The Early Edition: Read the News in Style

Reading on the iPad is one of the key features that has been praised and advertised. Subsequently, there are a great number of apps out there to allow you to follow the news and stay up to date.

Only a few apps, however, will present the news to you in such a stylish way as The Early Edition. We take a deeper look at the news reader and how it holds up against the competition.

Reading vs Skimming

Which news reader is right for you will depend greatly on your reading habits. Do you have so many news sources that you usually just skim through the headlines and send articles for later reading to external services like Instapaper or Readability?

Or, are you the savorer who likes to sit back with some sources of choice and actually read through the content? While most, if not all, news readers allow you to do both, The Early Edition is – in my opinion – targeted especially towards the latter group.

Opening Up Your Early Edition

When you start up the app for the first time it comes pre-filled with various news sources covering different topics, ranging from business, to politics, travel, and food.

Welcome to your Early Edition

Welcome to your Early Edition

The news sources are on the left, while the news content is arranged on the right. Every article has a preview displayed, and if available, a preview image is included. The design is reminiscent of a newspaper layout, with longer articles/previews at the top and only headlines at the bottom.

By default, preview scrolling is activated – which means that you can actually swipe up and down on a preview text and see some more. More text is indicated by fading last lines.

Scroll the article preview

Scroll the article preview

On the very bottom of the page you have an indicator as to how much news content is available. You can either use the slider to move forward (and quickly) or you can do the fun thing and swipe across a page.

Flip through the pages as you would in a real newspaper

Flip through the pages as you would in a real newspaper

Quickly access content via the slider

Quickly access content via the slider

Also, to quickly access content from a specific topic, you can either select the corresponding section on the left or even the specific feed. As expected, a tap on an article brings up a larger preview with the option to view the full article in a web view.

As a navigation bonus – and really fun way to browse content – you can simply swipe left and right to access the next full preview.

Swipe between full articles

Swipe between full articles

Sharing Galore

If you find an article you want to save for later reading or share with others, The Early Edition offers an abundance of options.

Share interesting content with social services or save for later

Share interesting content with social services or save for later

Popular services like Instapaper and Read It Later are supported, as well as social services like Twitter and Facebook. Old fashioned URL copying and emailing are included as well. It’s worth mentioning, however, that there’s no support for Readability yet.

Be Your Own Editor

Even though The Early Edition comes pre-loaded with quite a few sources that will enable you to get your first fix of news, you probably have your own feeds that you’ll want included.

Through the Edit button you can create new sections (folders), add sources, remove them, or re-organize them. I like the way you can select news sources for a section a great deal – you can simply tap the feeds and they will receive a checkmark. It’s effortlessly easy and intuitive.

Heavy Google RSS users will notice that you can easily import all your feeds by just entering your Google credentials. Whilst more tech savvy users will find use for the OPML option. Upon entering a source, you can also immediately sort it into a section.

Easily manage new and existing sources

Easily manage new and existing sources

Everything In Its Right Place

There are four areas included in the settings menu, each holding options to control the behavior of The Early Edition. The last holds the previously mentioned option to enable or disable the the scrolling of the text previews; the first option lets you handle how often you fetch new data (daily, every launch, manually).

Basic settings

Basic settings

The default article view might be the most important option here as, depending on your taste, you’ll either stick with the content of the RSS feed and switch to web view when necessary or decide go to the web view right away.

I myself prefer the first option, especially when on the road and on a data-plan.

In the top bar you’ll have spotted some additional buttons.

On the very left you have a calendar icon. By tapping it you can select what content you would like to see. The three buttons to its right serve the very same purpose, but if you have past editions (the day before etc.) you can target them individually via the dropdown only.

Manage your editions

Manage your editions

Depending on your selection, the numbers next to the feeds on the left side indicating the amount of new data will also change. Don’t overlook the option on the very bottom to delete past editions. You can of course keep the news for as long as you like, but it soon gets cumbersome to wade through everything – and this way you can clean your paper out quickly.

The well known mechanical icon lets you access the settings and to the very right you’ll find the refresh button. The interface is very straightforward and easy to use.

The Minor Drawbacks

If every app were perfect, there’d be no need to review or critique it. Since that isn’t the case there are, of course, some things that still need to be ironed out with The Early Edition.

My primary issue with the app is its lack of synchronization. I use Google Reader religiously, usually just skimming through content. But on my way to work or during a quiet moment on the weekend I want to actually read articles. Too bad for me that The Early Edition does not sync back read articles to Google. So the next time I open my other RSS app (Reeder) I get the same content again. With almost 100 feeds, that’s annoying.

Also, The Early Edition does not let you mark articles as read. So when you launch the app the next time, you’ll have the read and unread content mashed together. While I can understand the desire of the development team to stay true to a real newspaper, I just don’t think it’s practical with the amount of content available today.

Lastly, while The Early Edition offers a wide range of sharing options, you can’t star an article for Google RSS and have it in the starred section when opening the web application. Of course, there’s Instapaper and all those other services, but as a heavy Google RSS user I’m not too happy about having my content strewn across too many platforms.

Alternatives

As I mentioned in the introduction, there are different ways of consuming news and there are hundreds of apps to satisfy different tastes. My main news reader is the universal app Reeder. It sports a more minimalistic interface, which is beautifully designed. For skimmers like me, who need to get through a large amount of content quickly, it’s perfect. It’s also integrated with many different services, including Instsapaper, Readability, Zootool, Read It Later, Twitter and more.

If, on the other hand you’d like a tighter integration of social streams, or a differently designed news presentation, have a look at Flipboard or the new app Zite which rely heavily on Twitter and Facebook as well as randomly selected content that becomes tailored to your reading habits.

Verdict

The Early Edition is a fantastic news reader if your news consumption does not happen on the run, or if you don’t have too many news sources. The iPad app is beautifully designed for really reading articles and enjoying the process.

There are many tiny details which become apparent only when using the app and it’s a joy to discover a new gesture or option that make reading even more fun.

Have you already used The Early Edition or do you prefer another news reader? Tell us about your experiences in the comments!


Summary

The Early Edition creates a digital newspaper from sources of your choice and presents them to you in the style of a real newspaper.

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