Longform ($4.99) by Longform is a great complement app to your preferred “read-it-later” service. It’s a reader that is specifically tailored to longer articles, which are perfect for Sundays, flights, and commutes.
When I did my first app showdown a few weeks ago on read-it-later apps, it was brought to my attention that Longform is a great way to get curated content into the three main read-it-later apps. Even though the main service used with Longform is Readability, the option for the other two are there as well, so it is usable by everyone.
So what is Longform? Basically, it is an aggregator of in-depth articles from some of the best magazines in the world. Additionally, there are hand-picked reads from the editors of Longform.org, so there's plenty of content to find and read.
The app itself works in both landscape and portrait modes, and the view is the same in both forms: two panes, with the list of sources on the left and the articles on the right. Of course, the app can be used by itself, but if you want to be able to save articles for later reading, you’ll have to log in from the app’s settings. Additionally, you can have the app start up in reading mode by default (otherwise it will just take you to the web view first).
Longform will display the list of sources in the left pane, with the ”Longform” feed being the first one. To add new ones, just tap on the + button. There are plenty of sources to choose from, including: Slate, Businessweek, Wired, GQ, National Geographic, The New Yorker, and more. Even though there are plenty of sources, this list is just a small fraction of what’s out there. Hopefully more sources can be added in future updates.
Once you have all of your preferred sources added, it’s time to dig into your reading. Tapping a source will display a list of the most recent articles on the right hand pane. Just tap on an article to select it.
If you have Read Mode turned off as the default, then you get the web view. To turn on the Reading view, just select it from the toggle in the corner. Once you’re in the reading mode, you can customize your reading experience with the font and margin settings. This allows you to pick what font you want the article displayed in, size, line and margin spacing. If you have spent any time in Readability or Instapaper, the you know how this goes. Don’t be expecting a wide variety of fonts like those found in both Instapaper and Readability now, though – Longform only includes three basic fonts.
Unfortunately, there is no ”night” mode in Longform, so you are stuck with the bright white background and black text. Hopefully this can be changed in the future.
If you want to share the article, there are options to send it by email, open in Safari (copy the URL), or send it directly to Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. If you simply don’t have time to read and prefer to send it to your preferred read later service, you can do that too via the bookmark icon.
As an avid reader, I found Longform a delight to use and will definitely be keeping it on my iPad. Sometimes it’s just nice to find a longer piece to read to keep yourself occupied for a while, and this is a great way to do that. The interface is simple and easy to use, so I have no complaints about that.
However, the app is not yet optimized for the new iPad, so I was a bit annoyed to see pixelated buttons. I hope that the app is optimized soon, because the it will be perfect on this shiny new iPad. It should be noted, though, that text is as sharp as ever. Since that’s the most important thing about a reading app, Longform is covered in that front.
If you are looking for a way to find some long-form material from some of the best sources in the world, give Longform a try. It’s well worth the price of admission, and I hope to see continued refinements to the app in the future.