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Getting Started with Instapaper

By | 14 comments

Have you ever faced a situation where you wanted to read an article but you didn’t have time for it? Some of you might have bookmarked the page in your browser but let’s be honest here. How likely was it that you would actually read that article some other time? My guess – not very likely. This is a problem that needs to be addressed. Fortunately, with the help of software we can.

Today I want to introduce you to Instapaper. If you have never heard of Instapaper before, you’ll be in for a treat. It will take your reading experience to another level. For those already familiar – a couple of our tricks will help you get even more value from this great service.

Instapaper 101

In short, Instapaper is a service that allows you to save articles for you to read at another time. This is especially useful because all articles will be saved in the cloud and you can access your collection of saved articles from anywhere. Some of you Apple fans might have noticed that Safari’s Reading List offers a similar service – and it does. However, Instapaper is supported on most platforms (it is web-based so all you need is a browser) and it was in the game way before Reading List.

Due to the support of many platforms it’s very easy to access your articles. If you have a smart phone, Kindle or a tablet you can reread your saved articles any time at your own convenience. Whether that is on the train, while you are waiting in line or when your girlfriend kicked you out of the apartment – it’s all possible.

That is just one feature which is very useful but Instapaper has many other advantages:

  • No need to email yourself articles you want to read later.
  • No need to print articles you want to read later.
  • You get the text-only version (no ads, no nothing) of articles.

The fact that every article you ever want to read is collected in one place and is accessible anytime makes it really convenient to invest your time and to maximize your time. Examples of moments you can do some reading include:

  • During transit
  • While you are waiting in line or in a waiting room
  • Bathroom breaks (seriously – I get so much reading done then)


As an example I will share how I use Instapaper. Each morning I go through my morning ritual and a part of that is going through my RSS feeds on my iPad. There will be lots of articles I would like to read another time, so I just send those to Instapaper. Perhaps later in the day while I’m in the taxi I might pull up my iPhone and read some of my saved articles of that morning or articles I saved some other time. Whenever I’m waiting somewhere, Instapaper is right there with me so I can kill time. I can’t stress enough how this has changed my way of reading but also how much reading I do now on a daily basis.

I highly suggest you sign up for the service (it’s free).

It’s pretty straightforward to use Instapaper but here are some tips and tricks to get the most out of it. I want to give credit to Eddie Smith of Practically Efficient for collecting a lot of awesome tips in his Instapaper post. Some of these will be included here and definitely check out his post for some cool tricks. And checkout his blog as well where he shares many productivity tips.


There are many places where you can capture and store articles from. Because of Instapaper’s popularity most iPhone and iPad apps support this service. Literally almost any iOS app where you deal with content has support for Instapaper so it’s easy to capture articles and to store them into your Instapaper inbox.

instapaper supported apps

Sample of iOS apps that support Instapaper.

What many people don’t know is that you can also use Instapaper to read emails. Each Instapaper user gets a unique email address and any content that gets emailed to that address will be stored in your Instapaper inbox. This is great for when you sign up for newsletters that share lots of valuable information so it doesn’t cloud your inbox. So if you want get a grip on email management I highly recommend for you to switch your newsletter subscriptions to your Instapaper email address.

You can find your Instapaper email address once you are logged in under the Extras page.

your instapaper email

Each Instapaper gets their own email address where you can send articles or better yet - subscribe to newsletters with this email address.

On the same page you’ll find a lot more extra cool features of Instapaper that you can use (many bookmarklets). Definitely play around with that as well.

While Instapaper works by using a simple bookmarklet, you can also use extensions for your favorite browser. Not everyone, especially yours truly, uses the bookmark bar in their browser. That’s when browser extensions come in handy. Here’s a list for the most popular browsers and our recommended extension:


Now while stacking interesting articles is a great it also requires you to keep everything as organized as possible. Fortunately, you can have folders within Instapaper so you can categorize your articles. This makes it easier to search for articles (the free account does not have a search feature – premium accounts do). Some of my folders include:

  • Business – anything remotely related to wealth, business and marketing
  • Productivity – all time management articles go in here
  • Brain – I read a lot of neuroscience articles
  • Self-help – speaks for itself
  • Misc – the rest I can’t categorize
instapaper folders

My list of Instapaper folders.

