Don’t you hate it when you come across an interesting article online, but you don’t have time to read it at the moment, and then you completely forget about it later? Everyone has done this! We are bombarded with so much information every time that we log on to the Internet that we couldn’t possibly follow every link or read every article that catches our eye. Maybe we are focused on reading something else at the moment. Maybe we can’t sit and read at all right now, and we’re just online to check something quickly. Whatever the reason, there always seems to be something interesting to read online that we aren’t able to when we see it. To remedy this dilemma, there are several app tactics that you can use that allow you to save web pages for reading later, with some even providing you with options to read offline altogether. These are fantastically simple to use and convenient apps that mean you won’t ever have to pass by an interesting link again!
On an iPhone, you don’t even have to download a new app to be able to take advantage of one of Apple’s latest features that they’ve added to Safari: Reading List. This is quite simply a bookmarking function built into Safari that saves a copy of whatever page you want, and allows you to come back to it at a later time without even needing the Internet connection. Adding to your Reading List is as easy as can be. If you find yourself on a web page that you can’t get through in one sitting, or you want to save for later reference, all you need to do is tap on the action button in Safari (middle button on the bottom row) to call up your options. Here, you have the familiar shortcuts to mail, message, or tweet the article, as well as the ever-popular Bookmark function. The final button available is an icon of a pair of reading glasses, and is labelled as “Add to Reading List”. Tapping this is all you need to add the site address to your list. To access it later, you will find it amongst your other bookmarks. Tap on the icon (fourth from the left) of an open book (your bookmarks) and your Reading List is a link right at the top of the following screen. You can swipe up and down to navigate through your list, and you can tap on the All or Unread buttons near the top to only display those pages. The part that differentiates this from standard bookmarks is that the page is actually downloaded and saved locally on your device, whereas a bookmark only saves the site’s URL. This means you can read it anytime, anywhere… even where you have no network connection. This is a simple technique to do this, and is built right into the default Safari browser.
If you’d like a more dedicated app that provides additional functionality and design, I recommend Pocket. When you first open the app, you’ll be prompted to create a user account to where it will be able to save the articles that you like. As you accumulate articles for later reading, your list will expand and you’ll be able to navigate through it much like on Reading List. If you list gets to the point that it’s unmanageable to scroll through to find something, there is a handy search field right at the top, which allows you to enter search terms that may appear in either the title or address of the page you want. If you swipe sideways on an article title, you will see a quick reveal of several icons. These allow you to tag the article with terms that you’d like (helpful for sorting and storing), check it as read, star it as a favorite article, delete the article from Pocket altogether, or share the article via several methods. If you tag articles as you read them (the button which is found on the home screen list of articles next to the search field), you can take advantage of an included tag sorting feature, where the app provides you a list of all your tags, and then upon tapping on the tag, you can see all of the articles that you’ve saved with that label. That’s an important feature, especially if you are collecting articles surrounding a particular theme (for example, planning a wedding!) Tagging things wherever possible is always a good idea, and it always pays off later when you need it! There are also several other options available, a favourite of mine is the ability to invert the colours of the page to make night reading easier: white text on black pages. There is an incredible amount of thought and functionality built into this app, all around the seemingly trivial task of saving a web page to read later.
One noteworthy option I will mention here about this app is that since it is a very popular service, it is frequently built into many other apps as a way of saving pages into one place for you. This makes your job of managing articles so much easier! For example, let me describe a couple of ways that I routinely take advantage of this. For a newsreader, I like to use the popular app called Pulse, which is a customizable news aggregator. That is, it ties all of my favourite news sources together into a single app interface. As I scroll around and see articles that I would like to know more about, if I don’t have the time to actually sit and read at the moment, I can click the star button which marks it as a favourite article and saves it directly to my Pocket account. All that needs to be done beforehand is to enter your Pocket info into the Pulse settings one time, and you’re good to go. In a similar way, the Twitter client that I use, Tweetbot, also takes advantage of this read later functionality. If you enter into the settings page of Tweetbot, you can select one of several apps that do similar things, including bitty, Instapaper, Pinboard, Pocket, and Readability. It is really a matter of user preference which one to use, but I enjoy using Pocket, and it is free (where some, I believe, cost money).
Read later functionality is being built into many different apps now, so there are several options available to the user about which read later service to actually subscribe to. In the end, all of the apps and features accomplish the same basic task: they take online material that you want to read, and they aggregate it somewhere so that you can come back to it later and read it at your leisure. Reading List is included by default, so you don’t have to go anywhere to begin taking advantage of this feature, though the apps that are available in the Apple App Store are a pleasure to work with as well. I highly recommending trying out one or two to find one that works for you, and then you will discover how convenient it is to be able to save pages for later offline viewing.