled to reopen the 60 tabs that had caused it to crash in the first place. Sometimes I copy all URLs into a separate document and start afresh with an empty browser. I almost never go back to this list of URLs (which now goes back to 10th August 2006!).

I recently discovered Instapaper and now my workflow has totally changed. Instead of leaving tabs open, I open the article I want to read, save it to Instapaper, and close the tab. I can then read it either later on, in my browser, or I can read it on the Instapaper iPhone app. Once I’m done, I can archive the link, or I can share it on Tumbler, Twitter, Feedly, Google Reader, Facebook or via email. Instapaper also plays very nicely with Tweetie on the iPhone, so I can save links direct from my phone without having to star the Tweet and open it on my Mac later. The only thing I miss at the moment is that I can’t save links to Delicious, which is my current link storage facility.

It’s not often that an app revolutionises my reading in this way. RSS did it, years back. (If you’re curious, I use NetNewsWire which syncs to Google Reader and thence with Reeder on the iPhone – a fab combination.) But nothing has come close to changing how I consume non-RSS content until now.

The great thing is that I don’t feel the need to read everything that passes into view, but have a much more streamlined way of saving the link and assessing it later. And because Instapaper on the iPhone works offline, I can use some of that wasted time spent sitting on underground trains to flip through my articles. Win!

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