- Editor's Rating
Instapaper Pro is an app that allows you to access the popular Instapaper “read later” service on your Apple iPad. This lets you easily transfer web pages from your PC onto your tablet computer for reading at a point when it’s more convenient.
The latest version of this app adds several useful features such as folders and tilt scrolling, and is available for $4.99 in the App Store.
To use Instapaper Pro for iPad you have to sign up for an Instapaper account first. You can do this either in the Instapaper app or on the Web at Instapaper.com. Just enter your email address and set a password, if you want to, and you’re ready to go.
Marking things to read later is quite simple, especially on your computer, thanks to the handy “read later” bookmarklet you’ll find at the Instapaper web site. Just drag the bookmarklet to the bookmark bar on your browser, and that’s it. When you run across an article that you would like to transfer to to this service, just click the “Read Later” button on your bookmark bar and the page will automatically be saved to your Instapaper account.
Features and Controls
The main window of the Instapaper Pro for iPad app is pretty minimal, with a few icons at the top of the page and a list of articles down below. The Folders button allows you to choose from a list of folders; by default the only options are read later, starred, and archive. You can create your own folders, enter another Instapaper user’s email address to view a list of their starred items, or enter the feed address for a particular web site. A note on the folders page says that this works best for sites that post a few long articles, not a metric ton of short posts.
The Settings button allows you to choose between the light (black text on white) or dark (white text on black) interface, set the orientation lock, configure automatic updates, and select the pagination mode. If you want to use the very cool tilt scrolling feature, turn pagination mode off here.
The Settings menu also lets you add the login information for your Tumblr and Twitter accounts, if you want to share what you’re reading in Instapaper, and if you want to add the Read Later bookmark to Safari this is where you go to initiate the process. The final entries in the Settings box are where you put in your Instapaper account information, and you can also choose to reset your app data there if you want a full refresh of Instapaper Pro.
On the right side of the screen you’ll see a refresh arrow and an edit button, which allows you to delete several posts at once if necessary.
Once you choose a particular article to read, you’ll find a few more controls at the top of the screen. The star button allows you to highlight important articles; the last twenty articles you star are available in the starred folder. Please note that if other folks know (or can guess, if you didn’t set a password) your Instapaper user name, they will also have access to your starred articles as well.
The trash can is self-explanatory; select it if you want to delete the article.
Font settings are just to the right, and there are six fonts to choose from, including Verdana, Palatino, and Helvetica. You can also set the font size here; by default it’s nice and large, as well as the line spacing and brightness.
The sharing button allows you to move the article to another folder (you’ll have to define it first from the home screen), share the article via Tumblr or Twitter, or open it in mobile Safari. If you have multiple Twitter clients on your device, the sharing menu will ask you which one you want to use, which is a handy time saver.
If you highlight a passage in the article and choose to email it, the message will include a link to the article as well as the passage you highlighted, which makes Instapaper Pro great for quickly sharing information with friends and business colleagues.
The last button on the button bar is either pagination mode or tilt scrolling, depending on the settings you choose. If you have pagination mode turned on, tapping the button will put you in page mode, where you tap a certain area of the screen to advance or go back; you are no longer able to scroll smoothly with your finger when you’re in that mode.
If you choose tilt scrolling, you’re in for a real treat — tilt your device back slightly to scroll forward through the article. The more you tilt it back, the faster the scrolling goes, though it’s never so fast that it’s hard to read. Tilt your device back up to slow the scrolling, or to stop completely. Tilt it up a bit more, and the text starts scrolling backward, which is great if you just want to go back a few lines.
The only additional feature not covered by the menus is the dictionary lookup feature. If you come across a word you don’t know when reading an article, you can press and hold on the word for just a moment to bring up a sub-menu. One of the options is “define” and you’ll instantly get a definition from the Wiktionary, which is pretty cool.
Instapaper Pro for iPad works exactly as advertised, and I didn’t experience any lag, slowdowns, or crashes. Scrolling, whether by tilt or by finger, is smooth as silk.
Articles viewed in Instapaper Pro look just like they look on the Web, with all graphics, tables, photos, and links intact. If you tap on a link in an article, you are presented with the option to either read it later or open the link in mobile Safari. If you don’t happen to have WiFi access at the time, the link will be saved to your Instapaper account the next time your device does have internet access, which is very nice — WiFi-only users will appreciate that feature.
Ease of Use
Once you get everything set up, Instapaper Pro is very easy to use. Actually reading the articles you’ve stored is a breeze, just tap on an article title in the list on the main page of the app. The only slight problem I had was figuring out how tilt scrolling is supposed to work — turns out that pagination mode is turned on by default, and if you want to use the tilt scrolling feature you have to switch it on in the settings menu.
At $4.99 some may say that Instapaper Pro for iPad is overpriced, but I disagree. It’s a relatively simple app, but it’s also nicely polished, offering all of the features that I expect to see. It’s also a universal app, so your purchase also allows you to use it on your iPhone or iPod Touch, if you also have one of those devices.
There is a free version of Instapaper available, but it doesn’t provide offline reading, folders, tilt scrolling, or any of the other features available in the $4.99 Pro version. In effect, the free version doesn’t offer anything you can’t get from simply visiting the Instapaper web site in mobile Safari.
Now that I’ve been using Instapaper Pro for iPad for the past few weeks, I’m beginning to wonder how I ever lived without it. It really has increased my productivity by allowing me to mark the interesting things I run across on the web and read them later, when I’m not on a deadline. That transforms the web into a source of interesting information that I can control, instead of a productivity-destroying, time-sucking black hole. If I’m sure that I can finish that article later, I’m not nearly as likely to put off the things I should be doing!
Instapaper Pro is well worth the $4.99 price for that reason alone.