A Few of My Favorite Things

April 27, 2009

Most of my favorite Firefox add-ons have to do with maximizing browser window real estate. Stuff like Hide Menubar and Full Fullscreen. I’ve also replaced most of my bookmark menu items with Site Launcher, which gives quick keyboard access to bookmarks (including bookmarklets like Share in Google Reader). Prism is also a really cool add-on that creates sort of desktop web-apps. I use it with my twitter client of choice, Twitter Gadget, and with Gmail Tasks.

Greasemonkey is potentially really powerful, but the only scripts I have running right now are Autopagerize, which ties a lot of pagerized web pages together (e.g. I don’t have to hit the next link to see the next page of Google search results, it just loads them dynamically under the first page of results as I scroll down), and Twitter Search Results on Google, which is really nice because it gives me a quick look at real-time results for every search I perform on Google.

The thing I’ve gotten the most mileage out of recently, though, is Instapaper. This bookmarklet, in combination with the iPod Touch/iPhone app, has really changed the way I read. The way it works is very similar to Readability, which we’ve talked about before, and Read It Later, or sort of a combination of the two. The bookmarklet basically saves the webpage you’re on and closes the tab, and then you can go back to the Instapaper site and see a list of all the articles you’ve saved. When you hit a link on that list, it goes to a version of the article that’s formatted to be easily read and stripped of ads and other nonsense, much like Readability.

The sort of profoundly game-changing part for me was the iPod Touch app, though. Because you can sync the app when you’re online, which downloads articles to the iPod’s hdd, you can take your web reading material with you wherever you go. For me, this has meant that I’m almost never without reading material, and I can read stuff without having to be sitting in front of the computer, which has done wonders for my reading attention span. I’ve been reading a lot more, and finishing articles, even really long ones, at a much higher rate without the distractions of being on the computer.

The free version is very robust, and I got along just fine with it, but I liked it so much that I paid 10 bucks for the pro version (which adds a few fairly minor interface tweaks, like tilt-scrolling, which I thought was kinda dumb but then I tried it and it’s actually really cool). For those with smartphones that are not the iPhone, the mobile webapp is not bad, but doesn’t give you offline access, which maybe is only a problem with an iPod Touch.

My experience with Instapaper has really turned me around on the idea of the Kindle, too. My only gripes with the iPod app is that the screen is small and it gets a little tiring to read on a backlit screen, so something like the Kindle would probably be ideal. And Instapaper has beta Kindle support, so now I sort of really want one.

Another service that I’ve found really useful is Tripit. Tripit lets you just forward airline reservations to them and they parse it for pertinent info. And with the really awesome Google Calendar support, which creates a calendar (which you can add to your iPhone calendar) that adds events with all the flight info automatically, including confirmation numbers, as well as an iPhone app, you don’t even really ever have to go to the website. Maybe only really useful for frequent travelers, but it’s easy to set up and makes paper itineraries obsolete.

Anyone like to share some of their favorite things?

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