A hack for using Hypothes.is to annotate on mobile

I do a fair amount of reading on my mobile phone and my addiction to Hypothes.is for annotating and highlighting what I read has finally driven me to the brink. I have typically added via.hypothes.is to the URLs of articles manually so I can use Hypothes.is on my phone. I’ve finally had enough of the manual timesuck that I’ve gone in search of an answer since there is not yet a mobile app solution.

I’ve long been an Android user, so I broke out the URL Forwarder app which uses the ubiquitous share functionality of most phone platforms and adds a thin layer of program-ability.

In short I created a new filter and cleverly named it “Hypothesize”. Then I added the filter url “http://via.hypothes.is/@url” and left the replaceable text alone. 

screenshot of URL Forwarder and settings for Hypothes.is

Now I can take an article from almost anywhere on my phone (reading services like Pocket, my feed readers, or even articles within the browser themselves), click share, choose “URL Forwarder” from the top of the list, select “Hypothesize” and the piece I want to annotate magically opens up with Hypothes.is ready to go in my default browser. Huzzah!

The three taps are ever so much easier than trying to tap a URL to edit it it and then typing. Why didn’t I think of this years ago?

Have you had this problem? Do you have a better solution or work around?


Published by

Chris Aldrich

I'm a biomedical and electrical engineer with interests in information theory, complexity, evolution, genetics, signal processing, IndieWeb, theoretical mathematics, and big history. I'm also a talent manager-producer-publisher in the entertainment industry with expertise in representation, distribution, finance, production, content delivery, and new media.

24 thoughts on “A hack for using Hypothes.is to annotate on mobile”

    1. A few people have suggested Shortcuts to me, but I suspect it’s like using a Turboencabulator when you just need a screwdriver.

      Syndicated copies:

  1. I tried it, and while the URL forwarder works perfectly, there’s no hypothes.is add-on for Firefox, and the whole setup fell apart pretty quickly.

    An annotation tool that only runs on one browser is never going to float my boat.

    1. I’ve seen a few quirks with using this with Firefox (including one site that had a bizarre redirect), but the method is leveraging their via proxy (https://web.hypothes.is/help/what-is-the-via-proxy/) so it should generally work regardless of having an add-on or not for almost any browser.

      I’d seen some other odd behaviors in almost all mobile browsers in the past, but lately they all seem to have cleared up.

    2. Hey, Stephen, we are discussing about the Firefox extension here: https://github.com/hypothesis/browser-extension/issues/310. You can follow that thread for news!

    3. Stephen, I published an unofficial extension for Firefox here: https://github.com/diegodlh/browser-extension/releases/latest. You can download and install the XPI file to check it out. So far the only thing I found that doesn’t work is annotation of local PDFs, because Firefox handles that differently than Chrome. Let me know if you find any bugs or if you have comments!

    1. WG says:

      This is a good start, but I haven’t been able to make it work for me, because something odd seems to happen when I annotate pages in Brave for Android using the via proxy. When I press to start a highlight, then start to drag, suddenly the lower selection handle jumps to the bottom of the page. There’s also the annoying thing about the annotation menu and the browser long-press menu overlapping reach other, but that’s relatively minor compared to the selection issue.

      1. William, I’ve seen that issue before with Chrome before and switched to a mobile version of Firefox where I haven’t seen it. I’ve filed an issue on the Hypothes.is Client’s GitHub repository with a mention of your bug as well if you’d like to follow it: https://github.com/hypothesis/client/issues/2624

  2. Steps to reproduce

    On mobile version of Chrome using the via.hypothes.is prefix to activate Hypothesis on any website.
    I try to highlight a specific piece of text beyond a single word.

    Expected behaviour

    I would expect to be able to slowly and accurately highlight a specific piece of text.

    Actual behaviour

    Once I’ve got a small piece of text highlighted and try to expand it with the “handlebars” to go either up or down the page, generally beyond text on the same line, the cursor jumps immediately down to the very bottom of the page and it becomes essentially possible to select a particular block of text.

    Browser/system information

    Chrome browser v 86.0.4240.75 on Android 9

    Additional details

    I’ve experienced this before on earlier versions of Chrome/Android. I’m not aware of it having ever worked properly before. I don’t experience the same issue on the mobile version of Firefox on the same phone.
    @williamgunn has reported a similar bug when using the Brave browser as well at:

    Syndicated copies:

  3. As far as I know, this would no longer work for most websites, following Hypothesis decision to restrict their web proxy: https://web.hypothes.is/blog/why-we-no-longer-run-an-open-proxy/

  4. Manik says:

    Hi, I tried this method on my Android phone to open urls from Pocket. But it didn’t work. I tried opening with Chrome and Firefox. Both times got the same error “the webpage doesn’t exist”. The app works for opening urls shared via Chrome.

    1. Chris Aldrich says:

      Pocket has its own urls for content rather than the canonical permalinks, and that can be problematic. Hypothes.is also changed their via proxy, so it doesn’t always work on every url now.

      1. Manik says:

        Okay. It’s there any way I can open PDF with this app?

    1. Chris Aldrich says:

      Diego, thanks for your post and translating the details into Spanish! https://anotacionweb.com/truco-anotar-hypothesis-celular/

  5. Muhammed Ali Kilic says:

    It doesn’t work for me, but is is quite frustrating that Hypothesis doesn’t have a functioning mobile app by now…

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