Why I’m Returning the iPad mini

A few mornings per week before I begin work, I like to walk to a nearby park, say Morning Prayer and plan my day. I use the iPad on these trips and I was going to bring my recently-procured iPad mini today. For some reason, though, I picked up my iPad 3, opened the Smart Cover and looked at the screen.

I decided right then that I’m going to return the mini. I’ll tell you why right now.

Things I Love About the Mini

The size and weight. These two factors make the device extremely portable and easy to use.

Things I Don’t Love About the Mini

The size.


Having a super small device is nice and all, but the iPad mini (and you may very well disagree with this) is aimed squarely at the “I consume stuff” market. Put another way, I type on my iPad a lot and the iPad mini sucks for typing. Even when employing an external keyboard, it was a clumsy, subpar affair compared to my iPad 3 + Logitech Ultrathin.

Also, the screen. This may be the king of all “spoiled white guy” complaints, but I found myself, in some situations, squinting to read the iPad mini screen from less than a foot away. Daddy can’t abide that. The retina display is simply too beautiful and I won’t step back.

Finally, the battery seemed to drain far more quickly on the mini than on the iPad 3. This is entirely anecdotal and may just be my dumb perception, but there you go.

Brass Tacks

I’ll be honest; I tried like hell to like the mini. I really did. And it’s a fine machine, just not for me.

I have been using my iPad as a mostly-complete laptop substitute for a good while now and it’s been wonderful. The number of concessions I’d need to make in order to adapt the mini to such a role are simply too many.

Scratching My Own Itch: Create Github Gists from within BBEdit

I type a lot. Sometimes it’s source code and sometimes it’s English, but I spend a good amount of my time moving the cursor to the right in one way or another.

Because I type so much, it’s important to me that I have the best tools for the job I’m currently doing. Not too long ago, I changed my primary text editor from the venerable vim to the (relatively) new kid on the block, Sublime Text 2. ST2 was far more Mac-like than vim (yes, even the MacVim variant), but it really lacked polish. So, I hopped over to the App Store and dropped more than a little cheddar on what has become my new text editing home: the grand poobah of them all, BBEdit.

It’s been great. BBEdit has its quirks and I’ve had to learn new ways to perform common tasks, but I’m really happy.

The Problem

Much of my daytime work for Evernote involves explaining how a given chunk of source code works. I routinely utilize Github’s gist facility to quickly publish some code and easily embed it in the web page I’m writing (here’s an example).

One feature I really loved about Sublime Text 2 (which isn’t a native feature, but was provided by an add-on package) was the ability to quickly create gists without leaving the app: highlight a few lines of code or whatever, strike a key chord and fill in a couple of fields (filename and description). A few seconds after hitting Return, the gist would be created and the URL would be in my pasteboard.

Sadly, BBEdit has no such capability, either out of the box or with a third-party add-on.

So, I built it.

The Thing

(Warning: lots and lots of nerdy programming talk ahead)

The solution is comprised of two parts: a Python program, makeGist.py, that creates gists and a small AppleScript program that provides the interface between BBEdit and the Python program. Let’s quickly discuss each, shall we?


As previously mentioned, this program lets you create gists from the command line. It can actually be used on its own if you feel so inclined. Running it looks like this:

python makeGist.py -f filename.txt -d "gist description" -c "contents of the gist"

Running that exact command will produce this result:

$ python makeGist.py -f filename.txt -d "gist description" -c "contents of the gist"

(I’m also leaving the gist up if anybody wants to see that I’m not lying).

There’s also an optional -p parameter, which will create a public gist (the default behavior is to create private gists).

In a nut, each of these parameter values is shoehorned into a simple value object, then converted to JSON and sent to the Github gist API. Since, chances are, most of you reading this don’t really care about what all that means, I’ll let those who are interested peruse the source code.

Once it’s done doing its business, it prints out the HTTP URL of the gist to the console.

Now, the part that ties it to BBEdit”¦

Make BBEdit Gist.scpt

This monstrosity merely provides the user interface to makeGist.py. Specifically, it does the following:

  1. Grabs the current directory (so it knows where to find makeGist.py).
  2. Defines an absurdly long shell command (which is how makeGist.py is run).
  3. Prompts the user for a gist description and lets them choose a public or private gist.

