Installing Instapaper’s Read Later bookmarklet on iPhone & iPod touch

A word of warning

[2013 update] — Since this post is still getting some views a few years after it was first published, I think it’s only fair to point out that it was written in 2010, when I was using an iPhone 3G with iOS 4. Many things have changed since then, both in Instapaper and in iOS, so this guide may be less useful than it once was.

A Visual Guide for Dummies

I hold Marco Arment in high esteem. He’s the developer of Instapaper and former lead developer of Tumblr. He is also a brilliant writer, and I really enjoy reading his technical insights and analyses on his blog.

In many occasions he has expressed his frustration regarding the installation of the Instapaper Read Later bookmarklet directly on the iPhone/iPod touch (and presumably on the iPad, too). The procedure isn’t one of the most intuitive (though personally I don’t think you need to be an engineer to follow it), but Marco is not at fault: it’s a current limitation of iOS, that doesn’t let you install JavaScript bookmarklets in a more straightforward manner. In his post titled An open enhancement request to the Mobile Safari team for sane bookmarklet installation or alternatives, Marco writes:

Most Instapaper customers install the bookmarklet directly in Mobile Safari. The process of doing this is extremely complex and user-hostile, and a large percentage of them abandon the process and are extremely dissatisfied with Safari, my app, and me as a result.

As I said, when I had to install the Read Later bookmarklet directly in Mobile Safari, I followed Marco’s instructions and everything went fine. Sure, not a one-click operation, but nothing exceedingly complex either. Anyway, since many people seem to have difficulty with it, and wanting to offer my humble support to Marco, I hereby offer this Visual Guide. It builds on Marco’s instructions and adds iPhone screenshots for each and every step. I hope this will help the less tech-savvy with the procedure.

Instapaper 1

We start here, and we’ll follow Marco’s instructions. Let’s begin by tapping the ‘+’ button…


Important Update: From iOS 4.2, MobileSafari has been slightly redesigned. Instead of the ‘+’ button, you’ll find this one (marked with a yellow circle).  Don’t let this detail mislead you — apart from the icon, nothing has really changed. It retains the exact same function as the ‘+’ button.

Different icon, same function.


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Instapaper 2

…This menu will appear. Tap ‘Add Bookmark’.

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Instapaper 3

You’ll see this. Don’t do anything, just tap ‘Save’.

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Instapaper 4

Ok, we’re back in Mobile Safari. Let’s proceed to the next step. You have to select all the text in the box on the left. To do that, tap inside of it…

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Instapaper 5

…The keyboard will appear, and also a cursor where you tapped. Now tap on the text and hold…

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Instapaper 6

…The magnifying glass will appear. Now release your finger…

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Instapaper 7

…The Select/Select All/Paste pop-up menu will appear. Tap ‘Select All’…

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…The Cut/Copy/Paste pop-up menu will appear. Tap ‘Copy’…

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The text in the box is now copied.

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Now we are at Step 3 of Marco’s instructions. The text we have just copied is the JavaScript code for the bookmarklet. Now we’ll have to paste it as the bookmarklet’s ‘URL’. Tap on the Bookmarks button (the open book icon).

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…Here’s the Bookmarks folder. You can see the ‘Instapaper: Read Later’ bookmark we created before. Now tap on the ‘Edit’ button…

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…The Bookmarks are ready to be edited or deleted. Now Tap the ‘Instapaper: Read Later’ bookmark…

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Here we are. The URL field should be automatically selected, ready to be edited. We will delete this field and paste the code we copied before. To delete the text field, tap the ‘x’ icon on the right.

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Now the Address field is blank. Time to paste…

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Now tap and hold your finger in the Address field. First the magnifying glass will appear, then, when you release, the Paste pop-up will show up. Tap on it…

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…and here’s the JavaScript code we copied a few steps back. Now tap ‘Done’. Hang tight, we’re almost there…

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Ok, we have saved the changes in the ‘Instapaper: Read Later’ bookmarklet and we’re back to the Bookmarks list, still in edit mode. Tap ‘Done’.

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All right, back in the regular Bookmarks view. Now tap ‘Done’ again…

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Back again to Marco’s instructions. Installation should be complete. Now let’s test if the bookmarklet works. Tap again on the Bookmarks icon, then select ‘Instapaper: Read Later’ from the Bookmarks list, and…

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Ta-daaah! Bookmarklet correctly installed.

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About Riccardo Mori

Writer. Translator. Mac consultant. Enthusiast photographer. • If you like what I write, please consider supporting my writing by purchasing my short stories, Minigrooves or by making a donation. Thank you!