Instapaper: Change the Way You Read the Web

Let’s say that you’re wandering around the Internet and you stumble upon an article that you really want to read. Problem is, it’s a bit long, and your boss is coming around the corner so there’s no way you can read it right now. Your options are to leave the tab open on your browser indefinitely, bookmark the article for later reading or just close the tab and move on with your life. Not much else you can do about it, right?

Hold on there, chief. There is an answer, and it’s named Instapaper. Not only will the service allow you to access that article anytime you want, you don’t even have to be online to do it. How does it do this hocus pocus? Follow along as we teach you about the app that will change the way you consume the Internet.

Taming the Beast

We all do it in one way or another. A short “I’ll just check my favorite blogs real quick” session turns into 45 minutes of following links, discovering new sites and wandering around the Internet like a lost kid in a shopping mall. There’s just so much new content to read in a day that it becomes difficult to consume it all without dedicating your life to reading. The key to solving this problem is proper delegation and a little bit of procrastination.

Every article you want to read is either on the home screen, or you can delegate it to a folder.

Every article you want to read is either on the home screen, or you can delegate it to a folder.

Instapaper is a free web service that works in a very simple way. First, you create an account at the website, then you either drag and drop a special “Read Later” bookmark to your browser’s bookmark bar, or manually install the link.

Whenever you come across an article that you want to read but don’t have the time, just click on the Read Later bookmark. Instapaper does its magic and a little pop up window shows in the top left corner of the browser that says, “Saved!” Log in to Instapaper online and the article is right there for you to read at your convenience. But even better, all the ads are pulled out and you’re just left with text and a few key images. It really is magical.

Options abound on Instapaper, including setting pagination so you can flip through your articles like a book.

Options abound on Instapaper, including setting pagination so you can flip through your articles like a book.

Instapaper and the iPad

So where does the iPad fit into all of this? After downloading the universal app, just sign in to your account and all of your current articles are loaded into the iPad. Click on the article and it appears, ready for you to browse through at your leisure. And once your iPad is updated with your latest bit of content, you don’t even need to be connected to the Internet to read your articles. Now that’s brilliant.

Get social and see what other people are reading and recommending.

Get social and see what other people are reading and recommending.

Soak that in for a minute. Imagine you’ve got a daily commute, and everyday you hop on a subway/bus/train to get from the house to your office. Now you could pull out your iPhone and surf the web, or you could have your iPad handy, loaded up with all of your favorite articles, and flip through that instead.

Or you’re getting ready to board a plane, and you know you won’t have an Internet connection for a bit, so you spend your time in that cramped seat reading your favorite saved posts from This really is life changing stuff.

You can even send articles to Instapaper from the beautiful Reeder for iPad!

Landscape mode puts your folders on the main screen.

Landscape mode puts your folders on the main screen.

Why the iPad Is Better

This is a universal app, so you can access all of the same features on your iPhone or your iPad. But because of its size, the form factor, and everything else that makes the iPad the killer device that it is, the iPad is definitely the most optimized place to use Instapaper.

I, for example, like to read before bed, but I don’t always want to put on a light and stop my wife from getting a little shut eye. I simply change the settings to dark Mode, so now instead of being angered by a glowing light coming from her right side, my wife can instead roll over and go to sleep while I catch up on the day’s events.

Read an article in Instapaper's format or ...

Read an article in Instapaper's format or ...

... view it in the built-in browser.

... view it in the built-in browser.

Why You Need It

If you’re not sold on this app yet, I’m really not sure what else to tell you. I could expound upon the social networking features built into the app that let you see what your friends are recommending, or I might spit out 100 words about the built-in browser that lets you see your saved articles in their natural habitat. But the thing is, I think most of that is superfluous when compared to the overall implications of what Instapaper does for the reader.

Plain and simple, Instapaper saves time and makes you more productive.

Seriously? Yes, seriously. Procrastination is everyone’s best friend, right? By having a handy little button on your browser that promotes putting something off, you’re taking back that precious time that you would’ve spend reading the article while you were supposed to be doing something more important.

But have no fear – the article is tucked away in a happy little place, ready for you to read whenever you get a chance. And no pressure either, because Instapaper has your articles whenever you’re ready, safely tucked away on your iPad.

Some might consider this to be hyperbole. Just another ranting post that sucks up to the developer and goes on about how great their software is, so we all go out and make them a lot of money. That’s not the case here. No, Instapaper is a legitimately great app that does something that Apple lovers yearn for – one thing, but one thing well. Don’t believe me? Try out the web service for a bit, then spend $5 on the app and see how it feels on your iPad. I’m willing to bet that after a mere few days you’ll be hooked, just like I am.