When the script is run, the user is greeted with this awful dialog:

Yep, pretty awful, but it gets the job done and I couldn’t design my way out of a wet paper sack and I’m fine with all of it.

Once the user completes the single field and clicks one of the buttons (assuming it’s not the Cancel button which, like it says on the tin, aborts the app), it asks BBEdit for the selected text in the front-most buffer. If no text is selected, it takes all of the text in the front-most buffer. That text, combined with the options chosen by the user, are used to construct the parameters to makeGist.py. The script is run and the output””the URL of the newly-minted gist, if all went well””is shoved into the system pasteboard.

Using the Thing

First, download the source files from Github. You need both the Python script and the AppleScript file. Drop them both into ~/Library/Application Support/BBEdit/Scripts/.

Next, open makeGist.py and update github_user and github_pass to your Github username and password.

Finally, restart BBEdit and you should see “Make BBEdit Gist” in the Scripts menu. Highlight some text (or don’t), then click that menu item. Assuming the bailing wire and chewing gum didn’t give way, you’ll have a gist URL in your clipboard in a couple of seconds. Spiffy!

What’s Wrong with The Thing

Because I’m not actually a real programmer, I’m shipping this thing with some known issues. Like you do.

Let’s start with authentication.

As it stands right now and like I mentioned a second ago, you’ll need to populate the github_user and github_pass variables at the top of makeGist.py before you can use it. These credentials are used to procure an auth token from Github which is then used to create gists. I’m not sure how long these auth tokens are valid and I wanted to avoid having to build in a UI for the user to enter their Github login, so this is where I landed. I understand there’s some awesome gitcredentials madness available, but I’m not that smart and I haven’t had oodles of free time to investigate it.

Next, user interface.

There are currently no alerts or notifications when a) the process is finished or b) there was a problem. These can be chalked up to my inexperience with AppleScript and, frankly, a bit of laziness. I wanted the workflow to be optimized for minimal user input and, as such, I felt that popping up a “We’re Done!” dialog at the end of the process would be inelegant.

Finally, we come to real, not-crappy error handling.

makeGist.py does check for various exception types during execution and, near as I can tell, won’t loudly unwind the call stack if things go south. That said, it also doesn’t do any fancy stuff like retrying in the event of a timeout, etc.

Oh, I almost forgot: this software is provided without warranty and if it turns your Mac into a smoldering heap of unicorn entrails, don’t come crying to me.

Takeaway: if any of this makes you squeamish or angry, please don’t use The Thing (or, if you’re up for it, fork the project and fix the bug/add the feature!)

In Conclusion

I had an itch and I scratched it “” it’s that simple. As with most of the goofy, one-off software bits I publish here, I have no clue if this will be useful to anybody but me.

If you do end up using it:

  1. Awesome!
  2. Let me know (either using Github’s issues feature or via Twitter) if you have any problems with it.
  3. If you have any Python and/or AppleScript chops and feel like making the thing better, do feel free to fork the project and send me a pull request with any features/fixes you add.

Either way, I hope you guys dig this thing.

iPad mini: An Experiment (and Initial Reactions)

Yesterday morning, I drove to the Apple Store and purchased an iPad mini. For the next two weeks, I’ll be conducting an experiment.


I’ve been using my iPad (2 succeeded by 3) a lot. Mostly for writing, emailing and other things that don’t require a full-blown computer. And it’s been great – I love my iPad.

When the iPad mini was announced, I was a bit intrigued. The size and weight sounded nice, but the price and lack of a retina display were pretty major turn-offs. I had a perfectly good iPad 3 (that was rev’d about 6 freaking weeks after I bought it, but I’m not bitter, I swear) that did everything I needed.

But I started to notice something: virtually all of my online pals who had bought the mini on launch day would not shut up about it. Common refrains included:

  • “Man, this exactly what the iPad was meant to be. It’s perfect.”
  • “I’ve used this mini for a week and I just sold my iPad (2|3|4).”
  • “I thought the non-retina display would be a deal-breaker, but I totally don’t care/notice any more.”

These are people for whom I have a great deal of respect and whose opinions I generally share. After hearing what I estimate to be a couple dozen people expressing opinions like those listed above, I knew I had to at least try it.

