Setup: Drafts as Read Later App (ongoing)

Has anyone had any thoughts or experience with using Drafts as a read later service?

I find I often out links I find into drafts as a quick way to save them for later when I’m not sure what I want to do with them. Oftentimes, what I want to do later is read the article.

With the advent awesome new Drafts widgets, I’ve created a workspace called “Read Later” which matches anything with that, and put a launcher to that workspace on the widget. I really like that I can then see an inbox count of articles to read. And I have a share sheet shortcut that adds a link and article title to my Drafts inbox with the appropriate tag. My workspace also defaults to an action list purpose built for reading later. But so far, I only have one action that just says “mark as read” and moves the draft to the archive.

A couple of challenges so far:

  • I really like seeing my reading list inbox count on the widget but don’t like my inbox generally being cluttered up with my reading list. (Suggestion for @agiletortoise: maybe make the count list on the widget configurable to show flagged, all, trash, etc.)
  • I’d like a button that opens the first link in the draft but once again my limited JavaScript abilities are failing me. The one action I found to do this doesn’t seem to work

Hoping others would like to share their experiences using Drafts as a read later service, or suggestions for workflow or useful actions. I’d love to create a pre built workspace and action group to publish on the Directory if I can out together something I’m satisfied with.

I do this, but a bit differently. In my case, I actually store the articles, in Markdown format, in Drafts, since I’m using it to store them as well as notes. This system lets me read later, and then just delete what isn’t interesting, and tag what is into my system straight away. The fact that I don’t really read that many articles usually means there’s no real system for this, just throw it into the main inbox untagged, and deal with it later.

Obviously, when I’m reading the articles later, I’m reading in preview, and the main reason this system probably works so well for me is that I’m blind, and images and such aren’t all that important to me, :slight_smile:

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Is it not possible to set yourself up with an inbox that excludes and drafts tagged “read later”?

If you’re interested in saving the contents of a web page to Drafts as markdown, complete with images (available in preview), you might find this shortcut useful. I’m not the original author, just tweaked it a bit for Drafts, and there’s a bit of duplication in the headers; I could do with tidying it up.

I didn’t really get into using Drafts as a Read Later service, although since Drafts is my primary store for actionable items, I do occasionally store links URLs that are actionable as opposed to “someday maybe” reading…

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Thanks for the great replies so far!

I did experiment with getting the article content via shortcut, but found it made running the shortcut fairly slow. Just getting the name is a fairly slow process. And I wasn’t a big fan of how the text showed up in drafts, even in preview mode.

After doing a bit of reading, I did end up taking your suggestion @jsamlarose to make a discrete “inbox” workspace that only shows untagged drafts in the inbox. So here’s how my Drafts widget looks now:


(Image of medium Drafts widget. Left to right the launchers are: new draft, new draft in personal, new draft in work, search, untagged inbox, work inbox, personal inbox, and read later inbox. All inbox launchers have numbers indicating how many items are in inbox.)

I still want to work on opening the first URL via action to get it right.

Another feature suggestion for @agiletortoise: what if you could set certain workspaces to switch to or from link mode by default? This would help me by making the links clickable right away, and I’m sure I could see other use cases for it or the inverse of my use case.

To make sure I understand this: you’re trying to do this from the widget? i.e. an action that gets the first draft in your Read Later workspace and opens the link it contains, attached to a widget button?

No not necessarily from the widget. I’m kind of talking about two separate things:

  1. A simple action that finds the first link in a draft and opens it
  2. A feature suggestion to be able to toggle link mode on or off when a workspace is launched, similar to how you can currently specify which action group to set to and whether to start in inbox, all, etc when a workspace is launched.

All good. I read the description of the action you linked to, which sounded like it should go most of the way to what you wanted, but doesn’t seem to be working as one would expect (or maybe I’m just not reading the description closely enough). There are easier ways to archive a draft!

For opening the first link in a draft, try this action.

If I were doing working on a read it later workflow within Drafts, I might use something like @derekvan’s Tag Assign or Filter action to manage a fixed set of tags and filter my read later items. Beyond topics (which you can tag via the regular tag interface), I might use Derek’s action to manage states: to read, currently reading.

Or perhaps I’d simply use flags to highlight items I’m currently reading, particularly for long-form items that might demand more than one session. Either way, I imagine it might be useful to have a way to filter items being read, in case you want to build a workflow that allows you to easily select an item to add notes to.