I like to keep my Instapaper inbox for articles I still have to read while I will file read articles in the appropriate folder.

That wraps up this article on using Instapaper. This is really just the tip of the iceberg because this awesome service has many nifty features but we will cover those in depth another time.

Next Actions

  • Sign up for Instapaper
  • Get the Instapaper app on your devices
  • Start collecting and reading

Do you have any Instapaper tips to share? Please share them in the comments below.

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Posted by Jean-Luc  | March 16, 2016 at 4:34PM | Reply

There’s something I don’t understand: why not directly save your article in Evernote to eat it later? What are the advantages of Instapaper vs Evernote in this case?

Posted by Bob  | May 21, 2012 at 12:45PM | Reply

So reading this on Instapaper…. it doesn’t pick up details of the content – like the list of browser extensions – totally missing on Instapaper.

I’m a software developer and it does that with articles containing code snippets. Makes it useless to me.

Posted by Thanh Pham  | May 24, 2012 at 12:22PM

You’re right, I just saw this bug. I reported it to Instapaper – hopefully it’ll get fixed.

Posted by Rafal  | March 6, 2012 at 1:37PM | Reply

Great introduction to Instapaper!
It’s interesting to see that you create folders within Instapaper and organise articles there.
My personal approach is to treat is as reading list. When article is particularly valuable I would share it directly to Twitter and save to Pinboard. Sometimes even archiving to Evernote.
However the best function is ability to push articles to Kindle it makes for an incredible reading workflow.

Posted by MacPsych  | March 4, 2012 at 3:05AM | Reply

*Love* Instapaper – great for getting organised and it means I always have something interesting to read on my iPad. Especially useful when travelling. And yes, the link-up with Evernote is extremely useful. 

There’s also a free Mac OS app for reading Instapaper resources on your Mac: “Read Later”-

Posted by Thanh Pham  | March 4, 2012 at 11:57AM

Thanks for sharing, I’ll definitely check out that app.

Posted by Bojan Djordjevic  | March 3, 2012 at 5:12AM | Reply

Yep, Instapaper rocks! The best thing about it, is if you find an awesome article that you can act upon, you can share it into Omnifocus. 

Email is also fantastic. 

Posted by Holyjaw  | March 3, 2012 at 1:07AM | Reply

One big thing to mention is your ‘Send to Instapaper’ bookmarklet works on iOS assuming you’re syncing your bookmarks (or you’re savvy enough to create it on the device.) Simply open up your bookmarklet while reading an article in MobileSafari, tap your book ark let and it works as advertised.

Posted by Thanh Pham  | March 3, 2012 at 3:31AM

Yeah good call. Setting it up on iOS is really tricky. It’s definitely easier to do this on the desktop and then syncing your bookmarks. Even if Safari is not your default browser on the Mac, this is still useful to implement.

Posted by Vincent van Andel  | March 2, 2012 at 11:11AM | Reply

Next Action:
– Download ReadLater (used to call ReadNow) (an app in the Appstore, for I think about 4/5 euros). This is a very good app for reading Instapaper (en ReadItLater) items on your Mac.
Works only with a paid Instapaper account (3$ per 3 months)

I HATE the webbased version of Instapaper! For my iPad I use the Instapaper-app, and then for my Mac ReadLater.

Posted by Thanh Pham  | March 3, 2012 at 3:31AM

Ah cool, I’ll check out the app. Since I am a paid user, this should be great :-)

Posted by Geoff Airey  | March 2, 2012 at 11:10AM | Reply

You could add a couple of other options.

Ifttt allows you to add all sorts of things directly to Instapaper, automagically if you want, from lots of sources

You can set Instapaper that when you ‘like’ an article it’s added to your Evernote account for later reference.

I use both


Posted by Vincent van Andel  | March 2, 2012 at 11:27AM

 Oeh, the tip for Instapaper linking to Evernote I didn’t know!
I’m loving it!

Thanks for the tip!!

Posted by Thanh Pham  | March 3, 2012 at 3:33AM

I need to check this out. Sounds like something I could really use. Thanks for the tip Geoff. If you have more gold nuggets, don’t hesitate to share here :-)

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