Read It Later Pro – Review
Read It Later lets you save pages to read later, even without an Internet connection.
When you come across an article or a website you’d like to read but can’t at that time, save it to your Read it Later list. You can then read it whenever you have a moment, on the couch, in your commute, on the plane, train, or practically anywhere. This allows you to eliminate the cluttering of bookmarks and inboxes with links that are merely of a one-time interest. It’s like a staging area for bookmarks.
The app is a part of the Read It Later service, used by over a million users. Read It Later can integrate with every major web browser and even has a robust Firefox extension. All of your browsers and devices are tied to a single sync account which means you can save an article from work or home and read it on your phone.
– Offline Reading: View complete websites even without an internet connection.
– Sync: Use the same list between all of your computers and devices
– Text-only View: Easy to read mode strips formatting and images
– Sorting: Sort your list by date, title, and site
– Searching: Filter your list by title, site, and tags
– Saved Positions: Remembers where you left off on every article
– Tap to Save Bookmarklet: Lightning fast batching of links directly from mobile safari. Works great on sites like Google Reader, Digg, CNN, or any news portal.
– Fullscreen Reader: Expands the reader to the full edges of the screen
– Share: Share pages from your list on major bookmarking services/social networks. Works with Twitter, Digg, Facebook, StumbleUpon and a lot more
– Automark as Read: Allow marking pages as read as you read them
– Rotation Settings: Allows you to disable auto-rotation and set landscape or portrait viewing
– Unread Count: Shows the number of items in your list from your home screen.
Read it Later has been around for a while. It has an incredible Firefox extension . With it, you can mark a page to read it later (including shortcuts), batch mark pages, integrate with Google Reader, and sync with multiple computers. As a result, RIL has a fair number of users. That said, it hasn’t really hit the big time. With the release of Read it Later on the iPhone and iPod Touch, it just might.
The problem with RIL has always been that Google Reader’s "star" function works well enough for most users. This is highlighted by the fact that, with the reader integration enabled on Firefox, you can see the RIL check mark right next to the "star". This begs the question, what’s the difference?
Today, Read it Later has come up with an answer. Their new set of iPhone/iPod Touch apps (a free and pro version) make using their bookmark service a viable alternative to simply starring the article.
The new app competes with other popular apps like Instapaper in that it provides a solution for caching articles you’d like to read later for offline use. While it’s great for reading articles on your iPod Touch, it still has plenty to offer iPhone users with access to cellular networks. In addition, it provides unique benefits which definitely gives Instapaper fans good reason to switch over.
Articles are synced through your Read It Later user account and populated onto your reading list. You can sort your articles by date, title, and site). You can also search your article list.
The offline configuration options included in the app help automate this process of caching material remarkably well. You can choose to start downloading synced items automatically as well as customize how many items get downloaded. You can also specify which format you want to download by default (i.e., Text Only or Web format).
This allows users to easily load up information and take it on the go quickly. I use Google Reader a lot, and I used to star articles obsessively. Since getting RIL, I’ve been unstarring my google reader items and syncing them to RIL. From there, I just turn on the app, let it sync/download, and away I go. This is very useful considering that my starred items are usually articles that require more in depth thought and time devoted to reading them. I ride the subway often, and I find it’s the only time I get to really devote my time to reading. Now, the exact articles which require my attention get loaded up every morning. I can also see this working well for readers with an iPod Touch.
Reading the articles themselves is also a pleasure. Selecting an article takes you to one of three view modes: Online, Offline (cached webpage), Offline Text (a la Instapaper, Readability). The app will take you to the mode you currently have content for. For example, if you haven’t downloaded any offline content for an article, it will attempt to load the page over the air. However, if you have offline content, it will take you to it right away. You can freely move between viewing modes via the top menu bar. However, if you move to a viewing mode without content, you’ll be greeted by a screen prompting you to download it before viewing.
The Offline and Online modes are very similar. You view the article as though you were visiting the webpage. The Offline Text is entirely different. The Text mode scrapes the article for the text content and presents it to you with custom formatting. Currently, there are only two fonts (serif and sans-serif). However, you can adjust the font size to five different levels. While the default text is black on white, you can invert it for comfortable night reading.
There are a few issues with the text mode. I find the text formatting options a bit limited. I have been spoiled by Stanza’s superb text formatting options and wish I had a little more flexibility in how I read text in RIL. Viewing the offline text will also sometimes scrape content that isn’t article text. For example, you might get comments, blogrolls, etc. While this can’t be avoided, it makes the choice between web and text difficult because it’s quite easy to ignore distracting information by looking through a formatted web page. I’d like to see future updates remedy the dearth of text formatting options.
From what I’ve said thus far, you’d be forgiven for thinking this app is virtually the same as Instapaper. Besides the advantages provided by the Firefox extension, RIL’s iPhone app has a few very important advantages. First, links are maintained in the formatting. This is very important. Clicking on a link (even in offline mode), offers you the ability to view that link in safari (so does Instapaper) or add that link to your read it later list! This feature by itself pushes it above Instapaper and makes it a must-own app. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read an article on RIL and have seen a link I was interested in. All I did was bookmark it and continued reading. For example, I was reading an article on great neuroscientists that use twitter. All I did was bookmark their twitter names and go back to the reading list to follow them individually.
Secondly, RIL Pro allows you to share your saved articles via email or on social network sites. This adds another great social element to RIL that Instapaper doesn’t offer. Every social networking site imaginable is represented. In addition, your favourites rise to the top for easy access. You can also paste short urls for easy access. That said, you do need to be connected to Wifi or Cellular to do so.
These two features make RIL a must use app for people serious about consuming and sharing interesting content. Taken together with the stellar Firefox experience and you have a very powerful bookmarking solution.
The only question left to answer is whether you should stick with the free version or go Pro.
The Pro version offers a number of unique features. First off, you get a full screen reader. This is a huge benefit as the added screen real-estate makes reading text-scraped articles a pleasure. You also get a home screen badge listing all of your unread articles. You can auto-mark articles as read (as opposed to having to mark the as read yourself). You also get an additional safari bookmark which allows you to add multiple articles to your reading list simultaneously. This is far more productive than opening every article and using the free bookmark to then save it. Finally, you get to support the developer (which is the best reason to pitch in the 3 bucks).
To sum up, Read it Later offers a very robust bookmark management system across any computer and now your iPhone/iPod Touch. The ease of management and the overall design of the application makes it a pleasure to use. In addition, the little touches like social networking integration and bookmarking links within the app make it superior to Instapaper as a mobile bookmarking app. Lastly, the features unique to the Pro version make it well worth the $2.99 price tag. I highly recommend this app for anybody who uses Google Reader and/or mobile safari.
Would I Buy Again: Yes, the features available in the pro version easily justify its cost.
Learning Curve: None, fill in your login info and you’re set. Great documentation within the app as well.
Who Is It For: Anybody who bookmarks anything online for later access.
What I Like: Full-screen, easy sync and auto-downloads, awesome safari bookmarklets
What I Don’t: Limited text formatting options. Ugly brown titlebar.
Final Statement: Just try it. If you like the free version, you’ll never be able to put the pro version down.
The Pro version is available HERE for just $2.99