Best Tools for Saving Online Reading Content  & Increasing Productivity

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Updates:

Fall 2016 | Many big changes are happening at Evernote. I’ll be writing a new post about the completely new Evernote 8 shortly so please be aware that much of the information regarding EV below is out of date. They’ve changed their fee structure and there still is a free plan, but it’s less robust than before. But they’ve added so many great new features that I don’t think many people will be upset. You can read my more recent post which compares the new updated Apple Notes to Evernote for more updated information…especially about Apple Notes…which is now a contender as a robust Notes app…but the Evernote information still needs updating.

Also, what a difference a year makes!  My own main blogs have really taken off and I now get between 130 – 150 visitors every day arriving at vsatips.  vsatips is my first blog and it will always remain my favorite…and the one I write for most frequently. I do get that while this is super exciting for me…it may be less so for you. But in the interest of accuracy, I just couldn’t let the old stats stand!

Read My Newest Post:  Instapaper is Now Completely Free

Jan. 2016 | Look for my section *Recent Update and News About Instapaper to learn more about Instapaper’s news

Main Article |

Apps I Use For Saving Reading Content

I’m almost always multi-tasking. Since becoming an empty nester and beginning my 2nd career I realize I’m playing ‘catch-up’ and don’t have a minute to waste!  ‘Read Later’ apps are one of the best innovations for serious multi-taskers.

I primarily use ios devices…iPads and iPhones. But I also use an Android tablet (currently the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 7″) Windows 7 computers and a Mac Mini.  Why does this matter?  Because the apps I rely on for daily tasks need to work on all these platforms…and not just work, but work well.  So for saving reading content I must be able to save things on any platform, using any device. This post discusses my 2 favorite apps and highlights a few great aspects of those.

Introduction & Background

I read a lot.  But I don’t read as many books as most of my friends and family.  The vast bulk of my reading is online articles and blogs which help make me more productive or which teach me things. In my case, the main types of things I read revolve around a few central themes:

  • Tech topics – focusing primarily on reviews of tech and hardware, articles about how to accomplish something and upcoming technology and trends
  • Blogging & Publishing Content Online – I have 3 main websites that I write for vsatrends, vsatips, and Hubpages.  In addition I maintain 3 primary websites for my family…one is our Christmas News site, one is for my siblings and parents about possessions we’re trying to find homes for as my parents downsize, and one  is for my husband’s photography.  Then I have a few more random sites I rarely add new content to, but use primarily for testing purposes.  I’m constantly reading for various aspects of maintaining these sites…everything from using specific platform’s editors, to considering alternatives for earning an income stream…and everything in between.
  • Health & Medical Issues – As both my parents as well as I, my husband and my siblings age, I find myself spending a lot of time researching many health problems and possible solutions.
  • Random fascinating topics from my favorite news aggregators including Twitter and WordPress and to a lesser extent Tumblr and Facebook.

My 2 Primary ‘Read Later’ Resources are Evernote & Instapaper

Evernote Icon

Evernote has been my favorite app for saving interesting content for years. The flexibility EV gives me in terms of the types of things I can save as well as the alternatives for reusing that content is unsurpassed. But sometimes I need something that’s designed just for reading…a one function app with a richer experience for that 1 thing…that’s where Instapaper comes in.

Evernote

I’ve written a lot about how much I love Evernote and how it’s changed my life.  Essentially Evernote allows me to manage large amounts of data that I wouldn’t be able to otherwise.  Most of these articles are found on my vsatips website, under the main menu item ‘Evernote.’  In the year and half time-frame that I’ve been publishing my ‘How To’ tips at vsatips, there is one piece I’ve written that has far surpassed all the others in terms of visitors and views.

On average, 20 to 30 people a day visit my site.  They come from all corners of the world which I find really astonishing!  Of those visitors at least half of them arrive daily to read just one post.  This extremely popular post, ( well popular for me at least) discusses how to incorporate the use of colored fonts, plus use a variety of different font types and sizes in Evernote’s mobile apps.  Here’s a link to that article. I think the reason why this one post has so much traffic is because Evernote has such a huge user base worldwide.  If over a billion people are using it it’s gotta be good right?  Seriously, I have no idea if that’s how high their numbers have grown to, but given their draw I wouldn’t be surprised.

Why is Evernote so popular?  Well, for one thing Evernote is free . In 2016 Evernote drastically revamped both their not taking apps for mobile users as well as their plans and pricing structure. Evernote still is free…but if you have a lot of devices and want data synced to all of them you will now need a paid plan. The free plan allows you to sync between 2 devices. But there are also several tiers and prices so you more easily pick and choose which options are best for you and just pay for those.