Alternatively, I might set up a “Read Later” action group with a few simple actions for managing drafts in this context, then set the workspace up so that it loads the action group automatically (via workspace settings from the manage workspace menu item). The action group might include actions like:

  • mark as currently reading (flag or tag)
  • mark as read (trigger via shortcut from Safari sharesheet; search a list of “currently reading” items containing the URL from Safari, then send the selected draft to the archive
  • copy highlight to draft (trigger via shortcut from Safari sharesheet; search a list of “currently reading” items containing the URL from Safari, then append the currently selected text in Safari to the appropriate draft). If you’re a fan of Zettelkasten or atomic notes, you might skip this one, but it could still be useful.

Then again, I do have a habit of overthinking this kind of thing. :slight_smile:

Those are great ideas, thanks so much!

I really like the idea of flagging an item that you are in progress on and creating a shortcut to append quotes and notes to that draft. To that end, I tried making an action incorporating your action to open the first link (thanks for that) to automatically set it to flagged. The weird thing is, I just can’t get the flagging to work.

If I run this action, it will flag the draft successfully.

If I put the exact same script into your action, it won’t flag it. I’ve even tried adding the flagging action as its own script step first. No luck. Any ideas why this might not be working?

Update: I did get it working by putting the flag step as a separate step after the open URL step. Odd that it doesn’t work in the script though (or if the step is before the open URL step.)

I share your (implicit) dissatisfaction with Instapaper and Pocket. And I understand the desire to do as much possible within your preferred software environment (i.e. Drafts), but I’m just throwing out my solution, fwiw.

Pinboard is a bookmarking service, like del.icio.us, only better. Just as everything texty passes through Drafts everything webby can pass through Pinboard.

If you pay a (very) few bucks, you also get a backup service: all your Pinboard bookmarks get backed up and remain available, so if a page changes or disappears you can still access it. It’s like saving to disk, only not your disk.

Pinboard also has a “Read Later” feature, which, combined with the back-ups, makes it, in my view, the ideal way to do this.

All that said, I’m wondering whether Pinboards and Drafts can work together in interesting ways. I’m off to go search! :slight_smile:

I was a user of Pinboard for many years. I did like it quite a bit. I ended up discontinuing my use of it mainly because drafts ended up organically takings its place in my workflows. Again, because most things, including links, start out in Drafts, and you can tag and add notes to a link Draft, I figured it was just easier to set up a workspace called “Bookmarks” that just searches for anything with “http” in it and use Drafts.

Similarly, my motivation to use Drafts as a read later service isn’t so much my dissatisfaction with Instapaper or Pocket, both of which I’ve used and liked. It’s more just that my links start out in Drafts, so why not double down on it and reduce my tech stack a bit? And since I spend so much time using Drafts, I’m more likely to come back to the articles I saved, vs Instapaper, which I tend to kind of forget to come back to.

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Yeah, I totally get the attraction of doing more and more within your most comfortable software ecosystem.

My accountant sends me thank you notes in Excel format.

Ha, don’t get me started on Excel! I’m a longtime, very advanced user, and I tend to fall back on it so many times when I really should be writing a script, just because I know I can do it so quickly in Excel because I know it so well.

Okay, so published my action group along with links to complementary workspace and iOS shortcuts:

@jsamlarose - I took you up on your suggestion on the Shortcut to add notes or quotes to the currently flagged draft. Thank you for that, it was a great idea!

I’ll try to update this and keep the thread open with new changes as I go.

It occurs to me that what @agiletortoise has created is really like this little development platform. It’s been so fun using this as a tool in my life and as a place to make and share new things, discover what others have made, and discuss uses and get help from the community. It’s hard to overstate what an accomplishment this app has been.

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If you use shortcuts on iOS I created this shortcut that pulls the article converts it to markdown and then adds it to your drafts inbox, straight from the browser.

You can edit the steps to add your own tags and such.

This is an amazingly useful shortcut! Thanks

But benhue, I assume this also pulls in all the ads and other cruft.

Is it that your desire to unify text in Drafts exceeds the benefits (e.g. elegant trimming) of Instapaper/Pocket etc?

I believe the “get article from” action in shortcuts is the same engine Safari uses to create article versions of pages so should trim the cruft.

To be honest I don’t use this anymore as I don’t want to save all of the text and normally just save highlights, but if @tommertron wants to use drafts as a Read it later App then it should fit in nicely with his workflow

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Thanks for sharing! I actually did try a version of this workflow myself, but I found I didn’t really like the reading experience in Drafts, even when previewing in Markdown. But I could definitely see the appeal.