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Posts tagged with "read it later"

MacStories Starter Pack: Reverse-Engineering the Matter API and My ‘Save to Matter’ Shortcut

My Save to Matter shortcut.

My Save to Matter shortcut.

Editor’s Note: Reverse-Engineering the Matter API and My ‘Save to Matter’ Shortcut is part of the MacStories Starter Pack, a collection of ready-to-use shortcuts, apps, workflows, and more that we’ve created to help you get the most out of your Mac, iPhone, and iPad.

For the past few months, I’ve been enjoying and keeping an eye on the development of Matter, a new read-later service that aims to combine a powerful text parser with elegant design, social discovery features, annotations, and the ability to listen to articles as audio. I’m not one to typically care about the latest VC-backed startup that promises to revolutionize reading articles with social features, but Matter struck me for a few reasons: the app’s reader mode is gorgeous; the ability to annotate articles with highlights is great; and, more importantly, it has the best, most human-sounding text-to-audio conversion engine I’ve ever tested.

Something else happened a few months ago: Matter introduced an official plugin to sync your article highlights as Markdown notes to Obsidian. Integration with PKM-style apps is a hot trend right now in the modern crop of read-later services (John covered this very topic here), so I wasn’t shocked to see that Matter joined Readwise in supporting Obsidian with a plugin. Something about it piqued my interest though:

If Matter didn’t have a public API, how could the Obsidian plugin even sync to the Matter service?

Obviously, there had to be an API involved behind the scenes, which Matter hadn’t announced yet, but which I could potentially reverse-engineer and integrate with Shortcuts. And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing for the past month.

My experiments with the still-unannounced Matter API have developed on three separate fronts, and I’m going to share the results in three different places:

  • Today on MacStories, I’m going to share a one-click shortcut called Save to Matter that lets you save any article to your Matter queue directly from the share sheet or anywhere else on iOS, iPadOS, or macOS without having to use the Matter extension;
  • Tomorrow on MacStories Weekly for Club MacStories members, I will share MatterBot, an advanced Matter shortcut that lets you take complete control over your Matter queue with support for exporting annotations as Markdown or even downloading articles as MP3 files;
  • Next week for Club MacStories+ and Premier members only, I will share MatterPod, another advanced shortcut that lets you turn your Matter queue into a Matter podcast feed hosted on your own web server.

Before we dive in, I also want to confirm that I privately reached out to the folks at Matter weeks ago about my experiments, and they were cool with me writing about my findings and sharing shortcuts I’ve built for the Matter API.

With that being said, let’s take a look at how you can get started with the Matter API and the Save to Matter shortcut.

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MacStories Starter Pack: Getting a Handle on Links By Treating Them Like Email

Editor’s Note: Getting a Handle on Links By Treating Them Like Email is part of the MacStories Starter Pack, a collection of ready-to-use shortcuts, apps, workflows, and more that we’ve created to help you get the most out of your Mac, iPhone, and iPad.

I’ve had a link problem for a long time. Links accumulate everywhere: in Messages, mail clients, text files, Discord, Trello, research tools, and elsewhere else imaginable. If they weren’t digital, I’m sure I’d be tripping over links on my way to the kitchen for breakfast each morning.

Part of my problem is an occupational hazard. Links to apps, articles I may want to link on MacStories, images on our CDN, podcast episodes uploaded for publication, and materials from advertisers are just a small sampling of the links I deal with every day.

But links are part of everyone’s lives. Friends and family send us links to things to read, videos to watch, itineraries for trips, and a lot more. Companies send us links to things we buy online and deals we want to check out. Most of all, though, there are the many links we collect ourselves throughout our day. The Internet touches every aspect of our lives, which means links permeate every corner of our days, yet links are collected, organized, and processed haphazardly on an ad hoc basis by most of us.

