It happens every day—you're in the middle of working on something, but get distracted by a Facebook post. Or perhaps you get an email from a friend telling you to read this interesting article. Or maybe you check our favorite blog and see a post that catches your attention. There's something for you to read or view, but you don't have time to do so at the moment. Instead, you want to come back to the content when you have free time.
It's easy for good content to vanish into the black hole of the internet. Instead of letting it disappear, you can use a "Read It Later" app to centralize all that content. Now those distracting articles that derail your workflow are tucked away where you can rediscover them during your downtime.
At their core, Read It Later apps bookmark the things you want to come back to. But some options stand out with additional features, like offline reading, annotations, and tags that bring order to your collection.
We tested 19 of the most popular Read It Later apps, and grouped them into two categories: apps that excel at simplifying the read-it-later experience, and apps that create a permanent archive of content you can refer to later.
Before these apps came into existence, your options for saving links included bookmarking them in your browser, sending an email to yourself, or leaving a tab open all day. Those strategies still work, but they aren't pretty.
The apps in this section essentially create a to-do list of content you want to read. Most of them save pages so you can access them offline, and some have organizational systems for long-term content storage. Their focus, however, is to make saving and consuming content simple.
|Integrations with third-party apps||Free; $4.99/month (Premium)||Web, Mac, Chrome App, iOS, Android, Kindle|
|Instapaper||A newspaper-like reading experience||Free; $3.00/month (Premium)||Web, iOS, Android, Kindle|
|Readability||Distraction-free reading||Free; $4.99/month (Premium)||Web, Mac, Chrome App, iOS, Android, Kindle|
|ReadKit||Sophisticated content organization||$9.99 (with 14 day free trial)||Mac|
|A beautiful layout of content||Free||Web, iOS, Android, Windows Phone|
|Safari Reading List||No setup and a simple workflow||Free||Safari on any device|
|Facebook Save||Content found on Facebook||Free||Facebook on any device|
For integrations with third-party apps
Before changing its name in 2012, Pocket was literally called "Read It Later." There are many ways to get your content into Pocket, including an extension or bookmarklet that works in most browsers. When you come across an article, video, or image you want to access later, you can add it to Pocket with a single click.
Within Pocket, you can see all of your content in a list or grid view. If you don't see what you're looking for, you can narrow your results with a quick keyword search. Plus, Pocket's customizable tags give you granular control over how your content is organized.
Clicking on an article will open it up in a distraction-free view for reading. Pocket strips out the ads, sidebars, and other extra elements of a webpage to help you focus on the text, images, and videos. If you're using Pocket's mobile, desktop, or Chrome app version, you won't need an internet connection to get access to your library. You will, however, want to make sure you've recently opened the app with an available internet connection, since that's how it syncs the latest saved items for offline viewing.
Once you're done reading a piece, you can archive it, meaning it'll move out of your main view and into the archive tab. (Note: Archived content is not available offline).
Pocket integrates with a long list of third party apps that allow you to build your library with a single click while browsing Twitter, Flipboard, and more than 500 other applications. It's so popular, in fact, that Firefox recently built it into its browser as the default Read It Later app.
Pocket also works with app integration tool Zapier, which makes importing and sharing Pocket content a cinch.
For a newspaper-like reading experience
Like Pocket, Instapaper allows you to save content with an extension or bookmarklet. Articles saved in Instapaper can be organized into custom folders or searched by title or URL, and are available offline. If you have some free time to spare, you can also look through the Browse section, which highlights articles chosen by editors or shared by your friends.
To improve the reading experience, Instapaper takes your content and makes it look like a newspaper, trimming articles to their most basic form. You can choose from several clean fonts and adjust font size to your liking. While you're reading, you can also highlight important lines or add notes for future reference. And if you'd rather read on your Kindle, Instapaper can automatically email a bundle of your articles to your Kindle every day.
Earlier this year, Instapaper released a really cool speed reading feature to help users get through their queues faster. Instead of displaying the whole article, individual words flash on the screen. You can adjust the words-per-minute rate based on your reading speed, and Instapaper will tell you how long it'll take you to finish the article. For those of us who are easily distracted, speed reading mode really forces you to focus on reading the article.