The Experiment

I’ve written about the iPad before and how it fits into how I work. To summarize:

  • 50% writing (emails, blog posts, etc.)
  • 20% task management stuff (almost exclusively in OmniFocus)
  • 20% reading (iBooks, Kindle and Comixology)
  • 10% miscellany (games, web browsing, general screwing around)

I knew the mini would be perfectly suited to the latter two use cases, but the first two-obviously-account for the majority of my iPad use. I needed to be sure that the mini would do at least as well in each role as the iPad 3 did.

As of today, I have two weeks to evaluate this before one of two things happens:

  • I return the iPad mini and Smart Cover
  • I sell my iPad 3

Financially, this will basically be a wash. While I did pay a good bit more for my iPad 3 than for the mini, the going rate for a pristine iPad 3 on eBay is comparable to a similarly-equipped mini (according to my non-exhaustive research, that is).

The experiment will be, of course, to see how the mini performs in place of my beloved iPad 3.

(Both my iPad 3 and iPad mini are 32gb with Verizon LTE, if you’re curious – and they’re both black)


When it came time to compose text on my iPad 3, I would almost invariably attach it to my well-loved Logitech Ultrathin keyboard case. For some reason, I really loved only having to carry a single thing. This doesn’t seem to be an option with the mini since, near as I can tell, there aren’t any really great case+keyboard options yet available for it.

For the time being, I suspect I’ll be relegated to unearthing and toting around the InCase Origami, replete with Apple Bluetooth keyboard, in addition to the mini itself (the configuration being employed to compose this post, I might add). I realize that carrying two pieces of equipment instead of one is hardly worth whining about, but it’s important to me.

Part of what has made the iPad such an indispensable part of how I work is the speed with which I can deploy it and begin typing/working. I don’t know that the mini will afford me such a luxury.

Despite the near-universal claims of my comrades, I do wonder how long it will take me to acclimate to the non-retina display (or if I will at all).

First Impressions

  1. Having written most of this post using the mini (which is propped up in the afore mentioned InCase Origami), I have to say that it is nice so far. The screen isn’t so small that I have trouble reading the text that I’m writing and the whole contraption doesn’t look altogether ridiculous.
  2. The size and weight really are pretty spectacular.
  3. The non-retina display looks remarkably worse than the retina display on my iPad 3.
  4. The Smart Cover (red, if you’re wondering) is a bit of a turd; it doesn’t sit flush against the screen when closed-a problem I expect will go away after a few days of use-and the iPad seems unstable when propped up on the collapsed Smart Cover.
  5. The device itself is beautiful; Apple’s hallmark fit and finish are present and accounted for and it’s every bit as nice to hold and admire as any other Apple product I’ve owned or used.

I’m afraid that’s about all I have to say at this point. Heck, my applications aren’t even finished installing yet. My son has insisted we reserve judgement until he’s had a chance to play Angry Birds Star Wars, which sounds smart to me.

Miscellaneous Thoughts

When I mentioned on Twitter that I had purchased a mini for evaluation purposes, I was inundated with messages from friends and followers who were unshakably confident I would end up keeping the mini.

If I do end up keeping the mini, I’ll almost certainly sell my Kindle 4 (if it’s worth anything).

If anybody has any specific questions about this, ping me on Twitter.

Killing Your Darlings

About a year ago, my pal Myke and I decided to start a podcast together called Cooking with Brett and Myke. We weren’t sure we’d have enough chemistry or potential topics to last us very long, but we went for it.

Yesterday, almost 50 episodes later, Myke and I recorded and published the final episode of Cooking with”¦. It’s something that I absolutely loved doing and, now that it’s over, I’m more than a little sad about it.

But it had to be done.

For various reasons, I recently decided that I needed fewer obligations. My family, my job and my little side business were all immovable and weren’t candidates for the chopping block. That left only a small number of things, including the podcast. So, it got the axe. And it sucks.

It’s super easy to speak hypothetically about killing ones darlings in the name of the greater good. And I know it was the right decision here. But, I still had to kill one of my darlings.

I’m not happy it’s over, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit glad to have regained a few of my internal cycles.

Anyway, to everybody who listened and was in on all of the stupid jokes and tolerated my abominable accents, you have my sincere thanks. I don’t doubt that Myke and I will be clogging up the Internet tubes again someday.

For now, I’m comforted by an old proverb:

Don’t cry because its over, smile because it happened.

