It is now increasingly popular to do a big chunk of your web reading on your iPad. And though you can use several different RSS clients and online services on your Mac to cope with the web’s fire-hose gush of news, blogs, and long-form journalism, just three apps are really necessary to help you get to web content on your iPad: Reeder, Instapaper and Flipboard.
While there are plenty of RSS clients for the iPad, Reeder (£2.99; www.reederapp.com) makes RSS browsing more intimate and immersive than anything you could get on the Mac. No other client we’ve tried – not NetNewsWire, not Byline, not Pulse – has embraced the iPad interface as fully as Reeder. You can swipe through stories, pinch to expand feed folders, and slide stories left or right to mark them as favourites or as unread. And Reeder displays your feeds in a clean, clutter-free interface.
Our favourite Reeder feature, though, is its tight integration with a variety of sharing and saving services. Simply tap and hold on any link within the app, and a pop-over menu appears that lets you share the link via Twitter, Facebook, email, and Instapaper, among other options.
As it collects the web stories your Facebook and Twitter friends have linked to into an attractive layout, Flipboard in effect creates a magazine edited by your friends
What’s more, you can (and should) customise which services appear. Because Reeder has built-in support for Readability (www.readability.com), it works just fine for feeds that post summaries only: reverse-pinch (or tap the R button) and Reeder will fetch the full text. Like many other newsreader apps, Reeder syncs with Google Reader, so your feeds can always be consistent no matter which device you’re using to read them.
We send longer articles from Reeder to Instapaper all the time. Why? Because the iPad version of Instapaper is awesome.
If you aren’t already familiar with it, Instapaper (£2.99; www.instapaper.com) lets you save online articles for later reading. As you surf the web or read your RSS feed, you mark articles you’d like to read later, when you have more time. Instapaper saves the article’s text and images to its server. You can then revisit an article at any time on the Instapaper website or – better – through its iPad app. There are other services like it, but we don’t think any of them match Instapaper’s mix of power and simplicity.
You can customise the way Instapaper presents your saved texts. You can adjust its brightness (independently of the iPad’s own brightness slider). You can also toggle between Light and Dark modes; the latter switches to light grey text on a black background, which is good for night-time reading. You can also control the font, font size, line spacing, and margins.
You can navigate through pages by tapping to turn a page, swiping to scroll it, or (our favourite) tilting to scroll: the more you incline the screen, the faster the words scroll. Regardless of the way you navigate a story, the reading experience is excellent. Stripped of flashing ads, suggestion modules (the “You might also like…” prompts), and other non-essentials, articles are eminently readable.
Even though Instapaper has some tools that connect us to our favourite social networks, it’s Flipboard that specialises in such tasks. Once you supply your credentials for Facebook and Twitter, Flipboard (free; www.flipboard.com) pulls in the text and images from links posted in your feeds. It’s like reading a magazine that your friends edit.
The interface even mimics the paper-based experience, complete with 3D page-turning animations. It provides big, easily readable text previews, but also pulls in the full web page for the linked article.
Like so many great content apps, Flipboard integrates with Instapaper, so you can send articles there for reading later. But even on its own, Flipboard offers a smart, familiar approach to browsing the content that your friends recommend.