What's a read-it-later app and how to use it

You might have heard or even used an app from Mozilla called Pocket. It's a service that allows you to save online articles for later consumption. Pocket has been relatively successful because of its integration with Firefox. Apparently this integration is now tighter than ever as the app requires a Firefox account to log in. I'm not saying it's a bad thing. If you use Firefox as your main browser you may find Pocket really useful. I know I did for a few years. It's been a very pleasant experience. Whenever I found something interesting to read online I would press the Pocket button and voila – now I could read the contents on all my devices. I usually used my smartphone or tablet to read the saved articles. I must admit: it's a really convenient way to read and process online content. But... if you're like me and prefer open source solutions with superior data portability, there's a better solution on the market. It's called wallabag.

Now, wallabag, in contrast to Pocket, is fully open source and offers quite a few synchronisation options. What does it mean? Well, with Pocket you rely on Mozilla's infrastructure (i.e. their servers). With wallabag you can actually choose where you store your data. You can change 'providers', so to speak. So how does it work? How can you set up an account? Read on.

Let's start with the easiest option. Go to https://www.wallabag.it and create an account. You can test the service for 14 days. After that, if you decide to stay, you'll have to pay a small fee (11 EUR per year or 4 EUR per 3 months). I've been a user myself for about 6 months now and I've been really happy with the service. Once you set up an account you'll need to install some apps / extensions to enjoy the full experience. To save web articles it's best to install a browser extension. The configuration may be kinda disorienting because you need to generate an API key. But once it's done it just works. As with Pocket, you'll see a wallabag button among your extensions. Once pressed, the article will appear in your wallabag collection. To complete your experience you'll need to install a mobile app. I downloaded the Android app from F-Droid but it's also available on Play Store. This time the setup process should be much easier since the app will automatically generate and fetch the API key for you. Tada! You can now enjoy ad-free reading experience on your smartphone or tablet.

The other option I want to present is self-hosting wallabag on your local machine or on a VPS. Alternatively, you can ask a tech-savvy friend to set it up for you. The route I took was to set up a Yunohost server. Yup, I know, it's a recurring theme on my blog. I happen to manage a local machine (Raspberry Pi 4) and a VPS (Hetzner FTW). I can attest that both options will be an excellent choice for a Yunohost / wallabag combo. I believe I don't have to mention that this option is not for the faint-hearted. But of course I wouldn't be myself if I didn't pick the harder path.

Long story short, I exported my saved articles on wallabag.it (in .json format) and then imported them all on my instance. In fact, it wasn't the first time I did this so I know it works perfectly well. I also set up a wallabag instance for my family so they too can enjoy a Pocket-like experience for free. From the user's perspective, the only hurdle with this approach is that you need to manually enter your instance address when setting up the app and/or browser extension.

Have you heard about wallabag before? Would you consider using it or recommending to friends? For me it's become a must-have app so naturally I spread the news. Feel free to save this post in your wallabag collection just to see how it works ;)

Reply to this on the fediverse: @michal@101010.pl