For distraction-free reading
Readability is the third app that's typically lumped in with Pocket and Instapaper. Adding content works the same way—via extensions and bookmarklets—and the app strips out all the noise from articles. It also has customizable tags and title search to help you retrieve what you've saved.
Readability stands apart with its focus on community. You can follow friends and influencers, and see what content they're adding to their Readability queue. As you fill up your library, Readability recommends articles based on your interests, giving you the opportunity to expand your knowledge.
Another feature that's unique to Readability is the "Guilt Purge," which clears out your queue based on how old something is. If you got a little trigger-happy with the "Read Later" button, this feature makes your list manageable.
For sophisticated content organization
ReadKit is a desktop app for Mac that brings your various RSS and Read It Later apps (Pocket, Instapaper, and Readability included) together. Why would you need a Read It Later app for your Read It Later apps? Because ReadKit provides an extra level of organization that the original apps do not.
With ReadKit, you can build highly customizable rules that automatically sort your content into a personal folder structure. For example, let's say you are a Product Manager and want to pull out any articles about your product into their own folder. You can write a rule to search all the text in your articles, and move anything with your product name into a smart folder. Rules can be simple or complex, allowing you to get as granular as you need in parsing your content into folders.
Like other Read It Later apps, ReadKit strips out unnecessary pieces from a web page to make it easier to read. And because it's a desktop app, you can also see how many unread articles you have in your dock—you can decide if that's helpful thing or overwhelming.
For a beautiful layout of content
While other Read It Later apps focus on stripped-down reading platforms, Flipboard provides a more visual experience. When you save an article to Flipboard (which you can do through extensions and bookmarklets), you add it to a "Magazine." Magazines are collections of stories that are grouped by topic and laid out with beautiful images and titles.
While you can see a preview of the article, Flipboard doesn't actually cache any content to its site, but instead launches you back to the original web page so you can read the content there.
Flipboard also has some social components to it, letting you follow topics, people, or other magazines. The more you use Flipboard, the more it hones in on your interests, tailoring its recommended content to your tastes.
For no setup and a simple workflow
If you don't need a dedicated app for your content collection, you can always go with Safari's Reading List. Built natively into Apple's Safari browser, you don't need to download anything or remember another login. When browsing the web using Safari on your desktop or mobile device, you can click on the Share icon and select "Add to Reading List." Safari will save a copy of the webpage so you can view it offline.
The articles are saved chronologically and you can search the title and URL. There are no additional organizational features, but it's meant to be simple and quick, which may just be what you're looking for.
For content found on Facebook
Facebook has its own Read It Later app, of sorts; it's a great option if you find most of your content via the News Feed.
When you're perusing Facebook, you can click on a link or video and select "Save Link." To access your saved links, find the "Saved" option on your sidebar. This brings up a list of all the content you've saved, broken down by category. You can read, watch, and of course, share with your friends.
|ReadingPack||Within ReadingPack, you save what you want to read later and also follow thought leaders and friends. The app lets you know what content is trending based on recommendations from their user community.||Free||Web, iOS, Android|
|Pinboard||Pinboard is a bookmarking tool for users who value privacy. The website doesn't have lots of bells and whistles, but it prides itself on being fast and useful. Save info about sites, and with a Premium account Pinboard will archive the full site so you can read it anytime.||$11/year; additional $25/year for Premium||Web|
|Paperback||Paperback sits on top of your Pinboard account and makes your reading experience distraction-free. It shares Pinboard's values of privacy and reliability.||One-time fee of $15||Web|
|Delicious||Delicious is more of a social site with Read It Later functionality. You can see people in your network, subscribe to keywords, and see what's trending overall.||Free; $2.99/month no ads||Web, iOS, Android|
|Pinterest allows you to pin images from around the web into boards. It's useful for collecting and sharing visual content that you want to refer to later.||Free||Web, iOS, Android|
|Send to Kindle||Send to Kindle takes content you find on the web or documents on your computer and makes them accessible on your Kindle.||Free||Kindle|
The apps discussed thus far focus on creating a to-do list of content you want to read later. These next apps excel at organizing and storing that content long term. Each one has a "read later" component, but they're better utilized for content you want to keep forever. These archiving apps allow you to create a personal reference library that is highly organized and fully searchable, making content retrieval a piece of cake.
|Evernote||Searchable notes that you can take anywhere||Free; starting at $24.99 per year (Premium)||Web, Mac, Windows, iOS, Android|
|OneNote||Heavy Microsoft Office users||Free||Web, Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android|
|Historious||Simple, powerful search||Free; $2.97 per month (For subscribers)||Web|
|Keep Everything||Heavy Mac and Dropbox users||Free; $19.99 (Premium)||Mac and iOS|
For searchable notes that you can take anywhere
Evernote is an app that has so many features, it can really be used as your main workspace. You can use Evernote to take notes, manage tasks and projects, share and collaborate with other people, and, of course, to store the content you find on the web for future reference.
