21 November 2008

Read It Later, Part I (Site Review)

Online bookmarking tool Read It Later takes a slightly different approach to managing your online reading endeavors, one which I find particularly useful. Today I am going to give an overview of Read It Later, and why it may be helpful to you for taming the growing list of "Gotta come back to this!" bookmarks that develops when online research is done. On Monday, I'll examine the tool's integration with Google Reader, and discuss how it can help make blog reading more efficient and manageable.

What It Is

I think the demo video for Read It Later gives a fairly good overview, so let's let them give you some background:

In other words, Read It Later can help you manage those sites, pages, articles, etc. that you come across during your online browsing, but which you don't have the time, mind, or mental faculty to read at the moment. You might ask, "why not just bookmark it?". If you have a bookmark list of hundreds or (like some I know) thousands of links, the answer may be that bookmarks tend to get lost, because there's no easy way to remember to revisit items that you deemed interesting. With Read It Later, you have an organized, cohesive list of items that you want to revisit, which can be accessed at your leisure. As the video shows, once you revisit items, and if you find them useful enough to bookmark, that is easily done. Read It Later ends link purgatory, allowing you to keep or toss links to pages that serve you well or don't serve you at all.

Getting Started

Setup for Read It Later is very easy. Simply visit the homepage and follow instructions which apply to your situation. Firefox users can skip the web interface and go straight for the extension. Other users will have to include bookmarklets as I show below.

In Firefox, as soon as you install the extension and restart your browser, you'll notice a few changes, such as the Readitlater checkmark in the address bar, and the reading list button in the navigation bar (my browser has been altered somewhat, so your browser will probably look different, but as long as these items are present, you can rest assured that your extension has been installed and is operating correctly). Here's how my browser appears with the extension installed; note the checkmark and the button:

In Internet Explorer and other browsers, you'll create an account (takes about two seconds) and log in to your account. Go to the bookmarklets page and install the buttons for Read It Later as follows:

1. Right-click on the first button ("Read It Later") and select "Add to Favorites"; if the browser warns you it "may not be safe", just click Yes and proceed:

2. Select "Links" from the drop-down menu on the window that pops up, and then click "Add". The button should appear in your Links menu. (If nothing is appearing, make sure that your Links menu is active by going to the File Menu, View > Toolbars. Select "Links" if there is not a checkmark next to it.)

3. Repeat steps one and two above until you have installed all three buttons on your Links bar. Your bar should look something like this:

Using Read It Later

Now, whenever you come across a page you are interested in returning to, you can mark this page using either the address bar checkmark (in Firefox) or the "Read it Later" button (in other browsers). Once you do so, the page will be added to your reading list. In Firefox, access this list by clicking on the button in the navigation bar (in other browsers, click on the Reading List bookmarklet):

You can set your options to mark pages as read as soon as they are opened in your browser, or you can opt to manually mark them as read.

As the video notes, users in Firefox can use the extension to one-click bookmarking of sites to a favorite bookmarking tool:


I highly suggest giving Read It Later a try for maximizing online research. Monday I'll talk about RIL's integration with Google Reader as yet another great facet of its organizational potential.

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