I discovered through lots of tinkering with jQuery and HTML source code that this is probably best achieved by finding the original link and corresponding domain at http://getpocket.com/unread. These can then be matched with the domain from ‘sub’ at http://getpocket.com/a/queue/.
NB: I’ve just realized that this may not work if you have multiple items from the same ‘domain’.
Ultimately I hope Pocket updates to include these features by default, because it is really kind of annoying, after everything else they got right.
When Read It Later presented its completely revamped self as Pocket, I dusted off my account credentials and gave it a quick look. Five minutes later and I had already turned my nose up at it, playing the role of the Instapaper I-payed-$5-for-this-app-and-now-a-better-and-free-alternative-comes-along snob.
I’m not sure why I didn’t give it a proper chance back in April, but thankfully I decided to give it a second chance today. So here are 4 reasons I favour in Pocket over Instapaper.
1. Interface | Design | Experience
Pocket is beautiful. Really, it’s pretty to look at, responds snappily like any good web app should which takes it beyond a static experience. Instapaper is static, less easy to use and somewhat ironically, has a terribly cluttered interface (in my experience).
Both the website and iOS version of Pocket have two great article display modes, one more like a magazine, and a details/ list view. I am easily able to filter articles by date, title, site, tags or media type.
2. Considerate Media Handling
The team at Pocket is actively tweaking its ‘Article View’ engine (for reading later, distraction free) so it will always display content how it is intended. Whether it be images, videos or lengthy articles from The Verge, Pocket will handle it gracefully.
Instapaper can be a bit hit and miss and while no reading view will be perfect, at least Pocket is showing it cares.
Pocket comes with search, for free! Instapaper charges $1/month to use article search. This lets me replace my old (and pretty crappy, to be honest) system of exporting to Delicious. I don’t really use this much, but just the thought of being able to cut free from yet another service makes this a very welcome feature.
However, I found a bug (I think) when searching in the Archive. See this link.
This isn’t really a huge issue for me any more, but for agnostics not yet devoted to either service, I’m sure it will be a huge deciding factor. Instapaper is ~$5 for the iOS app and $1/month for some other features. Pocket is all free.
There are still some things I miss from Instapaper/ would like to see in Pocket. So here is my Pocket wishlist:
- Better pagination on mobile. Include features like the smooth transition and bullet point progress bar from Instapaper.
- More readily available links to original content. Currently Pocket only makes the domain available from the reading list, not the original link. You must click through to the ‘Article View’ to find the original (unless I’m missing something).
- Business model. I don’t want to see ads start appearing in my feed, nor do I want to see Pocket fade away. How are they going to monetize their new product? I only want to support you, Pocket.
I still haven’t completely removed Instapaper from my life. It still holds a prime position in my Chrome bookmarks bar (both my Unread list and the bookmarklet) and it’s still on my iPhone’s home screen.
I think as life goes on, I will fall into the Pocket camp entirely, as they have shown they are willing to change for the better and the change will be ongoing. Instapaper, with its one man army, will struggle, I fear, to keep its position of supremacy. Pocket has opened up bookmarking to the masses it seems, as Evernote has done with note syncing and Dropbox with file sharing; by presenting it in a friendly, easy to use way, that doesn’t feel geeky. And yes… I think Pocket has the kind of potential where it is appropriate to be compared to those companies…
I have been a hot-and-cold user of Evernote for a few years now. By that, I mean I go through phases where I can’t live without it, then don’t touch it for weeks on end. I think the thing that always pulls me back though is the surrounding hype regarding Evernote. Everyone seems to love it. Every time I hear another interesting use for it, I give it a go and inevitably give up because most of the use cases require too much time investment. Is Evernote really that necessary though? I’m now going to explore the possibility of removing it entirely from my workflow.
First, lets consider how I use it now. I am not a big ‘tagger’ because this too, is too much of a time investment for me; to get a harmonious system up and running, and then implement it. I much prefer to have a couple of different notebooks and just text search for the rest.