An awesome App that allows you to save and collect articles to read on or offline on your iPad.

  • Matthew Guay

    Instapaper is absolutely my favorite iPad app. I delayed buying it, thinking it wasn’t worth it, but I was so wrong. Now, I save articles to Instapaper by default, and do my long-form reading on the couch on my iPad. With integration with Twitter for iPad and many other apps, and the Safari bookmarklet, it’s really streamlined my online reading. Awesome app, and highly recommended!

    Oh, and the tilt mode is awesome … activate it, and then just lean your iPad back instead of swiping to scroll. And the dark mode is great for night reading. Plus, you can tweak font sizes… :)

    • Janos

      I didn’t know about the tilt mode. Thanks for the tip.

      • Matthew Guay

        It’s one of the main reasons I upgraded from the free version 😉

        The free version is only for iPhone, but the tilt mode is enough reason to go Pro on iPhone alone. And Instapaper is enough reason to want an iPad on its own 😉

  • Stu Greenham

    Couldn’t agree more the iPad and instapaper go together perfectly! The added dark mode is a lifesaver when reading in bed and not wanting the Walls to glow! Lol

  • xxdesmus

    Readability has replaced Instapaper for me at this point. The presentation of text is just far more pleasant.

  • VicDiesel

    I was very disappointed in this App, and I basically never use it. Main reason: it does not deal with sites where you have to log in. (You really should mention that in your review!) It does not really save your web pages: it is really a browser, so it can’t access pages that require a login.

    Instead I got the Atomic web browser, which has a “save page” feature that is at least as good as Instapaper.

    • Marco Arment

      Actually, Instapaper saves a copy of the page you’re viewing if it’s saved from either the in-app browser or the “Read Later” browser bookmarklet. (When saved via API access in apps like Twitter and RSS clients, the page usually hasn’t been loaded yet, so it doesn’t have access to the content.)

      So, in most cases, as long as you save from either the in-app browser or the Read Later bookmarklet, the content will be visible in the app even if it’s behind a paywall or login requirement, as long as you can view it (i.e. as long as you are a subscriber of or are logged into the original site).

      (Publishers, don’t worry: your saved copy is only shown to you, not other Instapaper users.)

  • Chad W. Taylor

    I wanted to check out Instapaper until VicDiesel (above) brought up points on the fact that it doesn’t deal with sites requiring login and that it doesn’t save web pages.

    I have “Read It Later” and it in fact handles both of the points VicDiesel needs. Anybody tried the Read It Later app and what your thoughts are in comparsion to Instapaper?

    One thing I must admit after going through some Instapaper screenshots, I loved the idea of reading white text against black background – can imagine it’d be easier on my eyes. This is what I do with Amazon’s Kindle app on my iPad, I read against a black background and love it.

  • Hammy Havoc

    A great evaluation of Instapaper, I’ll be more willing to give it a chance now. My main issue is that NetNewsWire seems to do more or less the same thing yet even NetNewsWire allows me to ‘Send to Instapaper’.

    • David Hays

      I think Instapaper is as much like an RSS reader as Instapaper is like browser bookmarks. Both allow you to mark web pages to read later, but one does that job well and one does it poorly. Newsreaders to me are how I find articles I want to read later, and the readers I use (Reeder on my iPhone, Feedler Pro on my iPad) both have easy ways to send articles to Instapaper.

  • Frank

    I definitely agree it’s one of my best apps on both iphone and ipad. For a heavy reader like me, the Byline + Instapaper + Evernote assembly line is just sooo powerful.

  • B.

    I never understood the praise for Instapaper – i find ReadItLater SO much better, at least on the iPhone (no experience with iPad).
    RIL handles reformatting websites to plain texts way, way better than Instapaper, the font is easier to read, whole layout feels just more elegant and minimal, also the fullscreen mode just rocks.
    I do, however, thinkt that Instapaper app feeels faster and “lighter”, but thats about it (oh, tilt to scroll function is also very handy).
    I tried switching to Instapaper, as most apps i use offer Instapaper intergration, but no matter how hard i try i always go back to RIL.

  • RebateSense

    Instapaper is just so convenient now my reading grows and grows. Since I now have a simpler way of reading what I want to read later I keep pushing more and more into Instapaper where I have a huge backlog now. Good and bad!

  • Benjamin Reid

    With only having the wi-fi iPad, I may have to invest in this. Nice write up.

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  • greg

    Thanks for the review and the comments.. it works great on the iPad

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  • David Hays

    Instapaper is now so much a part of my workflow that I use only Browsers, Twitter clients, and RSS readers that integrate with it. I didn’t know I needed it until I tried it (based on a recommendation), but it has improved my web browsing and news reading experience tremendously. A very very nice app. Well done.