Over the holidays, I sat down to think about links and how I deal with them. It didn’t take long to realize that thinking about links in the abstract is about as useful as thinking about email messages and tasks. The trouble is that links can represent almost anything from a short video that will take two minutes to watch to an expensive purchase that you will need hours to research. They vary widely in importance, the attention required to deal with them, and relevancy. As a result, it doesn’t do you much good to treat links without also considering what they represent.

Leaving links locked inside the app where you found them isn’t much use either. I’d never considered that links could benefit from a more structured processing approach like email or tasks, but having just reorganized my approach to email, I realized that they absolutely can. The trick is to keep the system lightweight and flexible and to be willing to delete most of your links to avoid clutter.

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GoodLinks Review: A Flexible Read-it-Later Link Manager Packed with Automation Options

The original crop of read-it-later apps that date back to the earliest days of the App Store were based on web services maintained by the developers of those apps. Apps like Instapaper and Pocket, the two biggest names in the space, have always been backed by web services that integrate tightly with native apps across Apple’s platforms. It’s a model that worked, and although those apps have continued to evolve and change with regular updates over the years, new entrants into the category were few and far between in this once hyper-competitive category – until now.

Thanks to relatively recent changes to Apple’s OSes, a new generation of read-it-later apps are emerging. They no longer need to run their own web services and are leveraging the latest OS technologies in new and interesting ways. One of the very best is GoodLinks, a new read-it-later app and link manager released today by Ngoc Luu, the developer of the well-known text editor 1Writer.

GoodLinks' main UI.

GoodLinks’ main UI.

Since returning to Reeder for the RSS feeds I follow, I’ve been using its read-it-later service, which is terrific. We’ve also covered apps like Abyss and Readit in MacStories Weekly. Like GoodLinks, those apps use iCloud sync to keep articles you save synced across all the devices they support instead of using a developer-maintained web service. That’s a relatively new development for these sorts of apps, but the difference in this new generation of read-it-later apps runs deeper. New features of the OSes on which GoodLinks runs have breathed new life into the category, and its developer has taken advantage of these features to provide new utility to users.

Having settled into a comfortable Reeder workflow, I didn’t expect the way I manage links to be upended anytime soon. However, that’s exactly what has happened since I began using GoodLinks. What grabbed me is a versatility that stems from the fluidity of getting links into the app, managing them, and getting them out again. There’s built-in flexibility to GoodLinks that allows it to adapt exceedingly well to a wide variety of use cases. As with any 1.0 app, there’s room for improvement, but my wishes for GoodLinks are just that: wishes borne of enthusiasm for a terrific app that has quickly found its way into my daily workflow. Let’s dig into the details.

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Keep Review: The Read-Later App I’ve Been Looking For

After years of happily using Safari’s Reading List and Apple News’ Saved Stories for all my read-later needs, recently I found myself facing a conundrum: there were too many articles saved in each place, and thus I needed a categorization system that neither Safari nor News provide. This problem is of course partly my fault, since I’m clearly not adequately working through my reading queue.1 But I’m not at all willing to nuke these interesting stories and start fresh with zero saved links. Thus, I’ve been on the hunt for a read-later app that better meets my new needs.

If there’s one lesson this journey has taught me, it’s that read-later apps are just like task managers and email clients: there’s no perfect one-size-fits-all approach. Developers and users all have their own ideas about how such an app should best function, so there’s no perfect option out there. After a long search, however, I’ve found the app that comes as close to ideal for me as possible: Keep by developer Michael Zsigmond, which is available for iPhone, iPad, and also offers a web client.

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Unread 2 Review: The Elegant RSS Client Leaps into Modernity

Unread has always been one of my favorite RSS clients due to its clean, elegant, gesture-based design, but as competing apps have continued advancing at a steady pace, Unread’s development stalled leading up to its acquisition in 2017 by Golden Hill Software. Since that time, the app has received new life in the form of regular updates, but nothing on the level of what’s debuting today.

Unread 2, on one hand, brings a lot of change and propels the beloved RSS client into the present. It does this, however, with almost no design changes. Unread 2 looks and feels just like Unread 1, but with more power and a roster of modern features under the hood.