In addition to being free Evernote it works on almost any platform known to man…well known to Americans at least.  There are versions for (i.e. Windows, Mac, ios, Android, Blackberry etc.)   I’ve only encountered one device or situation for which I was not able to readily find a version of EV to download. So, I think really what makes Evernote so brilliant is how seamlessly the apps synced data across your devices with no effort on your part. It’s a great tool if you’re attempting to remove clutter and paper in you life and by digitizing much of it and storing it within Evernote.

You can download it for ios here…or find the links to other platforms too.   If you end up loving Evernote as much as I do, you’ll probably end up considering a paid plan which gives you added features and services.  I use the Premium version primarily for the added security features like encrypting parts of my note and adding a PIN to open the app on mobile devices.  My plan is $40 per year…if you’d like to try Premium out for 1 month free you can use this link.

InstaPaper Icon

Instapaper

*Recent Update and News About Instapaper 

In early 2016 InstaPaper came out with a brand new, vastly improved website parser (in English that means basically a massive rewrite of most of the service’s code) which makes its:

  • Faster
  • Many more new features
  • Better looking – a whole new modern interface

Some of the new features include the ability to capture and play videos inline…(essentially that means you can play videos attached to news articles right within the app now.)

I’ve learned more about the Read Out Loud feature they added last year.  It’s available to everyone both free and premium users but premium users can use the playlist function to que up several articles to be read out loud in quick succession to you. But it’s also available to Android users and even to Apple Watch users…so now your watch can read articles out loud to you!  That’s so cool!!!

In 2015 they also introduced a ton of new upgrades you can learn about at their blog including a speed reading feature which you can learn more about as well as a lot of new features for Android and ios (including 3D Touch support, iPad multitasking and PIP videos for iPads).

Another Recent Post: My Complete Guide to Instapaper for ios

Original Instapaper Overview

Instapaper is a free or paid service that lets you save reading material that you find online for future reading.  The free service works great, but if you want to write notes and highlight things as you read them, which I do a lot of, then getting a Premium subscription that costs $29.99 per year* is the best way to go.  You can add the paid Premium plan right within the ios app.

This is how Instapaper describes their service in the App Store:  “Instapaper turns web content – articles, stories, posts, videos, and even long emails – into a great reading experience.”

“Over the course of your day, you’ll encounter things you want to save for later. With Instapaper, you simply push a button in your browser, or choose “send to Instapaper” in a linked mobile app. Instapaper then saves it for you, and makes it available in a beautiful, uncluttered, reading-optimized format on your mobile phone, your tablet, your Kindle, or your browser.”

What I’ve always loved about Instapaper is that you can save virtually any webpage you might run across in a nice clean format for later reading.  But what I love even more is a feature I just discovered that lets you create a playlist with any of your saved content and have it ‘Read Out Loud’ to you.  I had a lot of problems finding any instructions explaining how to use this feature, so I made this little video that explains the steps.

*Remember to read the article I linked to at the very top about how Instapaper is now free for everyone!

YouTube VideoInstapaper App for iPad App Store Link

Instapaper is extremely powerful yet the app is also quite streamlined too.  This can be both good and bad.  On the good side, for someone like me who has extreme ADHD, the streamlined, uncluttered presentation of content is perfect.  But getting started using it can be confusing for the same reason.  Which is why I was thrilled to stumble upon their blog recently.

The Instapaper Blog

Instapaper’s blog provides some great, quick ‘how to’ help.  I’m including links to some of the best things I found below.

2 More Apps I Love…are Reader View & RePaper

I Use Both Less Frequently But They are Life Savers For Specific Situations…sadly they are only available on ios, but both are so great I’ve made an exception to my cross-platform rule.

The next 2 apps I’m really fond of were both created by the same person…he goes by the developer name of AppBlits LLC.  

They are Reader View and RePaper.

Actually ReaderView | Reader Mode for Safari & RePaper Web & PDF Highlighter are their full names. Both apps were designed to make Web content more accessible and more readable, and both are great as an intermediary for saving nice, clean, ‘ad-free’ versions of things for offline reading.

How they differ is somewhat described by their names. Reader View provides you with a nice clean version of a Web-based article that you may find difficult to read because there are so many ads and pop-ups. I originally found this app when I became frustrated that the Safari  built-in Reader mode wasn’t available or some webpages. So, before I describe these further I think I should give a quick overview of how Apple’s built-in Reader mode works on ios Devices.

Safari’s Built-in Reader Mode

If you land on a webpage that has good information but it’s difficult to navigate through because of ads and pop-ups, you can engage Safari’s Reader mode by tapping in the address bar of the URL if there are horizontal lines somewhat resembling a hamburger menu appear there.

