I’m a big fan of Mr. Reader’s new services menu. Through URL schemes (documented here), it allows the app — a Google Reader client — to send selected text, URLs, or article titles to other apps. One of the custom actions posted by the developer allows you to create a new note in Byword, possibly formatted as a linked post for your blog.
The action (which you can download here) uses by Byword URL scheme to create a new note. In the note, you can have the article’s original title, some selected text, and a source link formatted as Markdown. As shown in the image above, you can modify the template with any characters you want. For instance, I added a > character before [TEXT-SELECTED] to format the selection as a quote block in Markdown.
I personally use Nebulous Notes and Poster to create articles for MacStories on the iPad, but a lot of folks like Byword. Check out the Mr. Reader action if you’ve been looking for a way to send text and links from Google Reader to Byword.
A “services menu for iOS” is a chimera advanced users and developers have long been trying to hunt down. It all started with a mockup Chris Clark posted in 2010, showing how third-party iPhone apps could offer their “services” – just like OS X apps – to the user through a contextual menu. The concept became popular fairly quickly, but, eventually, Apple did nothing.
Fast forward to 2013, iOS users are still asking for better integration of third-party apps with each other. Developers have resorted to using URL schemes, a rather simple way to directly launch other apps and pass information to them – usually bits of text. App Cubby’s Launch Center Pro has become the de-facto solution to create a “Home screen of app shortcuts”, offering a series of tools (such as automatic encoding and different keyboards) to make the process of customizing URL schemes as user-friendly as possible. Launch Center Pro is, in fact, the utility behind many of my favorite iOS tricks.
Pythonista has also become a big part of my iOS automation workflow. Combining the power of Python with the possibility of launching URL schemes, I have created a series of scripts that help me get work done on iOS on a daily basis. Further leveraging Greg Pierce’s x-callback-url, I have ensured these scripts can take a set of data, send it to other apps, process it, then go back to the original app. You can read more about Pythonista in my original article, and I’ve been following updates from developers who implemented URL schemes as well with a dedicated tag on the site.
I concluded my Pythonista article saying:
I believe that, going forward, Pythonista and other similar apps will show a new kind of “scripting” and task automation built around the core strenghts of iOS. As we’ve seen, x-callback-url is a standard that leverages a part of iOS – URL schemes – to achieve simple, user-friendly and URL-based inter-app communication that can be used in a variety of ways. Looking ahead, there’s a chance rumored features such as XPC will bring more Mac-like functionalities to iOS, but developers will still find new ways to make iOS more powerful without giving up on positive aspects such as increased security and the simplicity of the app model.
There’s no doubt Mr. Reader is becoming one of the most powerful and integrated RSS apps for the iPad. Ever since I reviewed version 1.0 back in April, the developer went back to work to implement several features that are making Mr. Reader a Google Reader client that’s not limited at fetching and marking items as read from a native interface. Rather, Mr. Reader shipped with a good selection of external services to send your favorite articles to, but version 1.1 added support to create tasks in OmniFocus and integration with third-party iOS browsers like iCab. Whereas most feed readers want to provide a good reading experience but don’t focus on letting you get those feeds out of the closed Google Reader experience, Mr. Reader aims at filling the gap between online services / apps and RSS.
Version 1.2, released yesterday and available now at $3.99 in the App Store, takes the whole concept of getting articles out of the app a step further. With Evernote, Send2Mac and Terminology support, you’ll be able to save articles as notes in your Evernote account, send webpages to your desktop browser in the background thanks to the great Send2Mac service (which already works on Lion), or get definitions of words you don’t know if Agile Tortoise’s app is installed on your iPad. Unlike Instapaper, definitions are not provided in a popover inside the application (at least on iOS 5): when you select a word and hit the Terminology button, you’ll be brought directly to Terminology with the selected word at the top of the list and a popup at the bottom saying that you opened that word from Mr. Reader.
Evernote support is really simple, and I like it: the app will create a blank note with just the title and URL section saved from Mr. Reader. As for Send2Mac, it works perfectly but it only allows you to configure one computer — I’d love to add both my MacBook Pro and iMac to Mr. Reader.
