Programs for reading online content off-line

Regular readers of Unclutterer and also of my book Unclutter Your Life in One Week know I am a huge fan of Evernote and Instapaper. Both programs allow you to save articles and pages you find on the web and access them later without returning to the original site or needing an active internet connection.

If something is part of an ongoing research project (like Unclutterer post ideas), I tend to save what I find to Evernote. If what I want to read later is interesting to me, but not necessarily related to a specific project, I’ll send it to Instapaper. I have both programs on my smart phone and laptop, so I can access all the documents on any device. When I know I’ll be traveling in the near future, I tend to “Read Later” a lot of documents to Instapaper so I’ll have many options to read on my journey.

This week, Lifehacker tipped me off to another program like Evernote and Instapaper, but “ToRead Sends Article Text Straight to Your [E-mail] Inbox.” I don’t like receiving e-mail, so this isn’t a program for me. However, I thought ToRead might appeal to those of you who are averse to using an unfamiliar third-party viewer.

Are you already a ToRead user? What’s your preference for reading online content when you’re without an internet connection? Tell us about your experiences in the comments.

22 Comments for “Programs for reading online content off-line”

  1. posted by Joshua Cole on

    That’s exactly what I do. My brain is dumped into Evernote, and Instapaper holds all of the blog posts I want to read eventually.

    What I love most about Evernote is that even though I don’t have a smartphone (or a phone that can get online) I’m still able to on the fly dump ideas into Evernote by sending a text to my Evernote account. It shows up in my default notebook when I log back in.

  2. posted by Adventure-Some Matthew on

    Since all of my digital life exists on my laptop, I simply use myriad tabs to store anything that I want to read. I open lots of tabs with the various articles/posts when I do have access. Then, when I’m offline, I can simply go from one tab to the next and check up on my reading.

    To keep myself organized, I simply close the tabs when I’m done with them. If I’m not finished, I will leave the page scrolled down so that I can quickly tell that I’m in the middle of something. If I want to comment, I can generally go ahead and type in my reply, and wait until I have access again to send it in.

    I’ve never looked into Instapaper, so I’ll head over there right now to check it out.

  3. posted by Clint on

    You should look into ReadItLater too. Itrs a great mix of InstaPaper and bookmarklets, its Firefox and Chrome integration to Google Reader also makes it fantastic.

  4. posted by Lilliane P on

    Just went and downloaded Read It Later for Firefox. Thanks for the info. Now just have to exercise some restraint. The number of bookmarks I have shows that I’m a bit deficient in this matter.

    Erin, that would make a good post. How do people get rid of the clutter of excess bookmarks? What question, if any, should you ask yourself before making one in the first place?


  5. posted by Karen on

    I use Google Reader for most of the web sites I read online. As I look through the article titles, I star the ones that I want to read later. It doesn’t help for reading offline, but I mostly use my computer when I’m home and online.

    I use Delicious for pages that I might want to use as a reference, or that I want to keep longer term. I tried Evernote, but the pages felt too busy and cluttered for me. Too many images cluttering the page and not enough simplicity. I keep thinking I want to go back to it and see whether I can customize it to be more simple and streamlined, but Delicious is working for me.

  6. posted by Heather on

    Another vote for the Read It Later extension for Firefox. It has an option to cache a page for offline reading (or not), and an option to create a password-protected account (or not) so you can backup your items or access them from another computer.

    Read It Later adds a small arrow icon to the URL bar, next to Firefox’s bookmark button, so it’s quick to save a page. My favorite feature is that it integrates with Google Reader, so I can quickly scan my rss feeds and save blog posts or articles for later.

    I’m a little click-happy when I’m saving things to read, but I’ll catch up when I’m in a hotel or airport without a good internet connection.

  7. posted by Samantha on

    Thank you for this article. I had no idea about Instapaper. I use Evernote, but Instapaper is just what I had been looking for. Now I don’t have to leave all these web pages open of things I want to read, but don’t want to lose or forget about. I can just read at my leisure.

  8. posted by Heron on

    Glad to know about Instapaper – and that it will download content to my e-reader!

  9. posted by HappyDogs on

    If you use an online content saver of any kind, do you worry about the provider ending the service? If so, do you back up anywhere?

  10. posted by Sue on

    I’ve started saving pages I want to read on a PDF printer. Then I can read the articles later & either continue to save them or I can delete them. I’ve been doing this for the past few months.

    Before the PDF printer (nova pdf) I would copy & paste the article (without pictures or advertisements) to WordPad because I didn’t want formatting, links or “junk” cluttering my reading. I still use that when I cannot get a clean print format of the article.

  11. posted by Ville on

    Evernote seems to allow backups on Mac and Windows, but I don’t know if any other program can read the database.

    I use paper and pencil for note-taking, and Delicious for saving links for later reading. For offline reading, I save them on the hard disk.

