App Review: Paper Mache [for TouchPad] 11
If you are an Instapaper user and a TouchPad owner, Paper Mache is a must-own app for you. For those not familiar with Instapaper, it is a free service that allows you to mark websites that you want to save for later if you don't have the time to read them right then. After adding articles to the service, you simply access the Instapaper.com website from any desktop or mobile device and you can easily see all your read or unread articles. It's sounds very similar to an online RSS reader like Google Reader in that will keep a list of unread/read articles for you to check out from any network connected device, but instead of subscribing to entire feeds, you just mark specific articles from anywhere on the web to check out later. In fact, Google Reader and Instapaper work quite well together in that you can clear out your Google Reader feeds yet still identify which articles you may not have time to read until later. One other nice feature of Instapaper is that they provide an optional "text optimized" version of the most websites, so when you are reading on a mobile device it reduces the amount of network data you need to download and increases the speed of your reading experience. But enough about Instapaper, what about Paper Mache?
Paper Mache, by Ryan Watkins, is an app that will sync with your Instapaper account, allowing you real-time access to all of the same data that you would normally have access to on the Instapaper website. While the Instapaper website was designed for mobile viewing (specifically for the iPhone) and looks quite nice on the TouchPad's browser, a native app does bring a few advantages to your reading experience. But before we get to the app, it's important to note that while both Instapaper and the Paper Mache app are free, an Instapaper subscription is required to access data in apps such as Paper Mache. The subscription costs only $1 per month and is billed to the developer of Instapaper (not Paper Mache) in 3 month increments via paypal. At the moment, the only benefit of a subscription is the ability to use these types of apps.
So let's talk about Paper Mache. Upon loading up the app and providing your log in information, you will see three panes across the screen in a very similar fashion to how the email client works. On the left is a folders navigation pane, followed by your articles listing within a given folder, and finally the selected article on the right. You will also see a new Paper Mache Introduction article has been added to your unread articles list to give you an overview of the app. In the folders pane, you will always have a Unread, Liked and Archive folder plus any custom folders that you have created below that (these folders do sync to/from the Instapaper website). On the bottom of this pane, there is a sync now (refresh) button and a button to add a new folder.
The middle pane shows your articles listing with the article name and some preview text, along with an indication on how long ago the article was added to Instapaper and a progress bar that indicates how much of the article has been read. This progress bar will update as you navigate the article and will also automatically jump you back to that exact spot you left off on when you return to the article in the app. In this view, you can also press-and-hold on an article's title to get a pop-up that will allow you to archive it, move it to a custom folder, permanently delete it from your Instapaper account, "like" the article to add it as a favorite in your "Like" folder, or open up a browser card and view the original article in the browser instead of the app. Note that while can slide this pane to the left, it will not totally hide the folders-pane, but rather leave a slim amount remaining so you can still navigate between folders.
Once you tap on an article, it will then appear on the right pane with the text-optimized view of the article described above. If you would like to see the original version of the article you can tap on the "View original" button on the top-right of the screen, but once you leave the app, your reading position will obviously not be saved for future reference. Across the bottom of the pane, you will see a handful of icons. The file cabinet icon will allow you quickly archive the article (or move it back to the "unread" folder if the article had already been archived), while the trash icon will permanently delete the article from your Instapaper account. To "like" the article, tap the heart icon, or you can share it via Email, Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr with the icon next to it!
Finally, there is a rather complete "settings" option that you can access by pressing that final "A" icon. From here, you can change fonts, font sizes, line spacing and margin, switch between a light or dark theme, and finally determine if you want to be able to freely scroll around the article or enable a full page scroll option. You can also reset your settings or launch the full Preferences screen by tapping the "More" button (you can also access these preferences by accessing the Application drop-down menu on the top-left of the screen and choosing "Preferences"). Some additional preferences including sync-time options, the ability to deactivate webOS notifications, and more.
In terms of adding articles to your Instapaper account (and therefore synced to Paper Mache), there are a few ways to accomplish this. From a desktop computer, you could add a "Read it Later" bookmark that you just need to tap when viewing a website (similar to how your neato! bookmark works, if you are familiar with neato!). While there is no option on the TouchPad's stock browser to perform a similar feature, the developer has released an "Add to Paper Mache" patch to allow you to add any website to the app. In addition, you can add an article while on your TouchPad by copying the URL of any website you want to add, go to Papar Mache and access the Application drop-down menu on the top-left and select "Add by URL". Some twitter apps, such as Carbon, also includes "save for later" integration to save your tweets to Instapaper, and you can always email in reminders or articles to a unique Instapaper email address you are given when you sign up for the Instapaper service.
Overall, navigating around this app is just a breeze. It's straight-forward, well organized, and doesn't overly complicate things, just like the Instapaper website. So, what benefits do you get from upgrading to a subscription Instapaper account to be able to use the Paper Mache app? The biggest benefit for me is offline viewing. Every time you sync the app with your Instapaper account you have full access to any of your articles and folders, even if you don't have network access. On top of that, you have the ability for the app to keep your place while reading an article and quickly jump back to it when returning, which is a key differentiator as compared to using the website. Finally, the ability to customize the format of the article's text for your viewing pleasure is a nice touch, as most apps lock you in to a single text format that you can not change.
As I said at the beginning of the article, if you are an Instapaper user and a TouchPad owner, Paper Mache is a must-own app for you. But even if you are not an Instapaper user, I would highly suggest looking into the service. It's only $1 per month, and you will wonder why you didn't sign up earlier. If you are concerned that we don't have a good Instapaper app for your webOS phones to keep the TouchPad and your phone in sync, remember that the instapaper.com website has been optimized for iPhone viewing which means it works really well on webOS phones when you don't have your Touchpad on you. However, I really hope the developer looks to create a webOS phone app of Paper Mache because it is a really high quality app that merges the best of the Instapaper service and the TouchPad's capabilities and would be a great addition to the App Catalog for phones, too.