Links are the currency of information overload and distraction. There’s more media available than we could ever get to in a lifetime, and more things we might want to buy, places may want to visit, and other things to explore online than can be fit into a day.
The same problem exists in our work lives. That’s especially true for the kind of work I do. Links are part of everything. Whether I’m researching, writing, or preparing to record a podcast, I’m collecting, managing, and sharing links. I could follow all those trails as they cross my path, but I’d never get anything done.
Instead of flitting from one online discovery to the next with no plan, wasting precious time, I save links for later, putting them aside until I have time for them. I’ve been doing this forever, but I’ve also never been happy with my system. So, it was inevitable that I’d begin tinkering with my setup again, both with the apps I use and the shortcuts that support them.
Unread, the elegant RSS reader by Golden Hill Software that we’ve covered before on MacStories, received its 3.3 update today, and it’s an interesting one I’ve been playing around with for the past week. There are two features I want to mention.
The first one is the ability to set up an article action to instantly send a headline from the article list in the app to Readwise Reader. As I explained on AppStories, I decided to go all-in with Reader as my read-later app (at least for now), and this Unread integration makes it incredibly easy to save articles for later. Sure, the Readwise Reader extension in the share sheet is one of the best ones I’ve seen for a read-later app (you can triage and tag articles directly from the share sheet), but if you’re in a hurry and checking out headlines on your phone, the one-tap custom action in Unread is phenomenal. To start using it, you need to be an Unread subscriber and paste in your Readwise API token.
The second feature is the ability to save any webpage from Safari as an article in Unread, even if you’re not subscribed to that website’s RSS feed. Essentially, this is a way to turn Unread into a quasi-read-later tool: the app’s parser will extract text and images from the webpage, which will be then be saved as a ‘Saved Article’ in Unread Cloud, Local feeds, or NewsBlur, or as a ‘Page’ in Feedbin.
If you’re a new Readwise Reader user, I recommend checking out Unread 3.3, which is available on the App Store for iPhone and iPad.
Saving articles and links from the Internet for later isn’t new, but it’s something that has drawn renewed interest from developers over the past year or so, including the makers of Matter, who are reexamining the approaches of the past through a modern lens.
Apps like Instapaper and Read It Later, which became Pocket, pioneered saving web articles for later. The original iPhone ran on AT&T’s EDGE mobile network in the US and coverage was spotty. Read-later apps saved stripped-down versions of articles from the web that could be downloaded quickly and read offline when EDGE was unavailable. The need to save content offline because of slow and unreliable mobile networks is far less pressing today, but collecting links and time-shifting reading remains popular.
Today, classics like Instapaper and Pocket are joined by Matter, which I’m reviewing today, plus Readwise Reader, which is currently in public beta, and a long list of link organizer apps like GoodLinks, Anybox, and Cubox, all of which include their own reading modes and are the spiritual successors to web services like Delicious and Pinboard. The result is that users have more choices than ever. That’s fantastic because, as I’ve learned from MacStories readers, no two people take the same approach to what they save and how they read and process it.
Around this time every year, I tend to start fiddling with my RSS setup. Last year, I drastically simplified my setup, and it worked well. Still, with Twitter’s fate uncertain, I thought it would be an excellent time to reexamine what various sync services and apps have to offer to refine my RSS reading experience.
One of my goals with this year’s experiments is to find better ways to filter and sort the articles in my feeds. Folders are a useful top layer of organization, but I’ve wanted more control over my feeds for a while now, especially when I’m busiest. One way to accomplish advanced filtering is server-side with an RSS sync service, but support for them by third-party RSS apps is limited. That’s why I was excited to see that ReadKit 3.1 has added a new smart folders feature.
I’m really excited about the latest update to GoodLinks for iPhone. The app has always had some of the best automation support of any link management or read-later app I’ve used. However, with version 1.7, which was released last week, GoodLinks has taken its automation tools to a new level, opening up more ways to customize how you save, manage, and use links than ever before.