Best Read it Later Service

The Top Contenders:

Safari Reading List
Instapaper
Pocket

When it comes to reading articles on the web, certain factors immediately apply such as what type of device you are using, what browser is being used and whether you have time to read and take in the particular article at that current time.

A typical person will use their smartphone or mobile computer to read news headlines and will speed read through links on websites because they are on the go and it might not be convenient to read a whole article or page at that particular time. For this situation, there are services and apps available that allow you to ‘save’ any webpage or article to read it later.

The benefits of using a service such as these, especially when you are using the particular service in question’s app, are that it will essentially save a copy of the original article you were viewing in your browser or the app you were using for later, so you can catch up with all your saved articles at a time when it’s perhaps more convenient to read them.

There is also the benefit of when you do come to use one of these services or apps to view the saved articles, it will display the article in a more easy-on-the-eye font which you can also customize if you prefer. The majority of these services have other benefits as well such as ‘offline’ viewing – the article is saved whilst your device has a connection so that you don’t need to be ‘online’ to read the article. There are also ‘Pro’ uses which I will come on to shortly such as automatically sharing the article with other services and apps.

There are multiple services that offer a read it later facility but I am going to touch on what I feel are the strongest three services.

Safari Reading List

Safari’s Reading List is built into the browser on Mac and iOS and therefore Apple make it super easy for you send any web page you have open automatically saved within Safari for later viewing or ‘offline’ viewing. Access to this service is via the bookmarks icon in the Mac version or within the bookmarks menus on iOS.

Once a webpage is within Reading List, clicking or tapping on a page to view it is easy enough with the option of ‘Reader’ in the address bar available to format the web page to remove most of the html and ads which results in a more pleasing reading experience.

My issue with Safari Reading List is down to one thing – notifications. In as far as they aren’t any. When I was using the service a few months back, I felt I needed to be reminded that I had saved articles to read to refer back to and with Safari not displaying badges, I simply forgot that I had them.

‘Add to Reading List’ is also baked into most 3rd party apps, so getting your articles into there is well supported by developers. The support is great, it works well, it’s reliable but the lack of notifications keeps me from using it as my preferred service.

Instapaper:

Originally developed by Marco Arment, Instapaper is perhaps the oldest and best known of all the read it later services due to its fast, reliable and and concise design. Instapaper also benefitted by it’s universal adoption by many twitter services, websites, social networks and news feeds so it became very popular and although Marco sold on the service last year, it remains a powerhouse in it’s field.

If you are using a browser on a desktop PC or Mac or laptop, there is an Instapaper extension available for the most popular browsers like Safari and Chrome which can add a small button near the address bar which with one click, can add the currently open page – straight to your Instapaper account. On iOS there is a universal app for the iPhone and the iPad which you can use to catch with up with all your saved articles. Instapaper has a nice back-end feature that you can setup so that it will automatically share saved articles to various services like Twitter, Evernote, Pinboard etc. Frasier Spiers has a terrific workflow for saving web articles via Instapaper into Evernote.

The iOS Instapaper app currently has a couple of limitations that stop me from using it as my preferred read it later service. The first one is that it doesn’t quite take advantage of the new background updating feature of iOS 7 which means that it won’t automatically download the articles in the background. Instead it uses background location updating which ironically was one of the pioneering features in an earlier iOS version release which only updates and downloads articles once you have reached a certain GPS-enabled location like at home or at work.

Another useful feature that I like to have in the app is to maintain a constant badge icon to show how many articles you have unread in your Instapaper account. The app will show the badge briefly, but once you exit the app the badge notification disappears. I like to know at a glance exactly how many articles I have queued up or unread in my read it later service and unfortunately these 2 issues let the app down and stops me from using the app.

Pocket

Pocket for me ticks all the boxes I require.

It’s a popular service and I can see why. 3rd party support is again well supported by developers so most Twitter apps and news apps can ‘Add/Send to Pocket’.

The Pocket app on iOS really is fantastic. It’s fast, smooth and easy to navigate and manage with a great choice of fonts to use as your default reading experience. You can tick or swipe to mark saved articles as read which of course can update your Pocket account and sync read and unread articles across your devices.

Notifications are the killer feature for me. Fully supporting iOS 7’s background updating API, I am in love with the number of saved articles badge over the app icon on the iPhone and iPad. I can see at a glance how many I need to catch up on which of course is a great reminder. I can be in twitter, see a link that I want to research or read later, hit ‘Send to Pocket’ and by the time I have exited the Twitter app and gone back to the home screen, the badge as been updated on the Pocket app to reflect the change. My only wish is for a Mac app rather than having to access the site via Safari but considering I mostly use my iOS devices, there is no great need.

Pocket is a fantastic app with the notification badge is the killer and stand out feature. You can download it for free here.

Fixes & Improvements Coming in iOS 7.1

Since iOS 7 was introduced in September last year, it is widley acknowledged that users have been suffering from bugs that has caused our iPhones and iPads to crash every so often which I touched on previously.

There is good news however, as Apple is working on a software update which is currently in beta testing with developers and here at MacTap we highlight the currently known changes and fixes coming:

New Siri Voices

New more “natural-sounding” voices for Australian English, U.K. English, Japanese and Mandarin Chinese have apparently been added to the latest beta which should make the current Siri voice sound a little bit less robotic.

Changes to the UI for the Phone App

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As you can see the call and to end call button is now green or red which tweaks the UI. This is different to the button currently on iOS 7.0 which shows wording instead of this colour coded button.

Tweaks to Lockscreen

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This could indicate system wide changes but at the moment, this picture shows a ‘power’ button to slide across just for the lock screen where as at the moment on iOS 7, there is just wording to indicate to slide to power off.

