How To Make Pinboard, Instapaper and Evernote Work For You

I try not to use free software if I can help it. Paying for software says, ‘I like what you’re doing. I would like to support you. Please keep making things’. There’s a small set of applications that I use daily and an even smaller set that I simply could not do without. One of those applications is Pinboard. Just go spend the $10.21 for an account. You’ll thank me later. Pinboard is made by Maciej Cegłowski. I like Maciej (pronounced Mahtch-ay) even more since I saw him speak at XOXO recently. He posted a text version of his talk, which is worth reading.

My good friend Greg emailed me over the weekend about my Pinboard workflow, particularly how I use it in combination with Instapaper and Evernote. It seemed like something a few other people might benefit from, so I figured I would write something up. This assumes you have an account and some familiarity with each app. The other app that you’ll need is IFTTT.

After years of using Pinboard, I got completely schooled by Shawn Blanc, who turned me on to Joel Carranza’s “Particular Pinboard, which I now use instead of the standard bookmarklet across all of my browsers. I bookmark a lot stuff, and it’s often stuff I don’t care about right this minute, but might care about later. Since I want to be able to find things, I tag absolutely everything. Pinboard has a setting allowing you to auto-imports articles added to Instapaper, which is fine if that’s all you want to do. The biggest drawback of this is that those articles won’t be tagged, which maybe you don’t care about, but you should.

I use Instapaper as I imagine most people do – reading things later, the vast majority of which are articles. I don’t really read or watch the news, though I do listen to it on NPR. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but news is bad for you. I use the bookmarklet Instapaper provides across all browsers. Instapaper has the ability to save favorited posts to Pinboard and Evernote, which I have turned on. You should auth Pinboard with Instapaper as well, which allows you to easily save articles from the Instapaper app (or web interface) to Pinboard with tags. It might seem redundant, but if I like something, it will already be saved in Pinboard, only without tags. If I manually share the liked articles to Pinboard via the iOS app, then I can add tags. Remember, tags allow you to easily find stuff later.

You’ve got Pinboard and Instapaper playing nice, which is easy and awesome, but why stop there? To make it awesomer, I add Evernote to the mix. Lots of people use Evernote for notes. I have tried, but I just hate it. I find its interface to be bloated and distracting and it doesn’t support Markdown, which is how I write when I take notes. I basically use Evernote as a corpus for digital stuff in my life. The biggest reason is search and OCR for PDFs. I happily pay for Evernote Premium. Every single thing I post online is saved in Evernote with the help of IFTTT. As a result, I have the piece of mind that no matter what happens to Tumblr, Foursqaure, Twitter, etc. everything is easily read by the NSA and backed up on my hard drive and on Evernote’s servers in the Internet heavens.

The final ingredient in my workflow is IFTTT, which stands for If This Then That and it’s easily one of my very favorite things on the Internet. I wish they would take my money so I didn’t have to lose sleep thinking about when they’re going to go away. If you’re not familiar with IFTTT, the basic premise is you can connect all kinds of unrelated and seemingly incompatible services and devices to do things for you, which they call recipes. The recipes that I use to have everything flow into Evernote are:

Instapaper Liked -> Evernote – I bookmark a lot of garbage and it’s not all stuff I care about finding later. This recipe simply saves only the articles I like in Instapaper.

Save Pinboard Links to Evernote – Does what it says and lets you have everything go to a notebook of your choosing.

I highly recommend poking around IFTTT recipes for other things that help make your life easier. What’s so wonderful about it is that you set it and forget it. As much as I love to tinker, I also like it when things just work and IFTTT is a highly functional secret weapon.

Any questions?