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Developing an Online Research Workflow: Second Step, Instapaper

By | Jan.25.11 | Daily Dispatch, Legal Technology, Organizing, Productivity, Workstyles

How do you get all of your online research under control when there’s just so much to find, read and capture? In this three-part series, Tom Mighell describes how he uses three Internet tools—Google Reader, Instapaper and Evernote to help manage his workflow. He really knows what he’s doing!

In the first installment of this series, I discussed using Google Reader to subscribe to and receive news updates on topics that are important to you. If you’re like me, though, you may find yourself subscribing to so many feeds you just don’t have time to consume them all. And yet, your feeds probably contain a lot of articles that would be useful in your practice. How do you read what’s important, without drowning in all of the other noise?

Of course, you can read these articles within Google Reader. But I prefer to move important articles to a separate space, where I can read them at my leisure, unfettered by the other information I receive in Google Reader. To do that, I use Instapaper. The premise behind Instapaper is very simple: The service saves the articles you want to read later, formatting them in clean, easy-to-read pages. Here’s how to start using it today.

  • First, sign up for an Instapaper account.
  • Next, click on the “Extras” link at the top, and you’ll be taken to a page with different options for using Instapaper: bookmarklets, mobile apps, Kindle and more.
  • Click on the “Read Later” bookmarklet and drag it to the Bookmarks bar of your browser. (If the Bookmarks bar isn’t showing, you’ll need to enable it in your browser.)

That’s all there is to it. Now, when you see an article in Google Reader you want to read later, simply press the “Read Later” button on your browser while that article is highlighted in Google Reader. The article is automatically saved to Instapaper. This works on any web page, not just within Google Reader.

You can read the saved articles in several different ways. You can simply navigate to the Instapaper website to read them. Or, you can download apps to read them on the iPhone and iPad. Dozens of iPad apps support directly adding articles into Instapaper as well. If you’re a Kindle user, you can choose to have your saved articles wirelessly delivered to your e-reader each day. (Amazon will charge you 15 cents each day for this.)

Once you start reading the articles, you’ll notice how nice and readable the format is. Instapaper strips out all of the advertising and extraneous clutter that makes reading articles on regular web pages distracting and difficult. It’s truly a joy to read articles in Instapaper.

When you’re done reading, you have a couple of choices. You can delete the articles immediately, which I do with most of the articles I read, or you can save them. I store the articles I want to save permanently in a folder within Instapaper. I call that folder “Save for Evernote.”

In the final installment of this series, I’ll discuss Evernote, and why I think it’s one of the best ways to permanently capture your research workflow.

Tom Mighell is a Senior Consultant with Contoural, Inc., where he helps companies and in-house counsel with records management and electronic discovery issues. He is the co-author of The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together and co-presenter of The Kennedy-Mighell Report Podcast on the Legal Talk Network. Tom blogs at Inter Alia: A Legal Technology Blog.

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