How often do you find yourself researching a particular topic on the internet, and having trouble keeping track of all the useful documents you encounter? Sure, you can add each interesting URL to your browser's bookmarks or favourites section, but it then becomes difficult to manage. And your saved items are only accessible from one machine. Another option, which I have to admit to being guilty of on more than one occasion, is to just hit the "Print" button whenever you come across useful information, and then spend ages sifting through half a tree of stuff.
Is there a better way? I think so. It's a free web site called InstaPaper, which I assume is some sort of shorthand for an instant, personalised newspaper. Because that's basically what it allows you to create.
To start, head to www.instapaper.com and sign up for an account. It's free, and you don't need to verify it with an email address. You don't need to download or install any software, but you will need to use a browser with a bookmarks toolbar. Most of them have such a thing, though you may need to enable it if it's not turned on by default. Then drag the Read Later button from the instapaper web site onto your bookmarks toolbar. Now you're ready to go.
When you come across an interesting web page, hit the Read Later button. That's all you need to do. The page is saved in your InstaPaper account, ready for you to read, er, later.
When you've finished your researching exercise, and you think you've collected everything that looks potentially useful about the subject, log back into your InstaPaper account, and there are all the links you saved. You can click on them one-by-one and look at the original web pages. Or you can organise them into folders. You can also view them in text-only format, and even download all of the text in ePub or Kindle format. Perfect for reading offline.
And because your links are saved within the InstaPaper system, rather than on your own computer, you can log into the site from any other machine and still access your saved links.
Plus, there are some companies that let you sign up for newsletters and other free documents that can be delivered straight into your InstaPaper account. So it really does become a personalised newspaper, and not just a collection of web links. A very useful service, and completely free of charge.