Oh, and if you enjoyed our show, do check out some of the other 70Decibels offerings. And tell Myke what a bang-up job he’s doing (because he really is).

A Text Expander Snippet that Simplifies Making Fun of Lazy People

I’ve built yet another Text Expander snippet that will probably be useful to almost nobody, but I find both useful and entertaining.

People ask lots of dumb questions (myself included). In many cases, such dumb questions could be answered with a quick Google search. Hell, the information you want might be in the search result description so you don’t even have to click through! Criminy!

When I am lucky enough to get one of these head-scratchers, I personally love to employ a site called lmgtfy.com, which stands for “Let Me Google that For You”. If you asked me how many US pints were in a US quart, I might send you this link. It’s hilarious and is also a fun way to tell your friends and loved ones to maybe take three seconds and search for the answer before bothering other people.

Before, I’d visit lmgtfy.com, type in the phrase I knew would produce the answer to the question I was being asked, and click the big button to generate the unique URL that I could send to my friend. Lots of steps, methinks. Not anymore!

I give you my Text Expander snippet to create a lmgtfy.com URL using whatever is in your clipboard:

And here it is as a Gist:

[gist id=3783860]


Yeah, yeah, looks great. How does it work, freak show?

Practical example: if I copied “proper cooked chicken temperature” to my clipboard and typed ;;lmg, it would print the following:


Totally nifty, right?


  • If you’re going to use this, make sure you choose “Shell Script” at the top of the Text Expander composer area. Otherwise, it won’t work.
  • (This software might cause your house to explode, hair to fall out or shirts to wrinkle as if for no reason at all. No warrantees, blah blah blah.)

The New Evernote Trunk (and a Birthday Present for You)

At the Evernote Trunk Conference in San Francisco (where I'll be sitting awkwardly when this post is published), our intrepid CEO Phil Libin announced the launch of the next generation of the Evernote Trunk. I played a small role in helping get this thing off the ground and I'm super proud of all of my coworkers who did most of the work.

And, as it happens, my 34th birthday is this Monday, August 27.

In celebration of these momentous occasions, I'm stoked to offer a special deal on my best-selling ebook, Evernote Essentials. From now until midnight (PST) on August 29 2012, you can get 20% off of my ebook with the coupon code OLDFART.

More than 15,000 smart, attractive people have used Evernote Essentials to jumpstart their journey to Evernote masterhood. Grab your copy now “” I think you'll dig it.

Oh, and just as a reminder, everybody who buys Evernote Essentials gets all future updates for free. I'm almost done with version 3.0 and let's just say that, if you have any interest in it, buying soon would be a very good idea. Ahem.

Thanks for reading, friends. ¡Viva la Evernote!

A Tale of Two Kickstarter Backings (and Lessons Learned)

About a month ago now (mid-July, 2012), I received my very own Touchfire keyboard thingie for the iPad. I had backed this project on Kickstarter in order to be one of the first to get one since, as regular readers probably know, I type on my iPad. A lot. The project funded on December 13, 2011. It doesn’t take frickin’ Descartes to figure out that the elapsed time between my credit card being billed and my receiving the product was roughly seven months.

Shortly after my Touchfire arrived, the Elevation Dock arrived at my door. I’ll admit that this backing was more based on “wow, that looks cool” than “wow, I could really use the crap out of that”, but that’s neither here nor there. This project funded on February 11, 2012, so the elapsed time between paying and receiving was slightly shorter (but still considerable, I think).

This taught me a few things about Kickstarter as it relates to companies who want to sell a physical product that hasn’t been manufactured yet, but first I want to give some quick thoughts about the products themselves.


Of the two products mentioned, this one was the more underwhelming. I’ve used it a bit and it does make typing on the iPad easier, but it creates a sort of cognitive dissonance. It feels (somewhat) like a hardware keyboard in that there are little squares beneath my fingertips, but it’s (obviously) not. I’ve been touch-typing since forever and when my fingers rest on a keyboard, I can quickly forget it’s there and just type.

This isn’t really the case with the Touchfire. All is well if I’m just typing “regular words”, but I’m constantly reaching down for the ⌘, ⌥ and ⌃ keys (like I do when typing on a Mac). In other words, my own efficiency with a regular keyboard is a hinderance to effectively using the Touchfire.