Other Changes

The Calendar app has been improved as well as system wide speed improvements and bug fixes which should hopefully eradicate the crashes which according to early reports, is the case.

MacRumors also report:

Release notes from the first iOS 7.1 beta indicated that the update fixes network connection issues in addition to other bugs. The beta also included a new Yahoo logo, extra burst mode uploading options for the camera, and an option for a “dark keyboard” in the Accessibility section.

According to the iOS 7.1 beta 2 release notes, this update fixes several bugs, including one that caused all tones to sound like the default. The settings for Touch ID and Passcodes have also been moved from General settings to the main settings menu and Calendar has a new list view toggle.

There’s a new “Button Shapes” option that can be turned on to indicate where tappable areas are located. Animations appear to be faster in iOS 7.1 beta 2 and Control Center has gained a new bounce animation and music labels that show the audio source.

Keyboard:

The keyboard in iOS 7 has been slightly tweaked to make it clearer when shift keys and caps lock are enabled.

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Icons:

The green color in the Phone, Messages, and FaceTime apps has been toned down and is now darker, especially at the bottom of the icons. This introduces a less neon coloration to iOS 7, cutting down on some of the operating system’s brightness.

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According to various sources, Apple is expected to release this update to all users later this month or early in March.

Dramatically Improve Your Phone Call Audio With FaceTime

Dramatically Improve Your Phone Call Audio With FaceTime [iOS Tips]

Rob LeFebvre:

It’s amazing how many of us just haven’t tried FaceTime audio, even though it was a big selling point of iOS 7 when Apple announced it back before the release of the latest iOS software.

There are two ways to use FaceTime Audio. The first way is to tap into a Contact on your iPhone, either in the Contacts app itself, or in the Phone app. For example, launch the Phone app and tap on the Recents tab at the bottom of the screen. Tap the little information icon to the right of any of the Contacts there you want to chat with. About halfway down the Contact screen, you’ll see the FaceTime section, and you’ll have the option to tap either the video or audio icon. Tap the little phone icon and an audio-only call will start, via FaceTime.

A nice reminder for us to get into the habit of using the iPhone to make not just free calls but better audio quality calls. Making VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) calls will be the standard for all of us soon.

Why Your Next iPhone Won’t Need a Cas

Why Your Next iPhone Won’t Need a Case

Mike Elgan:

With its sapphire laminate technology, Apple could bond sapphire to glass on the front and metal on the back, creating an elegant, scratch-proof, thin, light and reasonably-priced iPhone 6.

This arrangement would enable you to carry your iphone in the same pocket as your keys and coins for a year, and it wouldn’t get a scratch.

It’s also likely that the sapphire or glass on such a phone wouldn’t shatter even if you dropped it on pavement. First, sapphire is three times stronger than Gorilla Glass. But more importantly, glass shatters when you drop it because it has scratches. Sapphire doesn’t scratch, so it’s also unlikely to shatter on impact.

An iPhone 6 that didn’t get scratched on the front or the back and that didn’t break when you dropped it on the street wouldn’t need a case.

I believe this is the main reason Apple is pushing for sapphire: to kill the case.

Apple is all about design, especially when it comes to the iPhone – even the top executives tend not to use cases. I agree that Apple doesn’t really want their customers to cover their iPhones with cases but due to the susceptibility of scratches appearing on the devices, Apple felt that they should get into the case business rather than miss out on the lucrative case market until they can solve the problem of scratching and with this new Sapphire technology, it certainly seems a case free iPhone future is realistically possible. I personally don’t like to use a case either which is another reason why the iPhone 5c is a better choice for people who don’t want to use a case but don’t want scratches either.

Excel: The Last Microsoft Office Stronghold

Excel: The Last Microsoft Office Stronghold

MG Siegler:

To be clear, I know that a lot of people have to use it in their work environment. But that’s more because their office buys it for them and forces them to. It’s a strong method of lock-in that is seemingly still going strong after all these years.

The reality is that there are now more than enough solid-to-better alternatives for much of what Office offers. And some, like Google Docs and now even the Apple iWork suite, are free.1 And so it seems to me that increasingly, Office persists more out of habit (“I don’t know how to do this without Office”) and misguided fear (“what if I need Office for some reason?”) than necessity.

I’m all for abandoning Excel. It’s expensive and it’s like we have all been locked in to using it after all these years but now that we are migrating to cloud based storage and services, Google’s Drive/Docs which is free and Apple’s Numbers seem the better alternatives. Although I use Google for my simple spreadsheets, I still need Excel for the couple of spreadsheets that I have where the data is linked between each spreadsheet. Numbers doesn’t offer this facility and although Google does, it’s limited for some bizarre reason. For the power users which need features like that, Excel is still the king.

Apple iOS 7.1 close to final release

Apple iOS 7.1 close to final release

BGR:

Apple dramatically overhauled iOS in iOS 7 and with 7.1 a lot of problems like slowness, app crashes and even phone restarts are fixed. Additionally, the operating system feels much more cohesive and thought out, with Apple bringing in some of the flatness in areas, and continuing it through in others. Apple has released five beta versions of iOS 7.1 so far.

Sounds like the much needed software update for iOS 7 will be released shortly, that will hopefully make the software perform much more stable by eradicating the freezing and crashing that has been happening to our iPhones and iPads. Apple prides itself on the design and stability of their software, but when Jonny Ive hastily re-designed the operating system last year, it’s not surprising that they ran out of time to get it released.

I’d wager that when iOS 8 gets released later this year, it won’t suffer from the same problems, as Ive and his team would have had plenty of time to perfect the operating system for release on this occasion.