My 7 Notebooks are:
- Inbox (Default)
I’ll be honest: I hardly refer back to notes anywhere other than in my Inbox. Every now and then I get in a ‘Spring Cleaning’ frame of mind and delete notes I haven’t touched since creation and don’t see myself needing in any foreseeable future. But I really get no utilitarian value out of my usage of Evernote. The reason for this is there are better ways to do many of the things I use it for, yet I continue to pursue the idea of Evernote being useful. For example, for storing links (like Archive, Food and Programming), Instapaper does a better job of formatting and making them available offline.
However there are some features that make Evernote incredibly useful. The inbuilt OCR imaging is fantastic and I am yet to find a better (and free) alternative. It isn’t the fact that images can be turned into text. It is the fact that Evernote stores an invisible database of words that appear in the image, which you can then search and locate in the original image. Secondly, the ability to add contextual information to a document such as a PDF, DOC, etc. is also incredibly useful. I can store the original, untouched file in Evernote, then append my own notes above/ below the document. The final thing that stops me from culling Evernote is the ability to create your own notes. I know this sounds kind of anti-climactic and obvious, but I seem to often overlook it. I can create rich text notes if I like, or plain text. Include images, check boxes and bullet points. I can supplement the recipes I find online with my own amendments or originals. If a saved webpage contains too much cruft, I can manually fix it.
Ultimately, it is the unique combination of rich note generation, website clipping, OCR and powerful search features that give Evernote staying power. It isn’t without its flaws, but I am prepared to put up with them because it does so may other things right. Sure, the rich text formatting is worse than most other products, and half the time the font selected isn’t actually the one being used. And sure, it isn’t as pretty or clean as Springpad or Instapaper, but it is powerful and versatile. And yes, I hate having to manage multiple services to do similar things, and yes I want an optimized workflow, but if you use a computer more than once a week, there is probably some way that Evernote can help you. Download it now and give it a go.
This convinced me to sit down and not only give Springpad another chance, but rethink my whole digital note-taking strategy. This in turn inspired me to write this series.
I really like the idea of Springpad. Really like it. However, when I sat down and gave it another go the other day after they released a whole slew of updates I was severely disappointed. I have two main gripes (which cover most aspect of the program); 1. Usability 2. Quick Adding.
Let me address both points. Firstly and foremost, I hate that there is no downloadable app for PC. No proper Chrome extension, no desktop client. Don’t get me wrong, I love web apps, but when my patience is tested by one for no valid reason, I am left thoroughly unimpressed. Sure this recent pivot to a more social experience seems suited to the web, however I am constantly confronted with lag. Lag to load pages, lag to add notes, lag to open a note. Why so much lag? It just results in an unresponsive UI. My internet connection may not be the fastest, but I don’t struggle with any of the Google Apps, that is certain.
Now maybe I am being too harsh, so let us ignore this apparent unresponsiveness. How about the amazing semantic ‘Quick Add’ feature? Now as far as I know, this feature IS the draw card for Springpad. So why is it tucked in the top right corner, barely larger than my email displayed above it? I want it front and centre; supersized. Now, the general functioning of the ‘Quick Add’, in my experience, can be described as mediocre. In most use cases, it has required an initial prompt to add context to my search term. For example, while trying to plan an evening for my 2 year anniversary with my girlfriend, I tried adding the restaurant and movie theatre I decided on. This either returned nothing, or places in foreign countries. When I ‘searched the web’ and looked for ‘places’, it was able to find the venues. Why doesn’t the geolocate work straight from the omnibar? Once these two notes were added to my notebook, I was less than impressed by the metadata provided too. Sure, it was able to show me a Google map of where the places are, but there was no link to their websites, menu or movie times. Phone numbers, foursquare tips and Yelp reviews were all present and welcome, however I expected more from Springpad’s key feature.