Of course, this would probably be rectifed after spending a sufficient amount of time with the Touchfire, but that’s my initial impression.

Other thoughts, in no particular order:

  • The Touchfire doesn’t hug the iPad magnets quite as strongly as I thought it would. It’s super easy to dislodge it from the screen or for it to quietly creep up a half-inch or so (and causing mistyped characters).
  • The magnetic dinguses (dingii?) that attach by adhesive to the Smart Cover feel pretty chintsy, as does the whole “roll it up with your Smart Cover when not in use” business. I just keep the Touchfire in the case when I think I might need it. Speaking of the case…
  • The case pretty much sucks. Getting the Touchfire (which wants to unfurl naturally) to stay put while closing the case is frustrating.

I don’t mean to totally crap on the Touchfire, honestly. They embarked on a difficult problem couched in a whole mess of constraints, so it’s unfair to dismiss it as a half-assed effort (except for the case “” that could have been done much better).

Elevation Dock

Aside from suffering from a serious amount of what I’ll call “interest attrition”””more on that in a second”” the Elevation Dock delivers on its sales pitch (mostly):

  • It’s every bit as hefty as you’d imagine by looking at the pitch video. It feels quite substantial. Me likey that part.
  • Swapping out the shorter USB cable for the longer one using the included Allen wrench and instructions was simple. My only niggle here is that you get awfully close to the guts and, in the hands of somebody with more enthusiasm than understanding, the chances of turning the thing into a costly aluminum brick are good.
  • My iPhone 4S slides out almost effortlessly. When I first set the Elevation Dock up on my desk, it would lift slightly off of the desk when I undocked my device and drop back down (not unlike the “other docks” vilified in their pitch video). Either my iPhone or the Dock itself seems to have worn a groove since this no longer happens, thankfully.

My only real issue with the Elevation Dock is””and, really, it’s a small one””is with the insertion of my iPhone into the Dock. It doesn’t slide in quite as easily as in the video, and you have to give it a little nudge to seat it properly. Hardly worth mentioning, I know, but there you go.

Kickstarter’s Interest Attrition Problem

With each of the two Kickstarter projects described above, I was a lot less excited about the product a couple of months after handing over my money. I don’t think this is uncommon, either.

Going back to the Kickstarter page and watching the pitch videos again did help revitalize my interest in the products as they got closer to shipping, but between the various production setbacks affecting them, I still found myself wishing I hadn’t spent the dough.

With that, I give you my Kickstarter Potential Backer’s Mental Checklist:

  1. Remember that, unless the wheels really fall off, you’ll be able to order the item once it starts shipping to backers. In other words, you’re probably not dealing with a “limited time offer”.
  2. Know that, when dealing with physical products that aren’t yet being manufactured, you’re going to be waiting awhile for the thing that you are considering supporting.
  3. If the project you’re thinking of backing has already wildly exceeded its funding goal, you’re probably going to wait even longer. Aside from it simply taking more time to produce 25,000 widgets than 1,000 widgets, these projects will often experience delays in material procurement, tooling and other manufacturing minutiae.
  4. For me, novelty and excitement have been key elements in my decision to support Kickstarter projects. Neither of these hold up well over time.

The Nature of Kickstarter

In many cases, Kickstarter projects are fueled as much by faith as by backer dollars. Most of these folks don’t know for sure if they’ll be able to hit their manufacturing and delivery goals, but they’re making the most educated guess they can. A lot of the time, though, it’s not unlike discovering a problem with your airplane shortly after takeoff that you must fix while in the air. Setbacks are to be expected “” you just need to make sure that you, the backer, have the stomach for them.

On Typing and Caring

If you write things, then write everything with care and attention.


If you spend two hours meticulously crafting a blog post or six months editing your manuscript, don’t even think it’s alright to clumsily shit out a three-sentence email full of mechanical errors, typos and poorly-worded sentences just because your Mom is the only person who will ever read it.

What you write and share all reflects on you. Including emails to friends or coworkers, blog comments, even Tweets and the like. Take the time to do it right.

And it does take more time, certainly. But, so does doing anything the right way instead of the easy way. Funny thing is, you already know what the right way is. You just have to hold yourself to that standard 100% of the time.

