Since the release of the iPad the biggest complaint has been that it is just a device to consume content. The complaint that real work cannot be done on the iPad is still present today, but it’s disappearing fast due to software updates and developers getting more creative with their apps. While the mindset that an iPad can be used to create content is changing, there is no argument that the device is great to consume content.
Content can be consumed in different ways. Some people rely on Twitter to keep them updated while others may be put all of their websites they follow into an app such as Flipboard. Although, RSS is still a great way to keep up to date with news and your favorite websites. Google Reader is a free service which syncs your RSS subscriptions and there are several apps that sync with Google Reader.
Mr. Reader is one of the apps that syncs with Google Reader and has become my RSS app of choice on my iPad. The app is a full featured RSS app with abilities to add subscriptions, manage subscriptions, and share content across several services. The app also brings in unique features such as creating themes and different ways to mark items as read to make it stand out from the crowd.
Mr. Reader will have a familiar format to those coming from Google Reader on the web. The feeds and folders are positioned in the left hand column while the content is positioned to the right. The article table shows a preview of each item within a feed. Within the preview of each item are quick action shortcuts including marking an item as read, starring an item, tagging an item, and access to the sharing menu. Items can be organized chronologically or by feed.
Personally, I organize my feeds chronologically with my oldest feeds appearing at the top.
Depending on the orientation of the iPad the article table will change behaviors. In landscape the width is a fixed width of content but in portrait mode the article table is similar to Twitter for iPad by including the ability to swipe content back across the screen to access your feeds and folders.
Mr. Reader is pre-loaded with four different themes to choose from. I tend to like a grey/darker theme when reading so I chose the New York theme. A unique feature in Mr. Reader is that users can create their own themes and upload them to this website to share with other users.
The themes can be installed directly from the iPad. This is a very unique feature. Most apps will have some type of color scheme or theme to choose between but that is where the choice ends. With Mr. Reader, if you do not like any of the themes then you have the ability to create your own theme.
Before I started to use Mr. Reader as my RSS app, I was using Reeder. Reeder is a great app with a unique interface but it lacks some features that I consider to be essential to an RSS app. One of the features is the ability to subscribe and unsubscribe to new sites. Within Mr. Reader subscribing to new feeds is as easy as pressing the + button in the upper left corner. This will open a search box where you can search for the feed to add. Removing a feed is easy as well. Just perform a long tap on the feed you want to be deleted and press Delete on the pop over menu.
Once you are subscribed to several feeds using folders to organize your feeds can keep things organized. Within Mr. Reader you can create folders, move feeds into folders, and delete folders. Feeds within folders can be navigated into so that only one feeds’ content will be shown.
With a name like Mr. Reader, surely it must be pleasant to read in the app – and it is. Across the top of an article lies the options to view the RSS feed, web view, or read later service view. I do wish that the read later services could be customized across the top. For example, if I only want to see the Instapaper view then I could elect to turn off Readability and Read it Later. As far as I can tell the views are going to be identical as well which does not really make sense why all three options are available at the same time.
The read later services option is great for sites that do not offer full length RSS feeds. For most sites the content can be pulled straight from the site and whole article is available for reading. Mr. Reader will also remember your last used view selection for each of your feeds. This is especially useful for items that you always want to view in the web view or by using a read later service view. Just open the item and instead of the RSS feed opening it will pull the web page or the preferred read later view.
When going through your RSS feeds you’re bound to encounter items that you want to share or save for reference in the future. When an item is open a toolbar will be present across the bottom of the item. This toolbar can be moved to the left, right, or bottom of the screen. The toolbar includes actions such as marking an item as read, starring an item, tagging an item, and a share button. Inside the share button is where you can share the item to different apps installed on your iPad such as, Grazing and OmniFocus.
Also within the sharing menu lie the usual services such as Twitter and Facebook and some unique ones including Zootool and Pinboard which is nice since I use both services.
Mr. Reader supports sharing content to multiple Twitter accounts.
Mr. Reader also has a couple of features that make it stand out from the competition. One of my favorite features is the ability to mark an item as read while scrolling. As soon as an item is scrolled off the screen the item is marked as read. Some might argue that marking all items as read is easy and puts the user in more control but if I get interrupted while going through feeds, I do not want to remember where I left off. I might not be able to pick up clearing through feeds for several hours, at which I will not remember the last item I read. Also if you prefer manual control you can direct Mr. Reader to mark certain items as read.
Hold down the mark as read button in the article table and the option to mark all items above or below the item as read will appear.
As previously mentioned the only real complaint I have with the app is the confusion of the placement of the three read later services in the article view but I do have two general complaints as well. First is the name. Mr. Reader, really? I agree it’s a unique name but when recommending apps to people I always cringe before saying Mr. Reader. The other complaint is the icon. The icon fits the name but it’s not visually appealing sitting in my dock. For some users I know these items are deal breakers but I find the functionality of the app far surpasses these minor annoyances.
Mr. Reader is a great app but is it right for you? Of course there is no definite answer but by looking at your current RSS subscriptions you can probably deduce an answer. If you currently only see 50 updated items through the day and very rarely add subscriptions then you might enjoy a more visually stimulated RSS app like Reeder. Mr. Reader would certainly work for a user who does not see a lot of updates during the day but I think its’ features are going to be more appreciated by the RSS power users, the users who see 200+ updates throughout the day.
Mr. Reader has become my RSS app of choice since it is a full featured RSS app with unique features. The app has multiple ways to mark items as read, supports sharing to multiple twitter accounts, includes heavy integration with read later services, and the themes are customizable which means there is no end to the design of the app.