Prickle is a Beautiful Pinboard App Without the Functionality

Recently, I got myself a Pinboard account to start saving articles that were important to me for archival purchases. At about $10 a pop, it’s not too expensive and it seemed like it was an easy cross-platform way to get access to web articles that are important to me.

That being said, I really wanted to find a way to access these articles on my devices. Pinboard’s great, but the website doesn’t look fantastic on mobile devices — even iPads — and I wanted a Pinboard app with a great interface. This is why I decided to give Prickle a shot. It’s got one of the most beautiful interfaces I’ve ever seen for a Pinboard app. Read on to find out if it’s worth your hard-earned cash.

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iOS 7, Meet Pinboard

Pricke looks just like it belongs on iOS 7. I know it’s shallow me, but that’s one of the reasons I downloaded it. It’s bright, it’s clean, and it knows how to present my content to me when I want it. Things like that are valuable.

Prickle is a beautiful Pinboard browser.

Prickle is a beautiful Pinboard browser.

Prickle is also smart enough to include its own web browser, so I can search the web and look for other bookmarks to add to Pinboard as I go. Prickle isn’t trying to replace Safari, but I get the feeling that it knows that making it easy to browse the web is important for an app that encourages you to browse your bookmarks.

The menus are tucked beneath the browser on either side of the screen. The left menu is where you can browse everything you’ve saved to your Pinboard account. When you swipe to the left of the in-app browser, a menu on the right pops up to let you bookmark whatever page you’re on with the standard Pinboard options. You can, of course, add tags or a description and make it public or private.

All the menus get out of the way when you just want to read.

All the menus get out of the way when you just want to read.

I’ve elected to make everything private and I don’t do much with Pinboard in the way of read later services, so I make sure nothing is tagged as unread. That being said, I’m a little disappointed that Prickle doesn’t contain a text parser of some kind in its web browser. That would really make reading on the web a superior experience in the app.

The design, though, is really nice. For the most part, it’s really responsive. Instead of tapping on the browser to close a menu, though, you often have to tap on the navigation button that would otherwise open the menu. It sounds a little strange because it is a little strange. It’d be nice if you could swipe a menu shut or tap anywhere to close it, but that’s unfortunately not the case.

Tags are really easy to add if you want to bookmark something to read it later.

Tags are really easy to add if you want to bookmark something to read it later.

The menus are nice though. It’s easy to add tags and descriptions to anything you want to add later, and it adds everything to Pinboard very quickly. It also retrieves information as quickly as the service will allow it, which is great.

Getting Organized

As anybody who uses Pinboard regularly will know, getting organized is an essential part of the experience. If you use a tonne of tags or do happen to read things later, you want to know that you’re covered.

While Pinboard’s interfaces are pretty, I didn’t necessarily find they were always as functional as they were beautiful. If you use Pinboard as a Read Later service, you probably won’t have any problems. There’s a very clearly-marked Unread folder that acts like a Smart Folder in Mail.app. Tap any article in that list and it will be marked as read, although you can mark it as unread again if you still haven’t finished it.

The tags are very bizarre to me and don't quite work properly.

The tags are very bizarre to me and don’t quite work properly.

But if you use it for tags, you’re going to notice some serious inconsistencies and some minor quirks. For example, although all of your tags sit in the app, if you organize them from most-tagged to least-tagged, you’ll find that Prickle doesn’t quite get that right. I have more items tagged with “iOS” than I do “psychology,” but Prickle said I used “psychology” more often. What’s ironic about this is that the total tag count is displayed beside the tag itself, so the user is consciously aware of Prickle’s obvious mistake.

Tags also repeat themselves. I saw “psychology” listed three times even though I’ve only tagged one article with it. Prickle’s tagging methods are more like a broken iPod Shuffle than they claim to be.

Finally, the real problem? There’s no way to search! I’ve only got 21 articles saved right now, but let’s say I get to the point where I have 21,000 saved (which certainly isn’t unheard of). Tag browsing isn’t going to be enough for me. If I can’t search for titles or tags or by description, I’m not going to be able to find what I’m looking for. And I don’t know how Prickle plans on being anything more than a service for casual users, like what I currently am, if it doesn’t offer a search feature.

Final Thoughts

Prickle is a pretty app that’s sorely lacking in important functions. It’s unfortunate, because it could be a great service for power users. As it is, the app is aimed squarely at the casual market — and since when did casual Internet users use a service like Pinboard to begin with? Prickle is, unfortunately, a compromise in the wrong direction.


Summary

Casual users will probably find Prickle is beautiful and enough for their needs, but do casual Pinboard users even exist?

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