Installing the Evernote Web Clipper extension allows you to save an entire page, a stripped-down article, an image, or selected text to your Evernote notebook with a single click. Within Evernote, you can organize your "clips" into different notebooks with tags, comments, and more. Because you're copying the content into your own Evernote account, all the text is fully searchable.
Evernote gives you access to powerful tools such as highlighting, annotation, and visual callouts on the content you've clipped. What's even more impressive is their "Related Notes" feature: When you search the web, Evernote will show results that are related to your search from your saved notebooks right within the Google, Bing, or Yahoo. You can continue to build your resource library, all while keeping your content extremely organized.
Evernote also has an add-on called Clearly, which allows you to convert a webpage to distraction-free mode, stripping out the ads, sidebars, and other noisy components. By default, Clearly doesn't save any of your content, but with a single click you can add the article to any Evernote notebook.
In addition to its own features and add-ons, Evernote integrates with Zapier, so you can connect your notes to more than 450 apps.
For heavy Microsoft users
OneNote is a Microsoft product that's very similar to Evernote in functionality. Its OneNote Clipper extension lets you save content from around the web to your OneNote notebooks, which can be organized into sections, pages, subpages, and so on. All content is searchable, so it's easy to find what you've saved.
Within OneNote, you can add highlighting, annotations and other notes to your saved content. It's a great tool for collaborating, especially if you're working within the Microsoft suite of products. Sharing is easy, too: you can give coworkers access to entire notebooks, or turn pages into PDFs that you can send to anyone.
Web clipping to read things later is just a small part of what this powerful tool can do. And if you want OneNote to communicate with your other apps, try connecting it to Zapier.
For simple, powerful search
Historious doesn't have a huge set of features like Evernote or OneNote, but it does one thing really, really well: search.
Historious' homepage is a riff off Google's, even copying the famous "I'm feeling lucky" button. To add content to your Historious account, you can use a bookmarklet or extension.Since pages are cached when you add them to your library, you can search the entire contents of an article. You then have the option to read the cached version of the page, or to launch the live link to get the most up-to-date version. Historious even offers tagging for deeper organization.
For Mac and Dropbox users
Keep Everything is a Mac and iOS app that allows you to save webpages, images, videos, and even tweets. The magic lies in its Dropbox integration, which allows you to access all of your content offline.
Unlike basically every other app mentioned in this article, Keep Everything isn't populated by a bookmarklet or extension. Instead, on a computer, you drag and drop the item from your browser to the app or simply paste the URL in.
You can build categories to organize your content, and retrieve a saved article by searching the full text of a piece. One additional feature that makes Keep Everything stand out is that you can view and edit any article in Markdown, a text-to-HTML conversion tool for web writers.
|Diigo||Diigo is an app geared towards academics. In addition to some of the features other apps have (highlighting, annotating, etc), you can also build entire outlines to academic papers within Diigo, pulling sources from your library into an organized structure. In order to cache content, you need to upgrade to a paid plan, but with the additional outlining features you get, it is well worth it.||Free; $5-$59/year (Premium)||Web, iOS, Android|
|Wallabag||Wallabag is self-hosted and open source, meaning that you can build onto its core Read It Later features and make it work exactly like you need to.||Free||Web, Android, iOS, Windows Phone|
With so many read it later and archiving app options, you don't have an excuse for breaking your workflow to read content. To choose the app that's right for you, consider what you value most. Do you want a distraction-free reading environment? Access to your content offline? Or a robust system to tag and categorize content?
You may even find yourself using one app from both categories—one to act as a "to read" list and one as a permanent database of content you never want to lose track of.
Once you've found a Read It Later app that you love, share your experience in the comments below!
Credits: Books photo courtesy Moyan Brenn
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