June 7, 2019 at 9:00am

Read-it-Later with…

I’ve used Instapaper relatively consistently since Marco Arment introduced it. Was that a decade ago now?

Occasionally I’ve stopped using it, or toyed with other services like Pocket, or Safari’s Reading List feature. In the end, however, I’ve always gone back to Instapaper.

Despite that usage, I’ve never been interested in any of the service’s power user’ features. They’ve always felt disjointed from my larger workflows. My Instapaper history is an island of data that is unconnected from my other information, which is primarily kept in DEVONthink.

The End of Instapaper

At this point, I’m giving up on Instapaper. The finally nail in the coffin was the realisation of just how hard it was to get my data out of Instapaper. The RSS feed it provides is truncated, and links back to the Instapaper version and not the original article. So all my reading was excised from all my knowledge held in DEVONthink.

Fortunately, DEVONthink makes available a script that works in version 2.x (and not yet beta 3.0) that is able to create PDF versions of an Instapaper archive, using a CSV list of links available from Instapaper.

I was able to run this last night. It took about 3 hours to pull down over 2,000 articles. Now, these all exist within DEVONthink.

This experience has convinced me that I need a better way to manage my reading list such that I keep available my archive for more immediate use.

The Benefits

If this new process works, the benefits will be:

  1. One less app/service to deal with.
  2. Ubiquitous access via system-level extensions.
  3. An integrated corpus of information that can be better leveraged for future purposes.

Finding a Better Read-it-Later Workflow

My new workflow is still a work-in-progress.

I am going back to basics and plan to use Safari’s in-built Reading List feature. This has the benefit of being universally available across all Apple platforms. This will serve as my queue. From there I can push articles deemed worthy of keeping to DEVONthink for long-term archival.

Safari’s Reading List, combined with its Reader view, should be sufficient enough for most purposes. It doesn’t work offline, which was a key feature of Instapaper… but let’s be realistic. When am I ever offline?

When importing to DEVONthink I will most likely save it as a clutter-free web archive or Markdown. I can do this using the share sheet on iOS and the DEVONthink clipper/share extension with macOS.

DEVONthink 3 (currently in beta) offers a simple Reading List’ feature similar to Safari’s, but it seems a bit underwhelming at this stage. The iOS version is older and doesn’t have this feature at all. It is unlikely that I will adopt this element into my workflow at this time.

Breaking Down the Steps

So, in summary, these are the workflow steps:

  1. Identify article at source generally through Safari or Fiery Feeds.
  2. Push the article to the system-level Safari Reading List.
  3. Read the article in Safari, optionally using Reader View.
  4. Capture article into DEVONthink using the share sheet, share extension/browser extension/clipper.
  5. Leverage DEVONthink’s Groups’ feature to save the article to the correct location and the See Also’ feature to find similar information.

workflow software reading devonthink instapaper


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