Stacks for Instapaper: Reading on your Windows Phone and Windows 8 tablet made elegant
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Stacks for Instapaper: A smarter way to read it later

Keeping up to date with things we want to read can be a constant challenge, thankfully there are services which allow you to save things for later. The premise is simple, notice something on the web that you want to read and you can save it to your reading list. One such service is Instapaper, it essentially allows for a stripped down mobile-friendly version of the article for reading later.Your reading list is stored in the cloud so can be easily accessed on your computer, smartphone and tablet. 

Stacks for Instapaper has been around on Windows Phone for some time and consistently gets great reviews in the Windows Phone Store. Stacks is now available on Windows 8 and combined with an upcoming refresh of the phone app it might just make this the best Instapaper experience on both platforms. We review the Windows 8 version while taking a sneak peak at the coming update for the Windows Phone 8 app.

Stacks for Instapaper: Reading on your Windows Phone and Windows 8 tablet made elegant

Stacks for Instapaper - Windows 8 App

Windows 8 has just launched and many of the apps in the Store are from developers from Windows Phone. This has been really helpful in quickly determining what apps are worthy of our time. Stacks for Instapaper already has a good track record on the phone so it is great to see it available for use on Microsoft’s touch friendly Windows 8.

Login and Sync
Login or if you have used on a Windows 8 device before hit sync, easy.

Getting up and running

In order to use the service you will have to have a subscription, it costs $3 for three months and allows the developer of Instapaper to keep the service running. Paying to use a service like this isn’t for everyone but it does ensure the developer gets some income for their efforts.  

Once you have installed the app you simply need to login with your Instapaper credentials and it will automatically download all your saved articles. They are then available for your offline reading pleasure. Another nice touch is that if you have already used Stacks for Instapaper on another Windows 8 machine you won't need to re-login. You only need hit the ‘Sync’ button to do it all for you. As we move more and more to an eco-system where we have multiple Windows 8 devices this is essential.

Reading view, features
Reading view, options, options options..

Features

The app provides much of what we expect from a dedicated reader client, including the ability to read articles when offline as well as a night mode to help in darker conditions. The reading settings are of key importance and the app supports changing line spacing, font used in articles as well as the size of the text. You can choose to have a white background, sepia or black if you so wish, go crazy.

You have the ability to archive articles that you may want to keep for longer but out of your current reading list. Other functions include to ‘like’ it move it, bin it or even pin the article to your start screen. If you want to read the original at its source you can opt to view it in Internet Explorer.

Add articles from almost anywhere in Windows 8 with charms
Add articles from almost anywhere in Windows 8 - just share with Stacks for Instapaper..

Adding articles to your reading list

Windows 8 brings with it some awesome new features and one of those is for an app to establish a sharing contract. In Windows 8 you simply swipe in from the right to show the charms bar and you’ll have the ability to share a webpage you want to read later with Stacks for Instapaper. There is simply no need for browser plug-ins or fiddly favourite’s links. If you happen to use a newsreader client like News Bento or Nextgen Reader then you can do exactly the same thing, swipe over, share with Stacks and it will be available in your reading list. The magic of this comes from Windows 8 but it’s a nice implementation of sharing from the developer and very welcome indeed.

In use

The experience of using the app is pretty slick, the layout is clean and you’ll be presented with your read it later list as tiles with a paragraph of text in preview for each. As you read through an article there is a progress indicator to show you how far you have got, when you are done reading it the tile becomes grayed out.

Performance of the app is very good and it moves along nice and quickly on the Microsoft Surface tablet, scrolling is smooth and the app is responsive. When you are reading an article you only need swipe down at any time to reveal the apps controls for reading and so forth.

Stacks also has the ability to work while in snapped view meaning you can keep reading while you’re doing something else. It is hard to see why you would want this but it’s nice to see the function exists just in case.

Portrait Mode
App works well in portrait mode..

Reading

The most important task for the app to achieve is that of actually making content readable, with the combination of options for text size, background colour and so forth it scores high here. You can use the app in both portrait and landscape modes. Stacks does an excellent job of turning the reading view into columns when in landscape mode, making full use of the screen format.  At present there is no pagination in this view but we have been advised this is just around the corner. For now the presentation is great even without that ability but good to know it’s coming.

Reading mode - sepia - landscape
Nice neat columns in landscape mode make reading a pleasure..

Preview of Windows Phone 8 version

wpcentral;, wp8, stacks for instapaper preview

Now there has been such good work put into the Windows 8 version the developer has decided to give the coming version of the Windows Phone 8 app a nice make over. The new version of the app does away with the list view that we had in the old version and replaces it with the tile previews we see in Windows 8.

screens Wp8 1 wpcentral instapaper
Start Screen tiles, use them extra wide if need be..

Also along for the ride is support for a new double wide tile with notifications and the logo has now been harmonised with the Windows 8 version. In Windows Phone 8 you can also opt to add Stacks to the list of apps that can show quick notifications, there is also a hint that lockscreen screen wallpaper might be making an appearance too.

screens Wp8 1 wpcentral instapaper
Read later list look and feel now changed to fit with Windows 8 version..
 

screens Wp8 1 wpcentral instapaper
Reading view preferences, sharing options..

Conclusion

It is very hard to fault Stacks for Instapaper on Windows 8, it has been crafted with great care and attention. Not only does the app give an excellent reading experience and access to the full feature set of Instapaper it does so quickly and effortlessly. The built in syncing between Windows 8 machines which obviates the need to log in time and time again is not only a time saver but smart forward thinking for an app destined to get use on a range of devices.

