Instapaper Pro

Our Review by Bonnie Eisenman on March 17th, 2010
Rating: starstarstarstarstar :: LITERARY BLISS
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Are you literate? Do you read long things online? If so, Instapaper Pro is a must-have. It allows you to download long articles and blog posts for on-the-go reading. Finesse, functionality, and overall awesomeness make it a true 5-star app.

Developer: Marco Arment
Price: $4.99
Version Reviewed: 2.2.1

iPhone Integration Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar
User Interface Rating: starstarstarstarstar
Utility RatingRating: starstarstarstarstar

Re-use / Replay Value Rating: starstarstarstarstar

Overall Rating: starstarstarstarstar

Instapaper has been around for a while, but it doesn't show a speck of age. This sleek app allows you to download text from websites for on-the-go reading. Sound simple? Sure, but Instapaper reigns supreme when it comes to finesse, functionality, and elegance. Think of it like an RSS reader or document storage...but simpler, less rigid, and better suited to the iPhone.

The concept is a simple one. Bookmark a website from your computer or the iPhone's browser using a special bookmark, and it'll be added to your Instapaper account. From there, you can read it in the app. Instapaper removes superfluous ads and other assorted clutter, and displays it in a clean, easily readable interface. Once it's downloaded to Instapaper, you can read your articles offline, anywhere you can take your iPhone. It's extremely convenient, especially for longer articles and blog posts that might take a solid chunk of time to read.

The cornerstone of Instapaper is simplicity, but the app provides plenty of features and options. First, when it comes to reading articles, you can customize your display. Font choices include Helvetica, Georgia, and Verdana; you can shrink the font size; a night mode inverts the background (white-text-against-black-screen works better at night). To scroll through an article, you can flick the screen as you would normally in Safari, or use the other two options: tilt scrolling and pagination. Tilt scrolling works fluidly and simply: tap a button to enable the mode, and the text scrolls based on angle of your device. Pagination requires a single tap to advance a page, much as you'd expect from an eBook reader. I don't really like pagination—you have to tap the bottom of the page, not the right, and there's no real animation to show the transition—but all three options work just fine.

This version of Instapaper also includes a bevy of other features. You can organize your articles in folders, and even set up folders that automatically import articles from RSS feeds. For example, right now I have a folder that automatically downloads all new posts, as well as a few others like ArsTechnica and PoliticsDaily. You can share articles via Tumblr and Twitter, and look up word definitions without leaving the app. You can lock rotation in the settings menu. Instapaper even remembers where in an article you stopped reading...perfect for if you get interrupted during a super-long article!

What Instapaper does is simple on the surface, but doing it well is another thing entirely. Instapaper looks, feels, and acts like a native Apple app: it has the same level of polish and a well-designed user interface. And, more importantly, it's incredibly useful...especially if you're a WiFi-bound iPod Touch user or don't have a data plan. Last year, I used the free version extensively for storing AP US History notes for quick studying between classes and on the bus; having the full version's features makes it even better. For long blog posts and articles, it's also a very nice touch; sitting down to read an enormous post might not fit with your browsing habits, but it's easy to set it aside for later.

I really don't have any complaints about Instapaper Pro. Well...I wish I could download images along with the text, but with the option to view the original file in Mobile Safari, it's not as necessary as it might have been. Other than that small caveat? This is perfect. If you're a literate internet user, you owe it to yourself to get this app. At the very least, give its free version a spin!


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