Save the Whole Web for Later: Pick Pocket

You love scouring the web for reading material, but you just can’t find the time to read everything on the spot. Perhaps you’ve already run into popular “read later” apps such as Instapaper, Readability, and Safari’s own “Reader” feature.

One could certainly be perfectly satisfied with what those apps have to offer, but just how much would you be missing out on if you pass on Pocket (formerly Read It Later)?


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In With the New

Until recently, Pocket was known as Read It Later. Created by Nate Weiner in 2007, Read It Later was a Firefox browser extention meant to be used kind of like a DVR, but for web content. Years later, it has proven to be one of the most useful and indispensable apps I’ve ever used. What’s even better now is that it’s available on multiple platforms, so you can “pocket” all your articles, no matter what machine you’re on.

Pocket's content filter in magazine view

Pocket's content filter in magazine view.

When Pocket first showed up in my RSS feeds, I initially thought I’d be using the same app with a new name and a few minor changes. Well, as it turns out, “minor” was a bit of an understatement. Pocket is a much improved experience and feels like an entirely new app.

Save It for Later

To get the most out of Pocket, I would first recommend installing Pocket’s desktop browser plugin for your browser of choice. Those who prefer can also choose to install a Pocket Bookmarklet or simply e-mail article URLs to a special address linked to their Pocket account. On the mobile front, I like to save all my articles via another great free app called Zite. If Zite isn’t your cup of tea, Pocket is supported by tons of other great apps which include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Twitter
  • Pulse
  • iCab Mobile
  • Reeder
  • Flipboard

If you’ve used Read It Later before the update to Pocket, you’ll immediately notice the new level of polish from the moment you open the app and are taken to its beautiful new magazine-style layout. I never quite realized how dark and uninspired the previous version’s UI design was until I started using Pocket. I suppose that regardless of it’s aesthetics, usability always came first. Now, we have the pleasure of enjoying both!

With less page clutter, articles are much more enjoyable to read

With less page clutter, articles are much more enjoyable to read.

If you already had a huge back-list of saved articles from Read It Later, have no fear! Despite the change, you are still able to use your old Read It Later account when you transition. Though I wouldn’t exactly call this a “feature”.

The fact that Pocket is absolutely free was also a bit of a surprise. So much so that I wouldn’t be surprised if it upset quite a few people who actually purchased Read It Later Pro for $2.99 prior to Pocket’s release.

New Things to See and Do

Pocket comes with many new features and refinements. One of the nicer features I’ve come across is the option to filter content by type. So far, you’re given a choice between Articles, Videos, and Images. If you set the filter to video mode and tap the play button, Pocket automatically brings forward the video for you rather than taking you to the actual page before playing, which I found to be a nice touch.

Of course, you can still play the video in full screen mode and/or stream it to your Apple TV via Airplay should you choose to do so.

Tapping on a video thumbnail immediately brings up a video ready to play

Tapping on a video thumbnail immediately brings up a video ready to play.

Batch editing is also much welcomed this time around and works wonderfully. Whether you’re throwing new tags onto a handful of articles, handing out favs, or deleting old content, everything is just a few taps away. Should you only feel the need to delete individual posts, you can simply swipe left or right on a specific article which then brings up the usual handful of options for you to pick from. Swipe gestures were present in the previous version, but lacked options like Trash and Favorites.

Overall, batch editing is a pleasure to use. It doesn’t feel like as much of a chore to organize your articles as it did in the past.

If by chance you get tired of Pocket’s grid view, you can switch it up to the more traditional list view which displays a thumbnail of an article and allows you to see more of them on the screen at once. Night mode, as well as the option to resize text, switch between serif and sans-serif fonts, and text justification also make a return and work exactly like you’d expect them to.

Though I understand how useful night mode can be for others, I find that the white text on black background doesn’t look as good as I’d like it to. Perhaps a font like Lucida Grande or Georgia would have looked better? Just a thought.

List View allows for more content to be displayed on screen

List View allows for more content to be displayed on screen.

Lastly, Pocket features tons of sharing options for you to choose from. Whether you want to e-mail, tweet, copy, or open something in Safari, you can find it here. You can also share articles to tons of social websites like Tumblr, StumbleUpon, Facebook, Evernote, and Reddit, to name a few.

What Else Is There?

What more could I possibly ask for from Pocket? Besides maybe a wider variety of fonts to choose from, not much, really. I can honestly say that the folks at Pocket pretty much solved my previous problems with Read It Later, and then some.

These are only a few of Pocket's sharing options

These are only a few of Pocket's sharing options.

So why pick Pocket (!) over something like Instapaper? Well, if the UI alone hasn’t sold you yet, it really all comes down to how much visual stimulation you desire from apps like these. Some may prefer the text-only newspaper style layout of Instapaper, while others enjoy the more magazine-like feel that Pocket offers. While both services do a terrific job when it comes to cutting out all the clutter that litters most webpages, only one excels at displaying multimedia.

While there are alternatives such as Readability and Safari’s built-in Reader feature, I haven’t given either of them enough of a chance to form a solid opinion versus Pocket. As always, we welcome your input and thoughts in the comments below!

Conclusion

Pocket is an elegant, and incredibly useful, “read later” app that every iPad owner should have. It could benefit from a few minor improvements, but now that it’s free, there is absolutely no reason to pass it up.

If you’ve been a fan of Read It Later, you’ll love Pocket. If you’re a newbie to apps like Pocket, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Pocket is the perfect solution for anyone that is looking for way to access and organized saved web content offline on many different platforms.


Summary

Pocket is a beautifully made cross-platform app that is the perfect solution for saving multiple articles, videos, and images for later - no matter where you are and what device you're on.

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