When it comes to utilizing the features of the Windows 8 operating system, Stacks really comes into its own when you need to add articles to your reading list. The use of the sharing charm to add things to Instapaper is a great example of how these things can be handled sensibly. You also get the option to add notification to your lock screen if that is what you wish.

wpcentral windows phone 8 and surface stacks for instapaper
Some things are better together..

The Windows Phone 8 app has also received a great series of updates bringing it into line with the look of the Windows 8 version. What this means is that when you switch between the two it is both familiar and easy to adjust to. Visually the Windows Phone 8 app looks great and performance is excellent to boot.

There are currently no plans to develop a first party Instapaper client for Windows Phone or Windows 8. That does not look set to change anytime soon as we have been in touch with them today. While it would be nice to see, we have to say that with clients this good there really isn’t much need. The Instapaper developer is actively recommending Stacks for Windows 8 use and it’s easy to see why. We are lead to believe that there is a whole heap more coming to both versions so this represents a good app investment.

If you are a keen reader and want an Instapaper client that works great and looks good on your Windows Phone and Windows 8 devices then you need to grab Stacks For Instapaper. What are you waiting for?

The app is available from the Windows Store at a cost of US $1.99. The current version of Stacks for Windows Phone can be had in the Windows Phone Store here for US $1.99 and you’ll get the update to 3.0 when it arrives out of beta.

QR: Stacks for Windows                    QR: Stacks for Windows Phone

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Reader comments

Stacks for Instapaper: A smarter way to read it later

37 Comments

Would be nice to see some video of the apps in action since you need a paying subscription to even try the app/service.

He's entitled to his opinion. Even if it contradicts most other reviews of the surface. His biggest complaint was that everything was sluggish, that is the first time I've heard that. Unless I missed it somewhere. It still won't change that I pay for Instagram.

Well said, actually he's got some valid points about Surface. Regardless of that he runs a great service which I am happy to pay a token amount to use.

Wow. He's kind of a douche. It's OK that he doesn't like the Surface, but his hate for Microsoft, (and their customers), is a bit ridiculous.

That's the distinction I made. It wasn't a review, it was a childish rant (IMO) and I've chosen to not financially support him. I encourage everyone to make up their own minds, no matter what conclusion they come to. Sorry for the hijack, merely sharing my opinion.

That is a strange attitude. You know, despite having a different opinion, you could honor the work he puts into Instapaper. If you just don't like the service though, that's of course a different story.

Yeah, its very similar but importantly works across multiple devices and does a better job of formatting the articles.

So I downloaded the app to "Try" and it wouldn't let me try. It took me to a log in screen with no options other than to buy the app to use it. What's the use in the try option?

Hello, Matthieu here, the developer behind Stacks. I don't run Instapaper, Stacks is only a third-party client. You need a subscription to Instapaper because the service is funded by the sales of the iOS apps and so users of others clients like Stack don't participate to it. You can find more details about it here :http://www.instapaper.com/subscription

Why would I want to support a developer who doesn't support Windows or WP natively? I'd gladly pay the developer of Stacks for his work, but no way I would pay that subscription.

Well, that is your choice. For those that might already be using Instapaper as a service or want to on their Windows Phone devices or even their Surface etc, this review is designed to cover that.
If you know of a service that has a native Windows Phone and Windows 8 client, works cross platform and is free please let us know?

Matthieu, again the developer of Stacks. I share some of your frustrations about Marco and his opinions about Windows and Windows Phone. I think that he comes from a generation of software developers who hate the old Microsoft (he was a Windows user until 2004). But I prefer to think about Instapaper as the service by an indie developer for people who like to read a lot. There's a cost for this service and the subscription covers it. Also don't hesitate to send feedback trough the website: http://www.stacksforinstapaper.com/ Happy reading! Matthieu

Nice response. I can understand you and Robert's viewpoints. 
I love the look of the app(s).  Keep it up!

Also consider Comfortable Reader, it's got all the features of Stacks, and in my opinion looks better (I especially like the tiled list layout and the great live tile).

I switched from InstaPaper to Pocket (Read it later) long time ago. And I am using MetroPaper app for it and it is super awesome!!!

Is it possible to use the "share page" feature in IE on Windows Phone to send articles to Stacks, as you can in Windows via the share charm?

Thanks for the info, Matthieu. I really hope WP gets global share/send to ala Android/Windows 8 sooner than later.

This app does look great. I'd pay if it could also sync with Pocket (Read it Later). There is yet to be a good WP8 app for that service.

Sounds pretty good, but im one of the users who is not to keen on subscription services (I have far to many as it is it seems). Is there similar app on the market that is either free or one time pay?

You got Instapaper, Pocket and Readibility as similar services. But I don't know if there's any app for Windows 8.

The app seems to be good but I will never give money to Marco Arment. What's next? A Daring Fireball app? No thanks...

For the developer: is the new version of the Wp Stacks app going to be for WP7.5/7.8 also? I ask because I'm a long time user of your app and I very much love it but would also fall in love with the new interface if it comes to us 7 users. I wouldn't even mind getting the app even if it only gave us the interface and no new features. Anyone else on WP7 feel like this?

Hello Will,
Yes I'm waiting for the 7.8 update to bring the new interface including the new Tiles since it will be compatible for both 7.8 and 8. As developpers we don't have access yet to the SDK so I can't give you a timelime. Send me your email trough the website (http://www.stacksforinstapaper.com/contact.html )and I will update you when I got more information.
 
Matthieu

Hello Will,
 
A quick update to let you know that the 7.8 version is available and brings the new Tiles and the summary in the bookmark lists.
 
Matthieu