I haven't ever known exactly what to do with folders in Instapaper. But I'm a sucker for systems and organization, so I've really tried. In the past I've used folders to turn Instapaper into sort of a pseudo-bookmarking service, but not having other organizational features (e.g. tags) makes it a pretty bad choice for that, and I want to use the right tools for the right jobs. I've decided that Instapaper works best when I treat it like an inbox I need to clear out — purely as a “... Later” service. The idea is that everything saved to Instapaper should be consumed and then archived, leaving no stale items.
Instead of having folders like “Recipes” and “Development” to store articles indefinitely, my folders are:
- Read Later
- News articles and blog posts.
- Watch Later
- Videos people send me mostly.
- Cook Later
- Recipes I'd like to try soon.
- Buy Later
- Things I intend to buy online (apps, Amazon).
What makes this work is a feature in Instapaper that was a bit hidden to me until now. From the Instapaper website you can save a bookmarklet for any folder and have it work just like the “Read Later” bookmarklet. I have one for each of my folders as the first four items in my bookmarks bar, so anything I save off the web can get stored in the right place automatically1. Once I'm finished with an item I archive it, and things I'm pretty sure I'll want to look at again I send to Pinboard, where they can be organized in greater detail.
Since items that get saved from apps will always go to my “Read Later” folder, I just organize those when I'm in the app. ↩