I haven’t had a chance to use the new social features much yet, but I’m still optimistic about their implementation. Almost anything will beat Evernote’s (free) collaboration attempt.
Finally, here is a run down of the key points.
- Quick Add is great when it works and adds useful metadata
- Lots of social features with proper privacy controls!
- Very disappointing user experience
- Quick Add could still use some fine tuning
- Notebooks default to Public
Stay tuned for the rest of the series where I will cover Pinterest, Evernote, Plaintext, and my personal preference!
I have remapped my CapsLock key to open a new tab in Chrome, much like the Search key on the Chromebooks. With this quick hack, comes much added utility, with the help of custom search engines in Chrome.
Services: Google Chrome, AutoHotKey.
My most regularly visited websites such as all the Google Apps (Gmail, Reader, Docs, Calendar) can be opened with two key presses from anywhere on my computer:
- CapsLock – Opens a new tab in Chrome.
- Website Identifier – a single letter that can be defined by going to chrome://settings/searchEngines and adding a custom search engine.
Another use for this has been searching Twitter handles. Now I’m sure there are better ways of doing this, but I constantly found myself googling “@<username>” to find people on Twitter. So I decided to add a custom search engine in Chrome:
- Keyword = @
- URL = http://twitter.com/%s
This enables me to type “@” into the address bar, hit tab, type a twitter username and navigate directly to their page.
If you have any other interesting uses for custom search engines, let me know!
Custom search engines don’t require the “%s” operator to work, which enables the super speedy hotkey access to bookmarks.
- Save all online content you want in your archive to Instapaper, using your favourite method.
- Make an ifttt task to send your archive’s RSS feed from Instapaper (link down the bottom of your Instapaper folder) to Delicious as a public  bookmark.
- Search your links at the following URL, replacing “%s” with your search term,
The story of how Simplenote motivated me to actually start writing a blog after so long without being able to put ‘pen to paper’.
Simplenote – Homescreen worthy.
Yes, I know, the blog isn’t exactly racing towards having hundreds of posts, but I actually have written more than I ever have, for any reason, other than school assignments! You see, it’s all just sitting in Simplenote – but not stagnating; it is being fine-tuned whenever I have time. That is the beauty of Simplenote. It is there when I need it, providing a distraction free writing environment that lets me focus on my ideas and getting something written.
I recall the moment Simplenote got me to start writing, quite well. It was during a long road trip to the beach. I was bored, but listening to music on my iPhone. I tried playing games but I never get too captivated by any of the iOS offerings so I was still looking for something to do. I opened up Simplenote and saw a note that said ‘Blog Post Ideas’. It contained several general ideas I had picked up over the past few days since creating this blog. I thought, “Why don’t I just start writing whatever comes into my head?”
I tapped out several hundred words on a series that I am yet to finalise. Even on that little iPhone keyboard, it wasn’t too painful, as I can almost touch type with it. Also, with the keyboard filling up most of the screen, there was almost no temptation to waste time revising what I had already written, or be subconsciously paralysed from writing by seeing a blank canvas, a feeling I experience quite often. I just tapped away, not caring if what I had written made sense, so long as it conveyed the story I want to tell. I can always go back over this work, when I am not feeling like writing, to polish it off. Even if that never happens, does it need to be polished?
The most interesting articles I read online are laced with opinion and emotion from the author – not just the facts. I am more likely to agree with someone’s point of view if I empathise with them, feel like I know them or like them. I also find that the more I ‘polish’ anything I write, the more emotion that gets scrubbed away.
Anyway, I digress…
Without Simplenote on my iPhone, synced to my laptop with ResophNotes (yes, it’s a PC), I never would have started writing anything for this blog and it would have sat dormant indefinately. So if you’re having trouble writing, why not give it a shot? There’s something soothing and refreshing about using a plain text editor with a decent font (I’m looking at you Notes on iOS and your Marker Felt font!).