Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Way to Save Websites for Later Viewing (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Procrastination)

If you’re anything like me, chances are you’ve probably stumbled on a newspaper article, blog post, or other website that you wanted to read, thought, "Huh, that looks interesting," and then realized you didn't have time to read it. Or, maybe you’re trying to keep your eyes out for news on a particular legal topic, or searching for a something to write about for a research paper or a law review note. Fortunately, there are a number of mobile apps out there that will save these pages for you to access later, online or off. These apps also strip down the site into a more readable, distraction-free format, so the article looks more like what you would find in an ebook. They’re a simpler alternative to powerful research tools like Zotero and Evernote, because they're intended as a quick solution, with no real opportunity to organize in a sophisticated way. This, I think, though, is their strength, as they allow you to quickly, and without hassle, save something you’ve stumbled upon for later viewing. (It should be noted, though, that they do all allow for tagging.)

I’m going to give you a brief overview of three popular options, from the perspective of an iPad user, though these are all available on additional platforms.

My personal favorite is called Pocket. (An earlier iteration was known simply as “Read It Later.” I think we can all agree that "Pocket" is a cuter, more memorable name.) With official apps for iOS, Android, Chrome, and the web, Pocket has a lot going for it. You can save articles from any browser, and a number of different mobile apps, including Pulse, Flipboard, the Onion, and others. One particularly nice feature that sets it apart from other read-it-later apps is that you can also save embedded video files to watch later (though you must have internet access available to watch them). 

In addition to being feature-packed, the app’s presentation is simple, elegant, and modifiable. For example, you can choose to view your saved items as tiles, or traditional lists. (See below.)





            When you’re reading an article, you can choose from three different color backgrounds--light, dark, or sepia. You can also change the font type (serif or sans serif) and size. From the article, you can also choose whether you want to create a tab for it.



If you’re not sold on Pocket yet, its price should convince you to at least try it out: it’s free!

Moving on, we will cover my least favorite app, Readability. (Some people must enjoy it, though, because I have seen it pop up on a lot of tech sites.) While Readability has an attractive user interface, I found it lacked many of the features that made the other two options attractive; it doesn’t integrate with other apps as well, and saving articles required some complicated extra steps. It didn’t have any features that made it unique compared to the other two apps. If, however, you’re the kind of person who’s put off by bells and whistles, Readability might be just the app for you! It does have a list of "recommended" articles, if you're looking for some inspiration. In this respect, it reminded me of a page like longform.org. This is nice if you're lost and looking for a place to start, but isn't an especially helpful feature if you're only looking to save your own finds. 

Readability is available on iOS, Android, and Kindle devices, with extensions for several browsers. Like the other apps, it allows you to tag articles, change font sizes, and alter color pallets. Like Pocket in particular, Readability is also free; this is its one crowning glory, in my opinion. In all fairness, it is an attractive app, as you'll see from the pictures below. The first page shows you the main screen, while the second shows you its presentation of a particular article.




In Readability's defense, it should be noted that it does work well as a web page, one which strips sites down to make for easier reading. Unfortunately, its developers have not yet managed to harness its potential in app form, and it has already been outdone by some competitors. 

Finally, Instapaper is the read-it-later app that launched a thousand read-it-later apps. This venerable old app was originally intended for the iOS elite only, but it has since opened the doors to many other platforms, like Android and Kindle. Actually, that’s an exhaustive list. This app is only available officially on iOS, Android, and Kindle, leaving everyone else out in the cold.  

Instapaper, unlike Pocket and Readability, has a social media component built in, allowing you to follow your friends you knew already or who you've made through Instapaper. If you’re using this app, though, to collect legal research sources, these extras might mean very little to you. Another new feature unique to Instapaper is that you can actually highlight the articles you save. This annotation feature is nice if you want to reference an article later, especially if you’re a law student or lawyer doing any kind of research. Instapaper also gives you more options to manipulate your view of articles, allowing you to select among 14 different fonts, paragraph spacing, and line spacing. It’s the best of the three for the demanding aesthete, I’d say. It also comes with a dictionary that you can even use offline.

To tell you the truth, though, I didn’t get the opportunity to use Instapaper, because it does cost money ($3.99) that I didn’t feel inclined to spend after enjoying Pocket so much. I just wanted to let you readers know that the option does exist, and it does have many a devoted follower. For an extensive review, visit this link

In conclusion, all three offer similar functions, and it’s up to the individual to decide which one appeals most to his or her tastes. They are all extremely useful as a means for collecting articles to read later or to save for consultation purposes.


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