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Let Mr. Reader Take Care Of Your Google Reader

Let Mr. Reader Take Care Of Your Google Reader

April 11, 2011
Mr. Reader by Oliver Fürniß icon

Mr. Reader ($2.99) by Oliver Fürniß is a gorgeous Google Reader app for your iPad.

When it comes to Google Reader apps for the iPad, the one that I've stuck by the most over the past year has been Reeder. However, lately I have been using Mr. Reader and so far have been pleased enough with the experience that I believe Mr. Reader is a very good competitor for Reeder.

When you log in with your Google Account credentials, you'll get a screen that is split into two panes. In landscape mode, it's simply two panes, but portrait mode, you can slide the right pane over to completely view it.

The left pane is where all of your feeds and folders are, as well as All Unread, Starred, Shared, and Friends items. To view individual feeds in folders, you simply have to tap the arrow on a folder. Any unread items in a folder or feed will be marked with a count to notify you. Favicons show up next to feed names, which is a very nice touch. The pane on the right will display the list of articles for whatever folder or feed is selected, and unread items will show a blue dot, while old items are dimmed. This interface very much reminds me of Things, so I found it to be well-designed.

Mr. Reader by Oliver Fürniß screenshot

A great thing about Mr. Reader is that you are able to add in new subscriptions by hitting the + button and entering in a new RSS feed URL. Oddly enough, not enough Google Reader apps out there have this feature, so it's especially nice to see that Mr. Reader includes it.

What about deleting a feed? Yup, Mr. Reader has that covered too. I always found it annoying that I was unable to manage my feeds in Reeder, so I especially love this little feature. To delete a feed or folder, you simply tap and hold on it in the left pane and some options come up - Rename, Delete, Reorder, and Move (if it's a feed).

Viewing articles will show you the title, site, author, and published date/time, followed by the article and any images that are in the post. Along the top are three buttons - RSS, Web, and Mobilizer. The RSS is the default view you'll see, but the Web view opens up the article in the in-app browser so you can see it in full glory on your iPad. Mobilizer is a simplified view of the article with just article text and images, which are generated by Instapaper's Text engine.

All posts can also be marked as unread, starred, shared to your friends on Google Reader, assigned your own custom tags for later reference, and shared to a service (these options are also found in the article listing view). The Service menu allows you to open the article in Safari, along with other options: Copy/Email Link, Email Article, share on Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, Pinboard, Zootool, Instapaper, and Read It Later. Font size can be increased and decreased, according to your desire. Navigation through articles can be done by the arrows found in the bottom corner.

While I was using the app, I found the navigation arrows to be a bit tedious to use when holding the iPad in certain ways. Usually, I like to navigate with my left hand, so those buttons in the bottom right corner were a nuisance. Fortunately, you can change the location of the bottom toolbar to either the left or right side, or back to the bottom. This is especially great for those that like to hold their iPads in certain ways that aren't great with the default placement of the toolbar.

The annoying thing with the current layout though, is that you'll have to find yourself constantly hitting that Done button to go back to the main view of articles and other folders/feeds. The Done button also resides at the very top right corner and is unmodifiable. It can be tiresome to always be reaching up to that spot if you're going through a lot of reading material. A secret though, is that you can tap anywhere outside of the window of the current article to go back. With this in mind, I'm not sure why the Done button is there anyways.

Don't feel like reading those dozens, hundreds, or thousands of items (this has happened to me before!)? There's a button to Mark All Read that resides at the top of an article listing pane. During the first time of using this button, it will prompt you if you want the app to always ask you if you're sure you want to Mark All Read. This is nice if you're the type that doesn't like to confirm something twice.

Mr. Reader by Oliver Fürniß screenshot

A refresh button is found at the bottom of the left pane, and there is a Settings menu from the app. Mr. Reader allows you to customize the Sync settings, Feed Item Images, Services, Sounds, and Miscellaneous settings. Additionally, there are three themes available - Berlin (default), New York, and Paris By Night. All of them look great with subtle textures but don't take away from the reading experience. It's great to see themes available for a Google Reader app.

Despite Mr. Reader being a 1.0 release, I have found the experience to be smooth and pleasant. In a way, I am actually starting to prefer the features in Mr. Reader over Reeder, especially with feed management. The interface is also great.

There should be some fixes though. On the initial sync, depending on how many items you have in your account, the sync can be a bit slow, and during this time, you can't really do anything else. The sync should take place in the background so you are still free to read older items. After that, the sync is not as slow, but Reeder still beats it. While this isn't a bad thing, I hope to see that the developers improve the syncing speed in future releases - this is only a 1.0 app, after all.

I also did find the toolbar buttons to be a bit hard to see at first, and a bit small. This should be an easy fix though, and I hope that the developers improve the visibility of these crucial buttons in updates. The themes are great, but they all have the same basic color - gray and black. For some people, I think that having more colorful (but not too outrageous) themes would be nice, and provide more choice for the user.

But don't let those shortcomings stop you from checking out Mr. Reader. The developers are already working on updates for the app, so hopefully there will be many strong updates to this very polished app. I believe that $3 for an app like this is a bargain.

Mentioned apps

Mr. Reader
Mr. Reader
Oliver Fürniß

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