iOS tip: Can I create folders for the stories in my Reading List?Robin writes: I really appreciate your tips and add them, along with many other useful professional sites, to the Reading List on my iPad, Mac air, and iMac. Can I create folders for my Reading List to facilitate accessibility, like I do with my Bookmarks?

Hi Robin! Good question. I’ve tinkered with the Reading List feature on iPhone and iPad pretty regularly since its debut about two years ago, and I’ll just be frank: I’m not a fan.

The Reading List, for those of you not familiar with it, is a list of articles within the Safari web browser that you’ve saved from the web.

Whenever you find a web page you want to read later, you just tap the Share button (it’s the square one with the upward arrow) and tap the Add to Reading List button. To open your Reading List, tap the Bookmarks button (the one that looks like an open book), then tap the Reading List tab (look for the eyeglasses).

Once you add a story to your Reading List, it will (or should, at least) sync automatically with the Reading Lists on your other iOS devices and Safari on your Mac via iCloud.

Instapaper page flipping

I’m not a fan of Reading List, but I love Instapaper’s consistent syncing and page-flipping mode.

Also, articles on your Reading List will (er, should) save themselves to your iPhone’s or iPad’s internal storage, meaning you should be able to browse your Reading List picks even when you’re offline.

My complaint about Reading List, though, is that it’s incredibly glitchy—or at least, it is for me. Half the time I save or delete a story on my Reading List, my changes don’t sync to my other iOS gadgets.

And it drives me nuts whenever I pull up Reading List while on an underground subway platform, only to be informed that for whatever reason, my articles weren’t saved for offline reading. (Naturally, Reading List worked perfectly when I tested it just now, but I still don’t trust it.)

Even if Reading List does work perfectly for you, there’s no way (and this is to your point, Robin) to categorize, tag, or otherwise sort the stories you’ve saved. And nope, there’s no folders, either.

For these reasons, I really don’t use Reading List all that much; for me, it’s just too unreliable.

Instead, I’ve turned to third-party reading apps. Many are available in the App Store, but there are two in particular that I use all the time: Instapaper (the original and perhaps best iOS reading app) and Pocket.

Pocket reading list tagging

The free Pocket app lets you tag stories you’ve saved from the web.

Both apps are free, and both let you save articles from the web to your iPhone’s or iPad’s memory for reading later, whether you’re online or not. They’ll also remember where you left off in a given story and save your place on all your synced devices (including Android phones and tablets, if you have them).

Personally, I think Instapaper does a better job of formatting lengthy articles in a book-like format, complete with easy-to-read fonts and pages that you can flip with a swipe.

Meanwhile, Pocket does a better job with pictures and video, and I like the image thumbnails on Pocket’s article index page. I use Pocket whenever I find a shorter article I want to save.

Best of all (and finally an answer for you, Robin!), Instapaper lets you organize your saved articles into folders, while Pocket lets you tag your saved stories.

The downside to using Instapaper and Pocket on your iPhone or iPad is that there’s no super-easy way to save articles directly from the Safari browser. That said, you can always copy the URL for an article (tap the Share button, then tap Copy) and then open either Instapaper or Pocket; when you do, you’ll be prompted to save the article at the web address you just copied.

Long story short: Nope, you can’t organize the articles on the iOS Reading List, but Instapaper and Pocket (among other iOS reading apps) will do the trick.

Hope that helps, Robin. Still have questions? Let me know!

Note: Having trouble saving the tips on the mobile version of here’s the thing? Try our desktop site instead. On a phone, tap the little handle in the top-left corner of the screen, then tap Desktop Version. On a tablet, tap the Desktop Site button in the top-right corner of the home page.

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