How to automatically save your Instapaper highlights to Ulysses

reading in Instapaper

I read a fair amount in Instapaper, and I frequently highlight passages and other quotes.

Since I’m using Ulysses as my central repository for all writing, research fodder, notes, quotes, and ideas, I wanted a way to automatically add my highlights from Instapaper directly into a folder within Ulysses. This way they’ll be more easily available for searching, tagging, and referencing.

Good news… this is extremely easy to set up. All you need is IFTTT, Dropbox, and about 10 minutes.

Brief side note, we’ve got something brand new in the works that’s related to Ulysses. You can find out more right here…


First: Setup on IFTTT

To start off, you’ll need to set up a free account with IFTTT if you don’t have one already. (If you’re not familiar with IFTTT, it’s fantastic. You can learn more about it here.)

Once you’re logged in, navigate to the My Applets page, and click on New Applet.

creating a new applet in IFTTT

To create your new Applet, you’ll be presented with the standard if THIS then THAT formula.

For THIS: Search for Instapaper then select New Highlight as the as the trigger.

For THAT: Search for Dropbox and then choose Create a Text File as the action.

Now, edit the elements of your Applet recipe for how you want the new text file to be formatted in Dropbox.

Be sure to pay attention to what you set as the Dropbox folder path. This is where your text files will be saved, and this is the folder you’ll want to sync to Ulysses in just a minute.

If you’re curious, my recipe looks like this:

IFTTT recipe for sending Instapaper highlights to a new file in a Dropbox folder

Once you’re all set, click the button at the bottom of your Applet recipe to Create the Action.

Now, whenever you highlight a passage in Instapaper, a new text file will be created in your Dropbox folder. Let’s get it started.

Secondly: Go Highlight Something in Instapaper

Next, you’ll need to go into Instapaper and highlight something. This will allow IFTTT to create the folder and add a text file to it.

You need to do this now, so that in the next step, when you want to add this external folder to your Ulysses Library, it will actually exist.

Lastly: Add the External Dropbox Folder to Ulysses

With your folder set up, and some highlights saved to it, all that’s left to do is add this external folder to your Ulysses Library.

Note that you will have to add your external Dropbox folder to each of the devices you have Ulysses running on. Since I use Ulysses on my Mac, iPhone, and iPad, I had to open up each of those apps and add the same Dropbox Folder.

Fortunately, it’s quick and easy to do. Here’s how to do it…

Adding Your Dropbox Folder On the Mac

From the top Menu Bar, click on FileAdd External Folder.

Then navigate to the folder you created earlier with IFTTT, and add it.

You can also do this from the Library pane. When you hover over the heading for “External Folders” a small icon will appear with a plus sign (+). Click on that plus symbol and you can then choose which folder to add.

Adding Your Dropbox Folder iPad and iPhone

In the very top-left corner, tap the navigation buttons until you’ve navigated all the way back to the Library pane and you can’t go back any further.

From there, tap on the “Manage” button in you see at the bottom. The Library pane will change to an “editing” type of mode. From there you can tap on “Add Dropbox Folder”.

You’ll have to grant permissions for Ulysses to view the folders in your Dropbox account. Then, from there, navigate to the folder you created earlier with IFTTT, and add it.

Adding a Dropbox folder to Ulysses on iOS

A Few Side Notes About Syncing Dropbox Folders

  • As I mentioned above, you’ll have to add your Dropbox folder individually to each device’s Library.

  • You can add more than one Dropbox Folder to your Ulysses Library. So, for instance, if you also wanted to have a group in Ulysses comprised of all your favorited Tweets, or the URLs of all your Pinboard bookmarks, or whatever. You could do that.

  • On iOS, if you are searching for a particular sheet and you’re not sure if it’s in Dropbox or iCloud, you’ll want to be sure to navigate all the way back to the main Library pane first, before tapping the search icon (the double-inbox with a magnifying glass that’s in the top-left corner).

  • For the performance-minded, Matnon Reece just recently synced Ulysses to a Dropbox folder with over 1,000 notes in it, and it’s doing just fine.

As mentioned above, we’ve got something new in the works related to Ulysses.

You can find out more right here…