Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sharing from Instapaper to Google Reader

I read a lot of blogs, articles, and other writing on the web, and I share the things that I like best. Some of what I read comes from Twitter, some from friends over email and instant messages, and a fair amount of it comes over RSS and into Google Reader. If I start reading something and it's longer than I have time for or isn't easy to read where I'm reading it, I'll often save that into Instapaper, a service by Marco Arment that allows me to read the content later, save my position on the page, and present the writing in a very reading-friendly format. I use instapaper on the web, and native clients for both the iPad and iPhone.

If I like what I've read, I like to share that, and again, I've got a number of different ways to share it. Some of it gets shared over twitter, some I email or send via instant message to specific friends, some I 'like' on Instapaper, and a good percentage of it, I want to share on Google Reader.

Unfortunately, Instapaper's sharing options don't include sharing on Google Reader, which makes it a little awkward to share to Google Reader. Over time, I've developed a simple system for solving this problem.

Share Folder
I started by adding a folder to Instapaper that I'd put articles in that I wanted to share. This meant that if I were reading in Instapaper, I could then move it to the 'Share' folder. Later on, while visiting Instapaper, I could open the 'Share' folder, open the links therein and use the Google Reader bookmarklet to share the pages.

The main problem with this approach was that it was easy to forget that I'd put things in the 'Share' folder, and if it takes a few days to get around to sharing a link, it might not be worth sharing by the time you remember. I needed something that was more tightly integrated with the way that I work. Happily, there's an easy fix.

Subscribe to Folder
All I needed to do was to subscribe to my 'Share' folder on Instapaper using Google Reader. That meant that when I was in Google Reader, I'd naturally see items in my 'Share' folder and have a relatively simple and easy way of sharing them to those of my friends who use Google Reader.

Since I'm in Google Reader regularly, this made sure that I was seeing and sharing the items in the 'Share' folder regularly. The primary downside is that now I don't need to open the Share folder on Instapaper at all, which makes it harder to remember if an item in the Share folder has already been shared. The easiest way to control this issue is to always share the item only when it appears in Google Reader, so that there's no confusion. If it's unread in Google Reader, it hasn't been shared.

Share == Like
For some of you, the articles that you want to share on Google Reader might be identical to the ones you want to 'Like' on Instapaper. If that's true, you can skip the Share folder, and simply like the articles that you wish to share, and subscribe to your likes in Google Reader. It's the same basic concept, just a slightly different implementation. I may move to that approach myself.

For those of you using Instapaper and Google Reader together, I hope this helps some of you to solve a problem that you've been experiencing, at least until Marco decides to support Google Reader directly.


  1. There's a bookmarklet you can get on Google Reader that allows you to share whatever you're reading right then and there. I've just found that after I'm done reading something on Reader, I just click on the bookmarklet. (If I'm on a mobile device, I just open it in Safari and click on the bookmarklet.)

    I've found it fairly straightforward and easy, and allows me to keep the same process whether I'm reading things in Instapaper, Readability, etc.

  2. I use that bookmarklet when I'm on the desktop, but I haven't used it on the iPhone or iPad. It's now much harder to open a link in Instapaper into Safari -- easy to open it in the UIWebView, which doesn't support bookmarks.

    So how do you go from Instapaper for iPhone to Safari?

  3. Actually, you make a good point. Now that the new version of Instapaper makes it harder to open in Safari, I've found myself waiting until I'm at my desktop to share anything.

    I'll second the request for Marco to support Google Reader sharing natively. I'd gladly play more than my current subscription to support that development.

  4. (Um, that should read *pay more, not *play.)