I like to regularly feature and review software and other writing tools that make the writing life easier and more pleasurable. There is a whole suite of tools I use to manage the internet; the most important thing I'm looking for in this area is to keep the internet in check and prevent it from interfering in my or my creative life. That's why many of my favorite software with regard to the internet is software that pushes the internet away and makes it manageable. Today I'd like to feature my favorite internet-managing applications.
My first weapon in my arsenal for keeping the internet at bay, Quiet Read is an absolutely essential application for heavy internet users who don't want to be puled into reading everything the moment they click a link. When I find something I want to save for later, such as an interesting article, an item I want to buy, or a link I want to send to someone else later, I drag the link over the icon in my menu bar. It's as simple as that. Later, I can click the little coffee mug in my menu bar, and a list of my saved links will be right there, ready for further reading or processing. It's a fantastic way to push the internet away and read an article when I want to, instead of when I must.
You may have heard of this one; it is a tremendously popular iPad and iPhone app, as well as being a desktop app that connects smoothly to its other versions. If Quiet Read isn't quite the right fit for you, Instapaper does a very similar thing - it stores pages for you for later viewing. The added bonus of Instapaper is that it stores the pages offline, so that you can read articles in the future when you may not have internet access (subway, anyone?). It's a smart app and a great way to, again, read things when you want to, and push aside these articles when your own writing needs to get done.
Much has been made of Freedom, a completely free app that is a must-have among the connected writer of today. Writers such as Jonathan Franzen (writer of Freedom) and Zadie Smith among others have attested to the importance of writing on a computer on which the internet is not even an option. Zadie Smith uses this application to do her writing, and it does one thing very well: it turns the internet off. Install the software, open it, type in a number of minutes you want to be free of the internet, and your computer will not let you go online for that number of minutes unless you completely restart your computer. So unless you are absolutely desperate, you will have removed the option of goofing off. It's a tough but necessary tool, and I use it regularly for intensive writing sessions.
Another important thing writers need to manage is their RSS feeds. If you're an avid blog reader, or you find yourself wandering over to the New York Times' site every twenty minutes like myself, you'll need an application that gathers your feeds in one place so you can read them, get them over with, and go on with your day. I use the excellent Newsrack because it offers a clean, stylish, and organized way to read the top news every day, but there are other solid options, such as Netnewswire and Google Reader. Just pick one, use it once a day, and cut down on the aimless internet surfing.
What software helps you keep the internet at arms' length? I hope you find this software suite as helpful as I have.