Monday, April 19, 2010

My New Favorite App: Offline Pages

It was almost a year ago when I wrote a post on my Publishing 2020 blog about an app I'd like to buy for my Kindle.  Here's how I described the problem last June:

How many emails like this do you get each week?: "You need to read this article over on I just read it and thought it was terrific/funny/relevant/etc."  I get these all the time.  Sometimes I click the link and read the first sentence or two.  If it's good and I don't have time to read it all now I'll leave that browser tab open and hope I don't forget about it, but I often do.  If the article looks really good and I don't want to miss it I might even print it out and read it later.  None of these approaches are very effective though, especially when I also have a $360 Kindle at my disposal.

OK, if you're a glutton for punishment you'll try to access all those articles on your Kindle via Whispernet.  Good luck with that.  Even if you manage to get the page loaded you'll find the formatting and readability is awful in most cases.  And what if you're out of Whispernet range, say, on a plane?

Someone needs to write a desktop application that lets me grab a url and drag it to my Kindle, which is connected to my Mac via USB.  The app has to do more than just drag the web page to the Kindle though; it needs to convert the contents of that page to mobi format so that it looks nice and clean on the Kindle display.

Unfortunately, Amazon never opened their platform to third-party apps so nobody ever had a chance to create this type of service.  Apple's model, on the other hand, encourages third-party app extensions and I recently found the answer to my problem.

The app is called Offline Pages (iTunes link) and hands-down it's the greatest thing I've downloaded to my iPad.  Oh, and get this: The app is totally free!  (Somebody really ought to tell the developer they could easily charge five bucks for it.  Heck, I'd consider it a bargain at $10!)

The app works just like you expect it to.  You can browse the web within the app and save any page you want for later reading.  Even better: In a few short steps you can add a bookmark to Safari on your iPad and quickly save the pages through that browser instead.  Best of all: You can create a bookmarklet in your Mac/Windows browser to save the pages that way.  So if I see something cool while on my Mac, I click the bookmarklet button I installed and the next time I sync my iPad the page shows up in the app.  Outstanding!

I've got two recommendations for future enhancements.  First of all, let me say whether I just want to save this particular page or if I also want to save all the pages linked from it.  There's nothing worse than thinking you've saved an article and it was split into multiple web pages, so you only got the first piece.  For that matter, why not build the logic in to know when there's a "next page" or similar link the app should grab it too?  Second, rather than forcing me to manually sync with iTunes to move pages from my Mac to my iPad, why not do it wirelessly, either through wifi or Bluetooth?

Implement these additional features and you've got a spectacular app.  Either way, this one is already a must-have for anyone who sometimes finds themselves outside a hotspot...and who doesn't fall into that category?!


  1. Joe, how is this different from Instapaper on the iPad?

  2. Agree...I thought Instapaper did the same thing!

  3. First of all, it's free. Secondly, does Instapaper have the ability to install a Bookmarklet to automate the entire process? When I looked into it for my iPhone a few months ago it didn't, but perhaps they've added that functionality. Either way, I couldn't be happier with Offline Pages.

  4. Instapaper started as a bookmarklet to store pages for reading in a desktop browser long before the iPhone had third party apps. It also supports the Kindle.

  5. Bill, is Instapaper able to use that Bookmarklet to transfer the pages from desktop to Kindle/iPhone? Your description makes it sound like it just saves it in the desktop browser for later reading, not sending it to the device. Can you clarify?

    I can't see switching from Offline Pages anyway. I've already installed the bookmarklets in Safari and Firefox, I'm used to the tool and I've found it to be flawless.

  6. I am a huge fan of Instapaper. I had content automatically setup to send to my Kindle and the iPad app is very well done. As well, you can forward long emails and links directly to Instapaper vis-a-vis a specific email address.

    And indeed, there is a bookmarklet to send content to Instapaper automagically.

  7. Instapaper is awesome, and has literally changed my life. I'm reading much more quality stuff because I'm not skipping long-form articles. The developer understands that you're in a different mental state when *reading* content vs. "hunting for* things to read.

    I'd be seriously bummed if Instapaper went away or got bought by someone who didn't understand it.

    For the uninitiated, here's why I'm enthusiastic about Instapaper:

    - It formats text like a book, removing ads, headers, other crap, and superfluous images (important pics remain). I don't care that it doesn't "look like the web." That's a feature. It's a lot like the "readability" bookmarket you can use on any browser, or the "Reader" view in OSX's Safari 5.

    - A few more words about Instapaper's "mobilizer." It's good enough to have been picked up by other apps, such as Twitter for iPhone, which formats text to be easier to see on the small screen.

    - It's instant to invoke via bookmarket in the browser or in iPhone.

    - Apps that "get it" include Reeder (Google Reader app for iPhone and iPad), Google Reader itself, Twitter for iPhone, NetNewsWire, and a bunch of others at -- most of these are extremely well designed and I appreciate the integration.

    - You can use folders to organize content, and can publish RSS feeds of stuff you're reading.

    - You can export or auto-mail to Kindle devices (which are still pretty nifty, despite the infatuation some people have with iPad)

    - It's a universal app and works just as well on iPhone as it does on iPad, synching your account across the cloud.

    "Offline Pages" looks ok, I guess. Sometimes it's nice to have the links and other junk from a webpage, but I think I'd rather focus on just the text. "Offline Pages" is $5 now and given the choice between that and Instapaper, I know what I would pick.