There’s a lot more in Mr. Reader 1.2 though. Tapping on an article will let you open all feeds from the original source; you can send articles to Readability, if you’re a fan of the service; a new theme, Sydney, has been added and others have been refined; the annoying modal sync window has been changed to an unobtrusive spinning indicator that doesn’t overlay the feed list. Alongside dozens of other bug fixes and improvements, Mr. Reader now remembers your preferred view for each feed automatically.
At $3.99 and with updates coming out every few weeks to make the app more stable and integrated, I’m excited to see Mr. Reader taking on Reeder as the most powerful (yet elegant) iPad RSS reader. While looking forward to iOS 5 and (perhaps) iCloud integration, you can get the app here.
Mr. Reader, the RSS app I reviewed earlier this month, keeps getting better and aims at becoming the most powerful, yet elegant Google Reader client available on the iPad. The first version of Mr. Reader was so full-featured for being a 1.0 release that it made me consider placing it on my homescreen to see how I would go by in my daily workflow (which implies dealing with at least 500+ articles per day) without Reeder, the app I’ve used for months. Mr. Reader wasn’t perfect — it still isn’t — but it was one of those promising pieces of software that showed great things to come. The developer announced a major update was already in the works, and as I kept using Mr. Reader as the only feed reading app on my iPad I wondered would could get better, and whether my main complaints with the initial version would be addressed or not. The modal window for sync is still there, but Mr. Reader 1.1 is a huge update overall that makes navigating between unread feeds and getting things done with the app a more pleasing, productive experience.
Mr. Reader 1.1 can now send articles as “tasks” to OmniFocus and Things. In OmniFocus, you’ll get a task with the title already filled in, and the article’s URL in the notes. Mr. Reader is now deeply integrated with other iOS apps and web services: the app can forward items to iCab, Mercury and Atomic Web Browser, send articles to Diigo and, more importantly, it allows you to read in Readability view. Articles can be read in fullscreen mode (you can change this in the settings), Instapaper and Read It Later got an option to remove the confirmation dialog, and switching between the unread list and a single article has been improved with the implementation of the “pinch” gesture. I find myself really digging the possibility to tap on a headline to read the article in fullscreen, then pinch to go back to the main list — it feels very natural. As far as marking items as read goes, a new tap & hold action on the “mark as read” button allows you to automatically hide items older than 1,2,3 days or 1,2 weeks.
There are several minor improvements throughout the whole app as well. For instance, images can be saved to the camera roll, and the settings have been redesigned to host cleaner service configuration options (admittedly, Mr. Reader has a lot of services to play with). The reading panel in portrait has been tweaked to automatically slide back after hitting the “mark as read” button (a minor annoyance in the first version), and the font family can now be changed in the article view.
As I said above, Mr. Reader is definitely en route to become the most powerful RSS application on the iPad, and the most-integrated with third-party apps and services. If you didn’t try version 1.0, perhaps now it’s time to consider following this link and click the Buy button.
I read a lot on my iPad. Either with Instapaper, Read It Later, Flipboard or iBooks, there’s lots of content to consume and these apps made specifically for the tablet are a real pleasure to use. I don’t reckon I read as many articles saved from the web or discovered through social media on the iPhone as much as I do on the iPad. But of course, Instapaper and Twitter aside, there’s another category of apps I’m constantly going back to: RSS readers. Both for work and personal purposes, RSS plays a huge role in my workflow that requires me to stay on top of news, save items for later, and forward them to my colleagues. Google Reader is my RSS service of choice.
On the iPad, there’s no doubt Silvio Rizzi’s Reeder has become the most popular RSS app currently available on the App Store. I love Reeder, and I use it on the Mac and iPhone as well. Reeder is beautiful, fast, stable, has lots of options and syncs with Google Reader. Ever since it came out on the iPad last year, I haven’t looked back. But you know I’m always curious to try out new things and alternatives, because you never know what might be coming out from the minds (and Xcodes) of thousands of iOS developers out there. Mr. Reader, an iPad app released last week in the App Store, is a new Google Reader client that I’ve been testing for the past 3 weeks. I was impressed by the quality of the app, so I took it for a spin on my homescreen. (more…)