Two things to keep in mind:

  • You never know when a hero of yours is going to happen upon something you’ve written.
  • If you always write to the best of your ability, then you’ll always be improving and you won’t need to decide to do something the right way. You’ll just do it. And, you’ll want to do it better.

If you want what you write to be taken seriously, then give a shit.

Everybody makes mistakes, but carelessness is as obvious as it is difficult to forgive.

Creativity in the Trenches

I’ll give it to you straight.

As I write this, it’s a Sunday afternoon and I’m sitting in my friend’s apartment (where there’s air conditioning, which my house lacks, and it’s 95F outside) trying to wrap up the third version of Evernote Essentials. I’ve been here since 8:15 this morning. I spent 8 hours here yesterday doing the same thing: writing, compiling, editing.

Yesterday went well. I wrote a lot of good stuff and I felt like the end was in sight.

Today, not so much.

I’ve read plenty of books on creativity and working and pushing yourself and treating the work like the almost-insurmountable beast that it is. And, man, I felt like I could turn over a Jeep with my bare mitts when I read them.

Right now, though, I’m sitting at this table in front of my computer. I’ve been trying to write for the last 5 hours and I’ve produced a grand total of about 400 usable words. Yesterday, I wrote over 3000 usable words and felt like a machine. For some reason, today, the words aren’t coming.

I could blame any number of possible mitigators for this unfortunate state: the heat, the lack of a break or maybe something to do with sleeping/eating/pooping or whatever. But, according to the books, these are the trials that cripple the “regulars”; the people that rely on inspiration and ideal conditions to create their best work. Not wanting to count myself among the ordinary, I instead sit here and wish and hope and will myself into the mode where I can actually write things that people will find valuable and want to read and that I don’t think is utter shit.

But, I can’t. Not now.

I don’t know if that makes me weak or if I don’t have “what it takes” or some other similar symptom of “ordinary”, but it just ain’t happening.

What it’s Like

When I was a younger kid, a pass through a doorway in my house always meant I would try to jump up and reach the door jamb. I would jump as high and as hard as I could and I longed to feel the tips of my fingers brush up against the wood that held our doors up. Sometimes my Dad would lift me up so I could feel the sensation. And, for much of my life, I couldn’t do it unassisted.

Sure, I could have spent my afternoons conditioning my leg muscles and juicing up and all of that, but as an unmodified 8-year-old, I wasn’t capable of it.

It’s not a problem for me these days. I don’t even need to jump unless I’m in a castle or something.

Right now, I feel like I’m reaching for the door jamb and I can’t quite get to it. And the shit part of it is that I’ve touched this very door jamb before. Lots of times, actually. But not today.

Giving Up

I’m giving up for today. Maybe not even for the whole day. It’s the early afternoon, after all, and perhaps there’s a chance that I’ll find my creativity or muse or whatever goofy name du jour it’s got later today. If I do, it will probably be at the bottom of a modest pour of whisky. Anyway.

I don’t see this as defeat. It’s maddening, certainly, but I’m not going to hang it up forever or anything. I know I have at least a passable talent for this and one off-day isn’t going to derail it.

But, in terms of being a professional (as Steven Pressfield calls it), I believe there are definitely times when creative people bump up against some nameless barrier that stops them from making. Call it what you want (Pressfield’s moniker of choice is “Resistance”, which I actually quite like), but there’s some fat, mostly-immovable thing sitting between me and what I want to do today. And, as I sit here, I don’t have the strength to dislodge it.

And I’m okay with that. Sort of.

Actually, no, I’m not.

Truthfully, I’m brimming over with frustration and anger and self-doubt. This shit needs to get done for a variety of reasons and I don’t have oodles of discretionary time to do it. I borrowed heavily from my “time away from the family” account to get this done and now I’m sitting here having produced what somebody from southern Italy would call “Jack Shit” and I’m ready to snap this computer in half because I can’t make myself do what needs to be done.

Standing Up

Tomorrow will be better. Maybe the temperature will drop a few degrees and maybe I won’t feel like such a f*cking dunce and maybe it will be better. The words may come and the work may get done. Or maybe not.

Either way, I decided a long time ago to not stop trying. Acquiescence in the face of difficulty is a hallmark of “regular” and like hell I’m going to go out like that.

Sorry for the self-indulgent pity party. I love you all. See you tomorrow.

