How to turn iA Writer into a Read Later app with iPad Shortcuts
For years Pocket had been my go to app for saving articles. Both for later reading and as my personal archive. But in the past months I found myself liking it less. I missed the feature for searching through full text, it would be the only reason for upgrading to premium (€ 4,99 per month), and not all content is rendered to the reader format with which you are at the mercy of bad design of many websites for reading content. Evernote tried to fill that gap for me and although I think it is a good app, I somehow find myself not using it. So I started searching for another solution and ended up with an unusual suspect: iA Writer. The app that I also use for writing this post.
iA Writer has been my go to writing app for years, both on macOS, Windows, iPad and iPhone. I use it for UX writing, blogs and white papers. It is easy to use and just works. As being one of my favorite apps I wondered if I could use it for other purposes, especially since I have been playing more in the iPad Shortcuts app lately. Spoiler alert: the Shortcut exceeded my expectations and is now replacing both Pocket and the Evernote web clipper.
What do you get with the Safari to iA Writer Shortcut
I have created two folders in the iA Writer folder in iCloud, one for new “to read” content and one as an archive for articles that I want to keep. The archive functions works very good due to how search works in iA Writer. You don’t have to enter a very strict search term, just the words that should be somewhere in the content and it will look for the individual words. It makes searching a breeze as you can see in these images. In the first I search for “Magic Keyboard” and in the second I add “Macstories”. With the addition of Macstories the results are filtered to the Magic Keyboard article I downloaded form Macstories.
How does the Shortcut work
The Shortcuts app does not have default options for iA Writer like it has for Evernote, but looking at some other shortcuts made that I was confident that it would be possible and in the end it only takes these 7 steps:
- Get article from the Shortcut input: this gets the content from Safari.
- Make Markdown from article: turning the Safari content into Markdown.
- Text: add tags so you can easily filter articles in iA Writer. When you don’t want to add a tag click Done and not Cancel during the export, because Cancel will stop the process.
- Text: combining the article with the source URL and tags at the bottom.
- Scripting: setting the title of the article as the title of the Markdown file.
- Open iA Writer.
- Documents: saving the file to and opening it in iA Writer.
You can now read the article in iA Writer. By viewing it as a preview (CMD + R) it will also show the images.
The only downside is that I can’t save articles directly to iA Writer from my laptop, but as I am working more and more from my iPad I don’t think that will be much of pain.
One last note. The articles are saved as text files and because you don’t download the actual images with them, the files are very small. For a comparison, on my iPad Pocket uses over 1 GB for 200 articles and with the iA Writer Shortcut that will probably be far less than 10 MB.
You can get the Shortcut for free to try it out yourself. Of course you will need the iA Writer app for iPadOS/iOS.
Last update: May 31, 2020