If Unread wasn’t the app for you before, then version 2 almost certainly won’t change your mind. But if you already appreciated the elegant RSS reader, Unread 2 provides a lot more reasons to love it.

There are so many big and small upgrades in Unread 2, for my review I’ve chosen to break its noteworthy improvements into three different categories: RSS, iPad, and OS features.

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Fiery Feeds Adds iCloud Accounts, Three-Pane iPad View, New Customization Tools, and More

Fiery Feeds, the modern, flexible RSS client for iOS, was updated today with a variety of new features that take the app to new heights: enabling iCloud-based accounts for RSS and Read Later so you don’t need third-party services, adding a three-pane layout on iPad, offering new, configurable methods for navigation, and a lot more. There’s something for everyone, from users who may be new to RSS to Fiery Feeds veterans who will appreciate the additional power offered here.

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Instapaper Relaunches Premium Service as a Paid Subscription and Returns to the EU

When Instapaper Premium was introduced, it was a paid subscription that added several advanced features to the service. Later, the app and service were purchased by Pinterest, and Instapaper Premium was made available for free to all users.

Last month, Instapaper announced that it was separating from Pinterest and becoming an independent company. Today Instapaper, which turned 10 years old this year, outlined a plan for sustaining the service for the next 10 years. At the heart of Instapaper’s plan is a return to a paid subscription model. Premium features – full-text search, unlimited notes, text-to-speech playlists on mobile devices, speed reading functionality, removal of ads on the web, and the ability to send articles to Amazon’s Kindle reader – will only be available going forward for a $2.99/month or $29.99/year subscription. Currently, subscriptions are available via the web only, but the company plans to add an In-App Purchase to the app in the future.

Instapaper also announced that it is returning to the European Union. When the EU’s GDPR legislation became effective at the end of May, Instapaper wasn’t ready and blocked access to EU citizens. As an apology for the extended downtime, Instapaper is providing its premium service to EU users for six months.

I recently switched back to Instapaper from Pocket because I was encouraged by its new independence from Pinterest, where the app got little attention over the past two years. With no new features added to Instapaper Premium as part of its relaunch as a paid subscription, convincing users to sign up may be difficult. It’s still early days in Instapaper’s newfound independence though, so I remain optimistic that there’s more to come from the Instapaper team, and I plan to stick with the app as my read-it-later service for the foreseeable future.

Instapaper is available as a free download on the App Store.

After Two Years with Pinterest, Instapaper Regains Its Independence

From Instapaper’s blog:

Today, we’re announcing that Pinterest has entered into an agreement to transfer ownership of Instapaper to Instant Paper, Inc., a new company owned and operated by the same people who’ve been working on Instapaper since it was sold to betaworks by Marco Arment in 2013. The ownership transfer will occur after a 21 day waiting period designed to give our users fair notice about the change of control with respect to their personal information.

We want to emphasize that not much is changing for the Instapaper product outside the new ownership. The product will continue to be built and maintained by the same people who’ve been working on Instapaper for the past five years. We plan to continue offering a robust service that focuses on readers and the reading experience for the foreseeable future.

Following Pinterest’s acquisition of Instapaper almost two years ago, there was a reasonable level of concern about what that change would mean for the popular read-it-later service. From an outside perspective, however, it seems like the transition has gone smoothly – which makes today’s announcement all the more surprising.

It will be interesting to see what changes this move brings in the short-term. In the immediate future, the company has already confirmed it’s working hard on making Instapaper available in Europe again. Looking further out, the service’s business model is a big question mark. Before Pinterest came along, Instapaper offered a premium subscription option that was later discontinued post-acquisition and its features made publicly available to all users. A new subscription plan may be in the works, likely with currently unannounced new features. Only time will tell what the future holds, but in any case, it’s always nice to see an app’s development team in full control of its product’s destiny.