Reader X ($1.99) by Wolfgang Augustin is a new way to look at your typical RSS feed app.
For a long while, Reeder for iPad has been my RSS reader of choice on the iPad. There are other good alternatives out there, such as Mr. Reader. While both of these are great RSS apps on the iPad, room for innovation is thin. That is, until Reader X came along.
Reader X provides a completely new way to look at your typical list or cluster of articles and other items. Once you log in to your Google Reader account (only Google Reader is available), the app will give you a brief tutorial page that will show you the basics. I recommend giving this a quick look through, because it’s just a brand new experience out-of-the-box.
Your feeds will appear in a wallpaper-like grid. Items are organized by folder (items without folders appear at the top), and on the most left column, you will see the name of the actual feed. Articles will be shown in the other columns, with newest articles on the left, which you can swipe left and right on to view older articles. Unread counts will appear on the right. To refresh, just tap on the button on the top menubar.
You’ll notice from screenshots that the grid has several different colors. Each item is color coded depending on if it is new and unread or old and read, as well as how old they are. New articles will appear in shades of blue, while old items appear in gray. Even starred items are supported, with those appearing in yellow. By default, the All filter is on, though you can switch to Unread or Starred items only.
I actually like the idea of color coding articles, depending on how old they are. In other RSS apps, it can actually be a bit hard to see what you have already read and what you still need to see (unless you are really looking at it), so I appreciate the ability to instantly see the status of my reading list. It's definitely innovative, and I have to wonder why it wasn't done sooner.
Of course, scrolling left and right through a feed can be tedious if there are a lot of items, right? Fortunately, Reader X allows you to tap on the name of a feed and you are able to “zoom in” on all of the articles listed.
When you want to read an article, just tap on its square. A popover window will show up with a preview, and you can read the article that way (along with buttons for marking it as read/unread or starring it). The other way to read it is to expand the window and viewing the entire webpage.
If you view an item in the original webpage view, then there is another button at the top that you can access – the coveted Sharing menu (a must in any RSS app). With the Share menu, you can open the link in safari, copy link to clipboard, email link, save to Read It Later, Instapaper, or Pinboard, and post on Twitter or Tumblr. For some reason, Facebook is missing here – hopefully the developer can add that in a future update.
The Settings for the app include an option to change the color fading on an item, depending on how old it is (your options are one, six, 12, 24, or 48 hours). You can also toggle badge count, reload automatically, and pre-fetch webpages in the background.
While the app is innovative in an otherwise increasingly stale space (it’s actually hard to innovate here), it needs to be more intuitive. I would like to see the Share menu when viewing a popover preview of an article – having to go to the webpage to access this is extra steps and unnecessary.
There also needs to be a way to exit out of the full webpage view without having to tap on the “X” in the top right corner – this can be annoying, tedious, and uncomfortable (especially if you are on the couch or laying down in bed). There is a teensy bit of space left in the margins when you view the webpage (it frames it, basically), however, tapping there does not take you out of the view (I tried many times).
While Reader X works on an original iPad, it seems to be a bit choppy and laggy at times. The developer says that performance of the app is much better on an iPad 2, so be wary, original iPad users!
Fortunately, the developer seems to be very open to feedback about the app. He has already informed me that he is already working on several things with Reader X, including: typography, color schemes, preview-popover design, and sharing popover design.
If you want to check out the latest innovation in RSS apps on the iPad, then I recommend checking out Reader X. It’s currently on sale for a limited time for $1.99, so I’d grab it before it goes up.