Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: A Look at GoodLinks

GoodLinks runs on the Mac, iPad and iPhone.

Since the dawn of time the App Store, I’ve used Instapaper to save links for later, but last year I checked out GoodLinks, thanks to John Voorhees’s review at MacStories.

GoodLinks is developed by Ngoc Luu, who also develops Jason’s favorite iPad text editor, 1Writer. And like that app, GoodLinks has a simplicity about it that betrays the complexity it offers.

The Mac app is admittedly much simpler than its mobile sibling, but it looks good and offers a sharing extension, so getting links into it from something like Safari is just a couple of clicks away.

Both versions support tagging for organization, as well as the ability to star an item to find it later more quickly. Additionally, the title and summary of saved items can be manually edited, which is a nice touch if a webpage has some wonky metadata that GoodLinks can’t parse.

Both apps also save article content for off-line reading, which is standard for this genre of apps, as Instapaper was designed by Marco Arment for reading web content on the subway.

The iPad and iPhone version also offer an extension for quickly saving links from the Share Sheet. Details can be manually edited while being saved, but I prefer the app’s “Quick Save” feature, which imports the link without the intermediate step of updating its metadata. It’s really, really fast.

Unlike some of its competitors, GoodLinks syncs via iCloud, so there’s no third-party server in the middle to worry about and no new account to set up. In my experience, sync between my devices has been very good, even when I dumped 10,000+ links into it from my Instapaper account. It took iCloud several minutes to figure out what I had done, but after that things have been really smooth.

If you do run into issues, iCloud data can be forcibly re-synced or deleted altogether. And, of course, data can be easily exported.

When it comes to reading, GoodLinks uses a Safari Reader-like experience that is easily customizable. If, for whatever reason, GoodLinks can’t render the article in its own view, loading the page in an in-app browser is easily done. There, GoodLinks defaults to using Safari’s native Reader mode to help keep things minimal.

If you’re the type of iOS or iPadOS user who is into automation, GoodLinks has you covered there as well. The mobile app comes with a long list of Shortcut actions as well as deep URL scheme support, as Voorhees wrote in his review last year:

On the iPhone and iPad, the Action menu can also include Custom Actions defined by the user that allows components of an article saved in GoodLinks to be passed to another app using URL schemes. Among the data that can be passed is an article’s URL (escaped or unescaped), image URL (also escaped or unescaped), title, description, author, and content in HTML, plain text, or Markdown.

GoodLinks also has extensive Shortcuts support with actions to show a specified list of articles, add links, display a list of all links or just links tagged with a specific tag, open links, open the last unread link, open a random link, retrieve links with a specific tag, get all links with a specific tag, and get a list of tags. It’s a long list of actions that, along with GoodLinks’ own URL scheme, opens up some interesting possibilities.

GoodLinks is a universal app with a one-time cost of $5. If you’re looking for a Read-it-Later app without a subscription, or one with a more modern feel than its competitors, it’s well worth the price of admission.

[Stephen Hackett is the author of 512 Pixels and co-founder of Relay FM.]

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