One of the most annoying things that can happen on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media apps is when a friend shares an exciting story, and a paywall prevents you from reading it. You could pay for a subscription to unlock it, but there are so many news sites that it can be both confusing and expensive to spend money on.
If you find yourself wanting to read a lot of content from the same news source online, it’s better to subscribe and support them so that they don’t disappear one day. But if it’s just an article or two here and there for an online newspaper or magazine that you don’t normally read or like, there are a few solutions you can use to get around the paywall without costing you a penny.
Shortcuts is an app that can do a lot of things for you and your iPhone, and it can even help when it comes to unlocking a blocked item behind a paywall. I̵
Like Unpaywall, AntiPaywall is a shortcut you can install for free that removes paywalls that prevent you from reading high-quality news reports, stories, and research, but it does so with more advanced options. Rather than just removing a paywall, AntiPaywall gives you the option to annotate and mark unlocked articles or even save them in your Notes app. And it works on most paywalls.
While iOS 14 may not be required to run AntiPaywall successfully, you may run into problems with older iOS versions. For best results, download and update to iOS 14 if you haven’t already – there are many reasons to do it.
You also need the Shortcuts app, which is preinstalled on your iPhone. If you removed it, you can download it again for free from the App Store.
Finally, the shortcut uses the UpdateKit shortcut to keep it up to date. It’s not necessary, but it will make your life easier if you run into bugs or want to test new features without having to download and add the shortcut again.
Step 1: Add the AntiPaywall shortcut
AntiPaywall, from RoutineHub user rogerrr, is available for free from the direct link below. If you want to keep the shortcut up to date, make sure that UpdateKit is also installed. Otherwise, you can go to AntiPaywall’s dedicated RoutineHub page to download the latest update. Currently that is version 1.0.2, released on December 16.
In either case, tap Get Shortcut if the Shortcuts app doesn’t open right away. That should direct you to shortcuts, where you can then review AntiPaywall’s actions and add the shortcut to your library using the red “Add Untrusted Shortcut” button.
Step 2: Use AntiPaywall to read blocked articles in Safari
Now that AntiPaywall has been added to your library, you can go to Safari and find a paywall article to read. If you found one on Facebook, Twitter, or another social media site, open it in Safari first. You can also use a different browser, such as Firefox or Chrome, if you prefer.
From the article’s web page, tap the Share icon in the toolbar, then scroll down the Share sheet to find and select “AntiPaywall” from the list of actions. You can also copy the URL of the story to your clipboard, open Shortcuts and on the “AntiPaywall” card, tap the “My Shortcuts” tab. Sharing is more convenient, but it’s nice to have another option.
A menu will appear with three options:
- Open with overview
- Open as web page
- Download the article to the Notes app
The first time you choose an option and run the shortcut, you will be prompted to grant it access to the Shortcuts app. You may also be asked if you want to download or use UpdateKit. If either message appears, tap “OK” to continue. If you’re not using UpdateKit, you will be prompted to download it every time you use the shortcut, but you can edit the shortcut and delete the entire UpdateKit workflow to stop it.
Option 1: open with overview
Outline allows you to read online articles without distraction such as ads, photos, videos and sidebars. It’s similar to Reader View in some ways, but it also allows you to annotate the story.
Choosing Outline will open a new tab where you can read the article, make annotations (notes) and highlight words. The only downside is that you have to create an Outline account to use the last two functions.
Outline is a great option and should be used if you are a fan of minimalism, but it won’t work with some paywalls (eg The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times), but eventually you will learn which ones work (eg Medium) .
Option 2: Open as web page
The web page option is really just HTML text of the article. The first time you use AntiPaywall for a specific website, you will be prompted to access the site. Hit “OK” and a sample page will open at the top of the Share sheet where you can read the full article. You can then share it or tap “Done” to return to the panel.
Using the web page option works for more websites, such as The New York Times, Bloomberg, and The Washington Post, so this is the most likely method you’ll use to remove paywalls.
Option 3: Download article to notes
The latter option downloads the full article as a new note to the Notes app. If you use this option, the shortcut will ask you to access your notes; tap “OK” to continue.
After a few seconds, AntiPaywall will automatically redirect you to the Notes app, where you will see the full article written out. Objects such as videos and photos will of course be absent, but you should see the title, author, source link, filed date and content of the article. This option is best if you want to keep the article and share it with others later. However, it will not work for all paywalls and will have a success rate comparable to Outline.
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