Mr. Reader has now taken over from Reeder and NetNewsWire on my iPad’s home screen. In fact it has become my most-used iPad application and is a joy to use. What’s more, the Berlin-based developer, Oliver Fuerniss of Curioustimes, is one of the most responsive and dedicated people you could wish to meet. I do like a developer who gets back to you quickly and puts suggestions into practice without delay.
So it was when I contacted Oliver and mentioned that my biggest wish was for a direct interface with OmniFocus to create OF tasks from within Mr. Reader. This is something that Instapaper on the iPad (and iPhone) does well. Within days he had taken up this suggestion and I was soon trying out the OmniFocus link in an advance copy of Mr. Reader 1.1 which is now in the App Store. Things is also supported.
At one stroke, the Omni button in Mr. Reader has speeded up my news workflow and cut out a complete interim stage. Before this I would scan the news in Reeder and send anything of interest to Instapaper. Then I would have to trawl through Instapaper and send stuff to OmniFocus. It’s in OF that I manage all the news sources and organise blog posts. In fact, anything of interest now goes direct to OmniFocus and can be sorted out later.
This is just one small facet of Mr. Reader, as Oliver has pointed out, but for me it is the most compelling reason to use the application. I’m just sorry there isn’t a companion iPhone app because I now get withdrawal symptoms if I don’t have my iPad on hand.
Mr. Reader has a gorgeous appearance (there are three themes: this is Berlin but you can have Paris or New York) and works well in either landscape or portrait mode. The sidebar on the left contains the list of news feeds (synchronised with your Google Reader account) and icons to access starred, shared and tagged items. To the right is the list of news items with a full synopsis so that in most cases you can make a decision without having to drill down to the full-page view. To help with this, every item has an action panel to the right. This is more convenient than having control buttons on the top or bottom of the screen.
In this action panel alongside every new item are buttons for read status, star, share, tag and forward. The Forward button can be customised in Settings (within the application itself rather than in system settings) to list all the destinations you might want to use: Various email options, Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, Diigo, Pinboard, Zootool, Instapaper, Read It Later. This is also where you can activate the “Add Task” feature for both OmniFocus and Things. I have a minimalist approach and have switched on just two options: Email Link and Send to OmniFocus.
To make things easier in portrait view, the entire panel containing news items can be slid to the right, partly covering the sidebar but exposing the full width of the synopsis and, of course, the all-important control panel.
Tapping any item opens it in full-screen mode where you can see the full story (as with many blogs) or an extended synopsis (as with some newspaper feeds). The action buttons from the Forward panel are replicated on the right of the screen (by default), together with navigation arrows (previous and next stories) plus buttons for font size (sliding scale) and font style (Helvetica, Verdana, Trebuchet, Palatino or Georgia). There is also a button to transfer this entire side toolbar to the bottom of the screen (similar to the options of moving the OS X dock). Along the top of the screen are buttons for RSS feed and to open the item in the web, Mobilizer or Readabillity. In all, this is a comprehensive set of tools which you can customise to your own taste. If you’re like me, though, you’ll have your small subset of favourites and stick to them.
I alternate between using Mr. Reader in portrait and landscape depending on circumstances. Both work well and the placing of the action buttons is so convenient that in most cases you can work using the right thumb to tap the buttons. There is little need to take your hands off the edge of the iPad and this speeds up work enormously. Ergonomically, Mr. Reader is without doubt the best application of its type I’ve used.
Finally we come to the icon of the mustachioed 1920s gent with the bowler hat and monocle. Ben Brooks hated it. He even hated the app originally but has since revised his views. The icon is certainly unusual, a bit Christopher Isherwoodish and reminiscent of old Berlin, but at least it stands out on the iPad’s home screen. You certainly won’t mistake it for anything else (such as when I frequently press the blue Mail icon when I really want the equally blue Safari). Maybe Ben should give Mr. Reader another read.
Where does this leave Reeder, another news reading application I have great regard for? It was my reader of choice until Herr Reader hove into sight and it still comes a second best. This isn’t a comparison test, however, and I am sure many will disagree with my verdict that Mr. Reader is superior to Reeder.
There’s nothing particularly remarkable about my OmniFocus set-up for blogging. It’s a project that needs to be managed just like any other. But this is how I’ve organised the sub-projects to cope with the vast amount of news information that flows through my various devices every day.
Anything of interest is sent to the OmniFocus Inbox and then allocated to one of a number of blog projects. I’ve named the most used projects to start with A so they are always at the top of the list: Actual (stuff I need to write about now), Assess (stuff to read and think about), Reviews (gathering material for reviews), Done Posts (in case I need to check the original source later), Reference, Apple Stats (a collection of various analyst views and similar).