Options for saving good articles as reference material

When I come across a good article on the internet (looking at you, Sparky, Stephen Hackett, Rosemary Orchard, Mike Schmitz, et al. :smile:), I often want to save it as reference material. (Note that these articles are not for read-it-later services such as Pocket or Instapaper.)

How do you save such articles as reference material?

In particular, I’d like to save it in such a way as to:

  • Save the URL of the article as well as the content of the article.
  • Save the article in such a way that if the owner of the article suffered a website outage, this would not affect the availability of the saved article.
  • Avoid using proprietary software (e.g. Evernote).
  • Bonus: save the article in such a way that I can link to the article on my personal website (for referencing), and fall back to my personal archived copy if the website upon which the article is hosted is unavailable. (This wouldn’t cause copyright issues, would it? I’m a data scientist, not a lawyer!)

However, I’ve yet to come across a good method for saving these articles.

  • I can activate reader mode on Safari and then save the article as a PDF, but this has limited and mixed success, depending on the nature of the article.
  • I could copy the raw text and URL of the article to my own plain-text markdown file - with appropriate information such as author and date in the YAML header - but this would omit the images.

I personally just copy and keep the research in Notes. I used to use Devonthink but found the interface (especially on iOS) wasn’t to my taste at all. I have a folder called Research and find the search works great when I need to find anything.

My solution is Devonthink… which doesn’t comply with your requirements but still… it is a very viable solution for me. I use DT’s web picker and usually save articles as web archives. This way I can archive it basically forever and even use them with no internet connection.

I just copy into Bear, either as a link or a page.

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In iOS I’ll use the share-sheet to save a link to a pinned Notes file just for links.

On the Mac I’ll drag a URL to the Finder (or, more usually, into Yoink, where I can then file it to a Folder). Lots of similar options to that, like using something like Dropzone.

I subscribe to Pocket to save entire articles. I read them later online, with the iOS app, or with Pocket’s Mac app (used to be a subscriber-only freebie, maybe it’s free to anyone now, not sure). Once it’s in Pocket I can save it on the Mac as a pdf too.

EDIT: Here’s a good article on using Yoink on iOS to save articles.

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I go the long way around doing things: for articles I really value and want to save for later, I convert them to PDF (from reader view if possible), add tags, and drop them in a file called read_later for review. Whenever I get back around to reading or reviewing it (usually link to the file in an OmniFocus task) I’ll decide if it’s worth keeping it or not. Often, if it’s something I want to hold onto, I will use a citation manager software such as EndNote, Zotero, or Mendeley to store it, adding metadata such as URL and Author. Citation management software offers robust ways of adding data to a document, and they make it really easy to group materials by author. So if I want to narrow down a bunch of blog posts I’ve saved from a particular blogger, I can narrow my search to their name and a year.


Using citation manager is a great tip.

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I use the web archive function in DEVONThink. DT also has the ability to create URLs to the article for sharing or linking in other applications (e.g., OF). If I think I’ll need to cite the article I also put it in Papers 3. For articles I intend to share I’ll convert them to PDF and share via Dropbox.

I also use DEVONthink for this. One advantage of DT for your purposes is that when you save a web page to DT as a web archive or as a PDF, the resulting file automatically keeps the URL of the original web page in its metadata.

DT also has a built-in web server. I’ve never used it, and I know every little about its function. But you could investigate that. Maybe that feature would cover your bonus request?

I have been using emailthis.me to email myself the page with ads and distractions removed.

The premium version increases the saveable pages from 20/month to unlimited, allows you to add notes and receive a PDF copy. IFTTT then saves the PDFs to my online storage of choice.


It depends on what it is. If it’s general reference material, I clip it to Bear. (Bear has become my Evernote replacement — I use Bear as my everything bucket, and Ulysses as my writing app.)

If it’s more academic-focused and something I might reference in formal writing, it goes in my reference manager (currently Zotero, though I’m toying with the idea of switching to Bookends for good iOS availability).

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Regardless of the app you use, your list suggest to me that you want to save a static Webarchive. The next option is a PDF with the URL embedded in the document in some manner.

The distinction you should make here is the difference between proprietary database formats and proprietary software. All/Most commercial (non-public domain) software is proprietary. Not all databases used by software are proprietary.

A Webarchive format in its raw sense and a PDF are non-proprietary formats. The database format itself is non-proprietary as long as you know how to get directly to the file within that database (Webarchive or PDF) should the software that controls the database “disappear from the face of the earth” (so to speak).

Webarchives or PDFs solve this I believe.

As I would say … Copyright allows you to have a (one) copy. How you access that copy is not controlled by copyright. Whether you can have more than one copy could be a question for lawyers. Finally, how you may or may not distribute your copy to the outside world is certainly defined by the terms of the copyright.


This is essentially my practice as well.

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Thanks for sharing this! I’ve used Yoink on iOS and macOS for a long time but knew I was underusing it on iOS. Yup, I was. Great run down.

I use DevonThink and have created a personal knowledge base by doing just what you are describing. I am a big fan of Evernote but prefer to keep it for my own work, projects and note taking. DT is my database, archive and research app!

One thing to be aware of is the ability (or not) of some web sites to be easily captured by the Web Archive function in DT. I have found that sometimes the web page only captures the header in the archive. Personally i use the book marking tool a lot and make sure that I tag the article to help with future searching.

Where’s the bookmarking tool located?

Like @timlawson, I too use DevonThink for this. I will say I don’t use Evernote anymore and for working stuff tend to write in Ulysses and then upon completion send it to DevonThink. It seems personally I end up throwing stuff into DevonThink and either looking at it at another time or forgetting about it…I need to get better at this. I do like that I’ve lately decided to copy links from DevonThink to OmniFocus to ensure I look at or do certain things which is more useful.

In the Clip to DevonThink dialog box, under the Format option there is a Bookmark tool (Cmd+3).

I apply a ‘reading’ tag to articles I definitely want to go back and read. I then have a smart folder which looks for that tag and therefore creates a reading list for me.



I do something similar to this, using “!current” for things I am currently reading, and “!next” for anything else, and I’ll add “!notes” for anything I’ve read and annotated but need to write up notes for. Credit goes to @LucCogZest for this idea in his books on Mac productivity.