Mr. Reader: New kid on the news block

Posted on by Mike Evans

My beloved Reeder newsreader application has been set aside (at least on the iPad) for the past couple of weeks while I have been sampling a new product out of Berlin, Mr. Reader. I like it. But let’s get the icon out of the way first. The moustachioed gent in the bowler hat and monocle is certainly a bit whacky, but he is at least evocative of Berlin in the 20s. It’s very Christopher Isherwoodish and I’ve taken to calling the app Herr Reader. The icon doesn’t grate on me as much as it seems to upset some of my fellow bloggers, but it is certainly a little odd.

Back to the app itself. As a v1 product, Mr.Reader is impressive. You would think there couldn’t be too many permutations on ways of reading your news feeds, but Mr R manages to introduce a few new ideas. For starters, alongside every news item there is a small panel where you can star, share, tag or send (such as to email or Insapaper). You don’t have to click the item, as you do in other popular newsreaders. This makes for quicker selection and I actually prefer it.

Mr. Reader with Berlin theme. The white box at the top left-hand is where you will see your own Google-mail account.Note the convenient action panel to the right of each storyClicking a news item¹ brings up the full synopsis and buttons for setting up an RSS feed, looking directly at the web page or reading the text in Mobilizer (which offers a similar clean, text-based version similar to that in Instapaper). In Reeder you can perform the same trick using Readability but it seems to take much longer to load than does Mobilizer in Mr.Reader.

Both applications have similar service menus including copy link, mail link, mail article, Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, Pinboard, Zootool and Instapaper. In Reeder (where services are viewed inconveniently in device Settings rather than within the app) you have a slightly larger choice including the addition of Google notes and Readability. As with Mr. Reader, you can turn services on and off so you see only those you use regularly.

One thing I dislike in Mr. Reader is the need to confirm actions when using a service. With Instapaper, for instance, you are first presented with a panel which gives you the option to enter a summary before pressing Send. I don’t use summaries, although I imagine some people will find this feature useful, so I find the extra step annoying. In Reeder you simply press the Instapaper button and the item is sent. It would be nice to have the option to switch this feature on and off.

Mr. Reader is currently for the iPad only while Reeder is available on both devices.

Both Reeder and Mr. Reader do a good job and ultimately choice comes down to visual appearance, layout of stories and accessibility of buttons. Unusually, Mr. Reader comes with three built-in themes which allow you to change the appearance. It’s loaded initially with “Berlin”, but you can substitute “New York” (which appears to be simply a more dismal version of the German capital, perhaps intentionally) and “Paris  by Night” which turns all the news feeds into white text on black. Let’s stick with Berlin which Mr. Reader clearly knows best.

I’ve saved the worst till last. Mr. Reader keeps crashing, often while sending a news item to one of the services. It is a first edition and probably as I write there is a bug-fix update meandering through the corridors of Cupertino². Don’t let it put you off because Mr. Reader is worth the effort.


¹ Both Mr. Reader and Reeder take their feeds from your Google Reader account. Use your Google mail address to create a free Google Reader account and then log in with any of the popular newsreader apps, including NetNewsWire.

² Indeed, I read today on Mr. Reader’s blog: 
about a day ago Just uploaded v1.0.1 - mainly a bugfix release - to Apple for Review”

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