  12. posted by Corie on

    This is a great post. I have a feeling that us clutterers (or constantly-trying-to-be-reformed clutterers) have a problem confronting the vast expanses of knowledge and info on the Web. It’s the same underlying need that makes me save too much paper and desire too many magazines and books. Thanks to Erin and others for tips here… I’ve recently been saving gift and shopping ideas to Evernote (too early to tell if it will come handy later) but definitely need a “read later” solution, especially for work. I subscribe to a few useful tech and career newsletters but there’s never time to read when they arrive in my in-box.

  13. posted by Mike on

    I use evernote for managing my notes… even keep scanned bills and payslips in there (in a local – not synced notebook)… speaking of read it later solution I have not yet found anything interesting… would want something that other people could send read items to… ie. my girlfriend…


  14. posted by Dave on

    As much as I love Evernote, it is not very good for offline reading. The real battle is between readitlater and instapaper. I use both of them and both programs have the pluses and minuses. Instapaper is designed for the iphone and the creator has made it clear that is all he cares about and isn’t considering other platforms now. That said, it does the best job by far for parsing web pages for view on the iphone. It also downloads much quicker than readitlater’s app. I love the RSS feature where it will parse feeds for you. Readitlater’s strenth is its offline caching on the desktop with firefox and its sharing options. Instapaper lets you share on twitter, email, and tumblr, while readitlater has more. Readitlater just launched a new premium program called Digest ( which I am testing now and it’s pretty cool since it organizes your articles to read. Its a tough call but I love instapaper on my ipod touch, since it does such an excellent job parsing the articles. It knows exactly which images to keep that are necessary to the article and still downloads really fast. I suggest trying both services. Oh yeah, and I don’t advise sending articles to email, the other services mentioned are just so much easier and less hassle.

  15. posted by Cedric on

    +1 for ReadItLater with its awesome Digest feature. And it looks wonderful on the iPad.

  16. posted by Courtney on

    Maybe I’m old-school, but I just copy and paste interesting (usually long) articles/books etc. into a text file, and then dump them on my Kindle. It’s usually something that I’ve run across through my RSS reader that I don’t want to read right away. This way, I can take them with me everywhere, and read them at my leisure.

  17. posted by Jon on

    @Lilliane P I love read it later list and google reader…I also used to be a major information hoarder which caused lots of clutter in my digital world. Over the years I’ve accumated a lot bookmarks on delicious, some notes in evernote, and local bookmarks which I kept in sync via xmarks/chrome/firefox sync.

    Recently I asked a friend for advice on the best what to classify bookmarks, articles, and when to know when I should save something or not. His answer was to NOT attempt to classify and save everything for later. At first I didn’t want to hear that but after I practiced it for a few weeks it became refreshing. I deleted all my links on delicious (had to try real hard not to go through them all and save my “favorites”), deleted all local bookmarks (except for 3-4 bookmarklets which I use daily), and stopped syncing. My friend reminded me that I could likely retrieve information that is interesting or useful via search, especially if that content was originally read in Google Reader. (My friend works at Google, hence his preference for search) I continue to use Google Reader to browse articles and send things over to read it later list if i don’t have time to read it that moment. Then i make sure to actually read through my list when I have time. It’s sort of like Inbox zero! Evernote has been regulated to image-based notes only since that is it’s strongest feature and text notes are kept in Google Docs.

    Anyway, just thought I would share. 🙂

  18. posted by Khürt L Williams on

    Use of ToRead could lead to Inbox clutter.

  19. posted by Matt on

    I think this was mentioned in an earlier post, but I use a Firefox plugin called Zotero to grab snapshots of pages. Once you have a Zotero snapshot of a page, you can view it in Firefox even when you’re offline. Snapshots can be organized using grouping and tags, and it saves a link to the original page. You can highlight parts of snapshots the snapshot and attach notes to them (it’s meant as an online research tool).

    There’s a few more advanced features that I’ve never played with.

  20. posted by Jason on

    I tried ReadItLater and Instapaper both on the PC and iPhone and even though they both have their advantages, ReadItLater is the winner to me. RIL has a much cleaner design and the iPhone app is great. I just wish there was a way to star articles and more easily change tags. Regardless, it’s a fantastic way to capture things to read later.

  21. posted by Christine Simiriglia on

    I use Evernote for everything, including offline reading. I don’t like to have a lot of single-use programs available… too much choice and confusion. I like to get the most out of a few programs and Evernote does a lot. You can read more about how I’ve simplified and only use programs that are simple and free here: http://www.organize-more-stres.....-time.html

  22. posted by Lane on

    I also love Read It Later. You can access your reading list from their website or extensions for Firefox and Chrome or from your Android or iPhone. It is well designed and easy to use. Now the only thing is getting around to actually reading what is on my list!

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