Why and how I use both Instapaper and Read It Later

March 10, 2011

The goal here, as ever, is to reduce friction.

Like everyone else on the planet, I use the hell out of Instapaper, and have for a very long time. (That said, I really don't use it as much these days because I send damn near everything straight to my Kindle as I come across it.)

I've created various folders within Instapaper, including one I call "media," that I use to hold, well, links to various media I come across each day. These mostly are videos related to science, technology, (non-)religion and politics, but also include a ton of pop-culture stuff.

A while ago Marco made it possible to target particular Instapaper folders with folder-specific bookmarklets. This was a feature I had been asking for, and it was implemented well. The problem though is that this sort of targeting is available only via the browser proper, and not via the various tools I use to blaze through my feeds each day, namely Reeder for Mac and iPhone. (I get through the vast majority of my ~400 feeds with the iPhone app. I just haven't found anything that's nearly as fast or as fun to use. I love it.)

As you can imagine then, if I add videos to Instapaper within those apps, I'm compelled, when I visit my Instapaper queue, to manually move each one to my "media" folder (if I'm not going to watch it as I come across it in Instapaper). This is just the kind of thing that drives me crazy, and so I set out to find a simple way around it.

After giving it some thought and coming up with some wildly complicated workarounds, it dawned on me that Reeder lets you add various and multiple services to its "Services" menu, and it just so happens it supports both Instapaper and Read It Later (which I had heard was very similar to Instapaper, but had never used).

So, I created a Read It Later account and added it to Reeder's "Services" menu on both the Mac and the iPhone. Now, whenever I come across a "media" link, I just send it to Read It Later; everything else goes to Instapaper.

Relatedly, whenever I'm in front of my Mac and doing general browsing/feed-reading, I usually have my screen divided into two sections: the left one-third of the screen is devoted to a first browser window for consuming the various queued media; the right two-thirds is devoted to either Reeder or a second browser window for reading the various articles I currently have open. (I use Divvy for this sort of thing. It's awesome.)

I use Chrome, and so I pin my Read It Later queue to the first tab in the left browser window, and my Instapaper queue to the first tab in the right browser window.

The whole setup works remarkably well, and I can't imagine there being any less friction.

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