Look for several horizontal lines in the URL bar (if there are only 3 lines it’s called a hamburger menu) like those below.   Incidentally, the Share icon I’ve also outlined in red on the right for later.
URL bar with Rewder mode linesWhen you tap on the 5 lines Reader mode is engaged…it’s wonderful for creating a distraction free, pleasant, mobile reading experience.  You can also save things to read later in Safari by tapping on the share icon in the upper right hand corner of Safari and then looking for the ‘spectacleicon shown below.

Add to reading list icon

Later, when you want to read your saved material just open Safari, open the bookmark menu and tap on the spectacles icon again.

bookmark and read later icons

OK, so that’s a quick overview of Safari’s built-in Reader Mode.  It’s great when it’s available…but it’s not always available.  That’s where the first AppBlits LLC comes in handy…Reader View.

Reader View

Reader View works when Safari’s Reader mode doesn’t…at least most of the time. Apple doesn’t make it obvious what criteria are necessary for webpages to display in Reader mode…if they did, the mode would be available more often. Because bloggers like me want our articles to be easy for our readers. So we try to make our pages clean and distraction free. But our Web hosts may add things that clutter up our pages. If there were set criteria for making our content ‘Reader mode ready‘…I for one would gladly meet them…but there aren’t. So it’s hit or miss for me as to when Reader mode can be used on what I write. But for $2.99 Reader View will almost always guarantee that a clean readable webpage will be available to my readers.

In addition to being available more often than Reader mode, Reader View offers a few more perks too. I personally use both Reader mode and Reader View to clean up articles that I want to save for myself in Evernote. But the one thing that I love about Reader View is that I can also highlight things within the webpage and even write comments before I save the complete page. The page saves with all my highlights beautifully. The other thing that makes Reader View better, imho, is that you can use it for many different apps…not just Safari. So, for apps that have their own built-in browsers, or those that are designed primarily as reading apps or apps that manage different types of documents…file managers such as Good Reader for example…I’ll oftentimes use Reader View to create a document that I then import into these other apps to work with further or to use.

Here’s a link to a brief YouTube video showing how to use the Reader View App.

RePaper

RePaper goes even one step further and it works with iCloud content too. It’s a more robust annotation utility versus Reader View, which was designed primarily for use with webpages (although it works with much more too!) It’s really hard to describe how RePaper differs from Reader View, but it does. Basically it just offers a lot more tools for annotating things…and it’s tools really work (unlike ios 10’s new Markup feature which is still pretty glitchy.) RePaper offers enough utility beyond Reader View, and it does so in more ways, that it pays to have both tools if you are a heavy consumer and saver of online content. Plus that it only costs $2.99 too.

Here briefly are just a few more ways that RePaper is different from Reader View. It has its own browser right within the app. Because it does have a browser, that means you can bookmark pages and it’s those bookmarked pages that are sent up to iCloud so you can access them from any device. You can actually use RePaper without another app whereas Reader View for me, functions more like a bridge to get content in apps like Evernote…but it offers enhancements like highlighting that an Evernote ‘save’ on its own couldn’t do.

It’s really difficult to explain why but the fact that RePaper can stand on its own because it allows you to bookmark things you’ve read and they can be stored in iCloud (again with all of your highlights and annotations,) makes it the more powerful tool of the two…but also uniquely powerful in an underserved niche. If you read reviews in the App Store you’ll read things like, ‘Steve Jobs should have thought of this,’ and ‘Apple should take note and build these features into ios.’

More apps by the developer of Reader View & RePaper

img_6578

There’s one more aspect that I love about both Reader View and RePaper, and that is that the developer created these apps for his own use so he continues to keep them updated and even occasionally adds new enhancements.

More important is that you can actually reach him by email if you run into a problem…and he responds and helps you solve it! That doesn’t happen very often these days…but it’s definitely one of the reasons I continue to use and love both apps!

So,  that’s a very brief summary of the best tools available for saving content for offline reading when you use an iPhone or iPad.  To give you a better feel for how RePaper works and how it differs from Reader View, here’s a link to the app developer’s video on YouTube showing how to use it and running the app through all of its features too.

Comments

I really love getting feedback from my readers!

Therefore I try to make it as easy as possible for readers by not requiring you to add your email address, unlike most comment sections you’ll encounter on blogs. I’ve gone a step further though because you don’t even need to include your real name. You do need a name of some kind…but that can be whatever you want it to be.

I’ve done it this way because it’s your actual feedback that’s really important to me. I’m not really interested in collecting readers’ email addresses which is usually done for the purpose of creating a subscription mailing list.

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