Need directions instantly on the go? Want to find out where the nearest, highly rated sushi restaurant is? Want to customize the appearance of your iPhone app icons? There’s an app for that! As of June 2015, 1.5 million mobile apps are now available in The App Store alone. With so much competition for your time and attention, this weekly series is designed to help you cut through the clutter to find the apps that work best for your needs. I’ll share some of my favourites, as well as new apps that make the “buzz list”. If there’s an app you’re particularly curious about, write to me and I’ll give it a try for you and share my experience.
Pocket: An App for Reading and Sharing Content
The first post in the “An App for That” series features the app that I rely on more than any other, Pocket. My biggest challenge is keeping up with industry news for my own personal knowledge and as research for Pigeon and Post. The only time I can realistically carve out to read articles, save and share them, is during my morning commute, and Pocket makes it all possible.
Here are the four simple steps I take to work with Pocket:
- Search: First I search my Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn feeds for any new articles of interest that catch my eye – luckily the first 10-15 minutes of my commute is above ground, so I can access the internet to search.
- Save: Secondly, I save any relevant articles by sending them to Pocket. Twitter and Pocket work well together, which makes this part easy. If you enable Pocket in your Twitter settings it will allow you to send articles straight to the app. I do find this set-up disables on me every now and again, and has to be reconfigured. That being said, even without this feature, every time you copy a link to a piece of content and then open the Pocket app, it will automatically prompt you to save it to your “List”. At this point, you can add tags to articles as a way of organizing them into categories. This will make them easier to search for in the future. Other apps can be set up to work with Pocket too, such as Flipboard.
- Read: Once I have a handful of content in “My List”, I read through what I can during the portion of my commute underground in the subway. I can do this because, – that’s right – links to articles saved in Pocket can be opened even without an internet connection. Not many other apps offer this ability, which is one of the primary reasons I rely so much on this one. The only content you can’t view offline in Pocket are any videos you may have saved.
- Share: When I’ve read an article I think will be of interest to my audience, I prepare to share it. I typically pull out a key takeaway from the article and in my own words, put together a social media post to go along with the link. Pocket makes sharing posts really easy too, by including Twitter, Facebook and email share buttons.
Once you’ve read an article you have a few options. You can click the checkmark to indicate that you’ve read the article and are finished with it and it will disappear from your Pocket. At this point you can also add tags to the article, add it to your favourites list or send it to a friend.
Searchable: Like any site or app worth its weight in pixels, Pocket has a search function. With the free version of Pocket, there is a basic search function that enables you to search the “My List” feature. I recommend doing simple, single-word searches, as opposed to full phrases, which I’ve found don’t yield many results.
Premium: With Pocket Premium (at $5.79 per month or an annual fee of $51.99) you can search full phrases, by author, by tags, etc. across your entire Pocket. Pocket Premium also offers a feature with suggested tags, when you add an article to your Pocket and a permanent library feature where your articles are always accessible, even if they have been deleted from the web. I haven’t found any need to purchase the premium feature, personally.
Highlights: This section appears in the left sidebar when you swipe left to right on your screen. The app automatically categorizes your articles into buckets, including “best of” (though how this title is awarded I’m unclear), and “quick reads”, which are exactly what you would imagine. I haven’t found much use in these features, since I tend to save, read and share articles within one or two days of finding them.
These articles are still all pulled from your list, as the one thing Pocket does not do is to search online for new content.
Three Content Groups: One helpful function Pocket performs is to automatically group your content into “Articles”, “Videos”, or “Images”. This could prove useful if you’re archiving content over longer periods of time.
If you do a lot of reading offline, I recommend giving the free version of Pocket a try, and sync it up to your computer and any apps you commonly use (e.g., Twitter, Flupboard, etc.) to ensure it is optimized to perform for you at its best.