Why I Use Instapaper (and not Evernote) For Reading Stuff Later

Reading Time

I’m not shy about my drooling love for Instapaper. If you’ve not heard of it, the one-sentence description: it lets you easily save web pages to read later, online or offline, and gets rid of all of the cruft (ads, navigation, etc.) and just shows you the text. It’s awesome.

“But”, you may have asked yourself, “why don’t you use Evernote for this function? It seems like such a logical choice given your loud affection for and dedication to Evernote! Guh!”

Unsurprisingly, I’m glad you asked.

Thing is, I get this question somewhat regularly via email from nice people who read this stuff I write, so I thought I’d spell it out for y’all. Y’all? Boom.

Essentially, it comes down to five big reasons why I use Instapaper for reading Internet stuff on [our favorite Internet devices]:

  1. Position “” I’m not a super heady guy, but I do occasionally like to read really long articles published by various magazines like The New Yorker, The Economist and Vanity Fair. Sometimes I get partway through one such article and I won’t have the time to finish reading it in one sitting. With Instapaper, I can stop reading an article somewhere in the middle and the app will sync the position of where I stopped reading back to Le Cloud. So, the next time I pick up my iPhone or iPad and open a partly-read article, I’m jumped right back to where I left off. Spiffy.
  2. Singularity of Focus “” Evernote serves myriad functions for me in terms of storing information: bank statements, my kids drawings, meeting notes, etc. Instapaper serves exactly one function and it’s wicked fast in doing so. When I want something to read something, I can fire up Instapaper and immediately have a big list of options. I could do the same with Evernote, but it would take more time since the data isn’t automatically synced and just finding it (even using a saved search) wouldn’t be as fast.
  3. Sharing and Archiving “” I don’t often do it, but I can easily share articles I read in Instapaper with a couple of taps. Evernote offers some sharing capabilities, but not as many as Instapaper. As far as archiving, it’s kinda funny: all of the articles that I “like” (or “tap the little heart while reading”) are automatically saved to my Evernote account. With Instapaper, I just tap the little trash icon (which should probably be something less like “trash”, but that’s a niggle) and I can send it to the archive with one more tap. In Evernote, I’d almost certainly have to remove a tag (like “to read” or “read later”) to achieve the same effect of getting it off of my pending list.
  4. Easy Addition “” If I want to save a page into Instapaper, it takes exactly one click of the “Read Later” bookmarklet in my browser (either on my Mac or iOS). Evernote would require more interaction: fire up the web clipper, select a notebook, add tags, click Save, etc. Instapaper also removes all of the cruft from around the article I want to read (ads, navigation, comments) so all I get is the text. Evernote can do the same via Evernote Clearly, but it’s still several more clicks/taps to get the job done. And let’s not forget the metric buttload of iOS apps that allow me to save stuff to Instapaper quickly and easily (like Tweetbot and many other iOS Twitter clients). These two, low-friction methods of adding stuff to Instapaper make it the easier choice for me.
  5. Offline Reading “” On iOS (and other mobile operating systems), Evernote doesn’t automatically download all of your notes because it’s a good citizen that doesn’t want to chew up all of the storage space on your device. This is a good thing. Instapaper, on the other hand, always downloads all of the content that’s waiting for me. This means that I can fire up Instapaper on my iPhone or iPad before hopping on an airplane and I’ll have bunches of articles to read without needing an Internet connection. And because Instapaper’s data is fairly lightweight””it’s mostly text, after all””the amount of space occupied on my devices by Instapaper data is pretty stinkin’ little.

“But sir!”, you may be saying to yourself, “how could you speak ill of your beloved Evernote!? Let us burn thee as an heretic! Guh! GUUH!”

Don’t misunderstand me, folks.

I love Evernote. Obviously. My point here is not to disparage my beloved Evernote, but rather to highlight an app that, if you ask me, has solved a real problem for me in a most excellent fashion.

Could you do accomplish the same objective with Evernote? Absolutely. And I did use it for such a purpose, once upon a time. I just found Instapaper to be a superior solution to a specific problem I had.

If you read stuff on the Internet and haven’t tried Instapaper (for the Web, as well as both iOS and Android), I’d highly recommend doing so. I’m a fan and you probably will be, too.

Photo by CrazyUncleJoe