With the right apps and accessories the iPad is a great productivity device. But let’s face it, the iPad works best in consumption mode.
Whether you’re simply catching up on the news, reading the latest gossip, or researching your next overseas trip or gadget purchase, the iPad is really convenient for consuming tons of web-based content.
After trying many different combinations of apps, my favourite workflow for reading, sharing and saving content involves three iPad apps which I use above all others: Flipboard, Instapaper and Evernote.
Flipping Through My Personalised Magazine
There are a few copycats around now but Flipboard was the first, and for me still the best, social magazine app in the App Store.
Flipboard allows you to pull in all your feeds from social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin, as well as RSS feeds from Google Reader and other content specific to partners of Flipboard, of which there are many.
Flipboard displays articles beautifully in magazine-like grid view which enables you to see at a glance whether you will be likely to want to read the full article or not. It’s a particularly good way to view twitter – pulling in the links from tweets and automatically displaying the content, including images, from the link destination.
There’s been a few articles on tech blogs lately proclaiming that RSS is dead. Their argument is that now everyone gets their news from Facebook or Twitter there’s little need to subscribe to the RSS feed. I beg to differ. For me, Google Reader is still an invaluable tool and Flipboard makes it even better. If you delve into the Flipboard settings you will find two options for Google Reader that you don’t get with Facebook or Twitter: ‘Show Only Unread’ and ‘Mark Read After Flip’, which, funnily enough, marks each article as read when you flip over the page and pulls in to Flipboard only those articles which are currently unread.
You can of course use Flipboard on its own to thumb your way through articles but what I like to do is spend 20 minutes or so flipping quickly through what’s new for the day, and save the best of the bunch for later reading using Instapaper. Flipboard supports both Instapaper and Pocket (formerly Read it Later) for later viewing.
Flipboard has native apps for both the iPad and iPhone and just this week become available on Android.
Clutter-free Viewing with Instapaper
Instapaper is a bookmarking tool that allows you to save articles for later reading. Instapaper takes the bookmarked article and delivers it clutter-free; without the ads, sidebars and any other fluff that may interrupt the reading experience. Instapaper is not the only tool to offer this service but it’s my tool of choice as it offers integration with all the other apps and services I use.
Your saved Instapaper articles can be read directly on instapaper.com, but a better experience can be had using the Instapaper iPad app.
When I’m ready to catch up on some reading I open up the Instapaper app and it automatically downloads the latest saved articles and stores them for offline viewing. The number of articles available offline is configurable in the settings.
Instapaper has a great success rate for finding the main article on a page you bookmark. There’s only the occasional site that I come across which Instapaper has problems with, and that’s usually because the site has an odd layout which means Instapaper isn’t able to determine the main content for that page.
If I read an article that I want to share, Instapaper supports direct posting to Twitter and Facebook. Even if you don’t use Twitter’s own iPad app, Instapaper integrates with a number of the most notable third-party Twitter apps including Tweetbot and Twitterrific.
Everything Goes to Evernote
I’ve been using Evernote since July 2008. I find it invaluable and pretty much use it every day. I currently have 7447 notes in Evernote, including scanned receipts, clipped articles and web pages, PDFs, training and educational material, and a whole host of other stuff that I want to save so it’s instantly backed up, available across multiple devices and searchable. Most of the content you save to Evernote is scanned by their servers using OCR to make the text searchable.
Occasionally I’ll read an article in Instapaper and realise that it has useful information that I want to save or bookmark for later. You can bookmark the article in Instapaper but I like to keep everything centrally available, tagged and searchable in Evernote, and Instapaper comes with Evernote integration built-in.
There’s three main ways that I use to save articles I read in Instapaper to Evernote:
- Click on the Share button and hit ‘Save to Evernote’ as seen in the image above. This then opens a dialogue box which allows you to select the notebook you want to save the article, and also add tags.
- Configure Instapaper to automatically post the article to Evernote when you click on the Like (heart icon) button. This isn’t immediately obvious. It’s not configurable through Settings as you would think. You have to go to Share > Accounts and then toggle on ‘Post Liked Items’ under the Evernote section. Articles will get saved to your default notebook in Evernote.
- Post via email. Each Evernote accounts comes with a personalised e-mail address that you can use to email notes and attachments to. With Instapaper you can either email the entire article or just a snippet from the article with a link back to the full article at the original source.
So there you have it. For me, Flipboard, Instapaper and Evernote work in perfect harmony to allow consumption of all the sites and blogs that I follow, and easily share or save the best of the bunch. And what’s more, all 3 apps are free on the iPad!