six colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

By Jason Snell

Instapaper update adds tweet shots, background updates, speed reading

Getting ready to send a Tweet Shot.

On Thursday Betaworks released Instapaper 6.2, an update to the venerable iOS app that adds a bunch of intriguing new features.

I’ve been a fan of Instapaper since the early days—I first heard of it when I read Ben Boychuk’s review in Macworld in 2008, long before I had ever heard of Marco Arment. These days I mostly use the service to send digests of stories to my Kindle, though if I’m stuck somewhere with just my iPhone or iPad, I will also read stories directly on those devices.

The new version adds support for Tweet Shots, that growing trend in which people quote an article they like by attaching an image containing some of the article’s text to a tweet1. Instapaper does an excellent job with this, reformatting the text you selected so that it fits in most Twitter image previews. Other apps such as OneShot do this too, but it’s a perfect fit with Instapaper’s role as a tool for reading interesting things.

A Tweet Shot from Instapaper.

To use the feature, you just select some text in Instapaper, tap the Share icon, and then tap Tweet Shot. The standard iOS tweet sheet appears, and you can add a text comment if you like, and then post it along with a link to the actual article and the image containing the highlighted text.

Also new to Instapaper is a feature I’ve dreamed about for some time, since Apple added the ability for regular apps to receive invisible push notifications with requests to update content. Now when you add an item to Instapaper, the Instapaper web service will try to connect to your iOS devices and tell them to download that article. (The company says this feature is pretty reliable on Wi-Fi, less so on cellular.) The benefit is that when you open Instapaper, there’s no waiting for stories to download—they’ve already downloaded in the background. If you’ve opened Instapaper after you’ve gotten on the train and there’s no longer any cellular service, or after you’ve taken your iPad out of the house when there’s no wi-fi around, you’ve felt the pain of not having Instapaper update itself automatically in the background. Now it can, and that’s good. (Instapaper competitor Pocket added this feature quite a while ago.)

Other new features in Instapaper 6.2 include a speed-reading feature that shows you one word at a time in rapid-fire fashion. Some people swear by this approach to reading, though it’s never fit with how I read. And I only realized today that as of Instapaper 6.1, released late last year, Instapaper picked up Handoff support—so if you’ve got Instapaper open on your iOS device when you bring a story to your computer, you can click on the Safari icon in the Dock and pick up reading right where you left off.

Instapaper is a free app with an optional $3/month or $30/year premium plan, which adds support for full-text search, unlimited highlights and speed-reading articles, third-party app support, and the Send to Kindle feature.

  1. I know a lot of people dislike this trend, because it goes against Twitter’s 140-character limit. I agree that people using images to write longer tweets is not a great trend, but for quoting an article that you’re linking to in the tweet? I’m okay with it. ↩

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