Upgrading Instapaper with Third Party Apps

I consider Instapaper a transformative technology. It changed, for the better, what and how I read. I have a collection of RSS feeds and twitter friends that throw interesting links at me every day. From all of those sources I quickly select bits and pieces for reading later, in Instapaper. Both my twitter client (Tweet Bot) and RSS reader (Reeder) make this painless. I’ve taken the time to create folders in my Instapaper accounts so whatever I’m feeling like reading, I just need to tap a button and my own self curated magazine appears.

I love Instapaper so much that when Instapaper announced a subscription plan of $1 per month (with no initial extra features or benefits), I jumped on it. I’m dependent on Instapaper and paying $1 a month to help keep the lights on was an easy call.

This investment however is starting to pay off. There are some third party Mac apps appearing that help supercharge your Instapaper account. Two I’ve been enjoying lately are Read Now and Readomator

Read Now

I’ve wondered why Instapaper never created a native Mac OS X app. I suspect it probably has something to do with the insane number of iOS devices out there and the way Marco Arment lovingly sweats every detail. Regardless, someone else did create a Mac OS X Instapaper app, called Read Now. Read Now, $5, hooks into your Instapaper (or Read it Later account) and gives you an attractive alternative to the Web browser. (You need to have a paid Instapaper account for this to work.)

The overall spit and polish of Read Now reminds me of the refined minimalism of the Reeder RSS reader on the Mac. Read Now looks fantastic in full screen mode on my MacBook Air. While granted Instapaper has a clean enough web interface (shown below), I’d argue Read Now is visually the better experience.

Read Now has a few light and dark looks in addition to the paper view (pictured). You can also adjust the typography and font size. Read Now accommodates sharing to Bit.ly, Twitter, Pinboard, Delicious, and Evernote.

The general preferences give you the usual switches and buttons to control the interface and badge icons. One of the first things I did was turn off the badge icon. I’m weird that way.

Where the app falls down a little bit for me is keyboard controls and gestures. There are only three assignable keyboard shortcuts, all of which relate to operating Read Now (such as “Open Read Now”).

What I’d like is the ability to send articles to folders or the archive with keyboard shortcuts. This option doesn’t exist. Instead, you’ve got to click and drag. Ugg. (2011-01-05 Correction: Opt-A sends an article to the archive. There still is no way to keyboard save to folders.) Using Brett Terpstra’s Instapaper Beyond plugin on the Instapaper website, I can file articles with keyboard shortcuts. I’m hoping the developer sends some love to us keyboard jockeys with a future release. Likewise the gesture controls are a little nutty. With Lion you move between articles with 4 fingers while simultaneously holding down the Alt (Option) key.

While all of this results in slowing me down a bit, I’m sticking with Read Now. The ability to escape the browser and give Instapaper its own space on my Mac hooked me.


Readomator, $4, automates the process of turning Instapaper articles into spoken word tracks in iTunes. In fairness, setting up an Automator script to do this for you really isn’t that hard. Nevertheless, for $4, Readomator gets the job done and takes all of the work out of the process. Again, this requires a subscription Instapaper account.

Once you punch in your Instapaper account name and password, Readomator presents your list of articles. By pressing the podcast button at the top of the screen, Readomator goes into your iTunes account and creates a podcast based on your currently selected folder. Inside that podcast you can “get” an article. Readomator then grabs the relevant article text, converts it to audio, and drops the audio podcast into your podcast feed. That is it. No more steps. The next time you sync up, the podcast loads and you can listen to your favorite Instapapered (is that a word?) article.

The Readomator preferences lets you set the reading speed and voice. Mac OS X Lion added several good new voices. Currently, Serena reads my selected articles on my morning commute.

I’m really pleased to see these apps growing out of Instapaper and hope enterprising developers continue to make Instapaper awesome.