Early Edition 2 for the iPad Review

I have been impressed with Glasshouse Apps' Early Edition RSS reader since it was released well over a year ago. Since then, Glasshouse has been busy refining their flagship application to be as iOS fluid-friendly as possible. Their results have culminated in their next generation RSS reader, Early Edition 2. Is it worth the new purchase price? Read on to find out.

A couple of months ago, I switched from using Early Edition as my primary RSS reader to Pulp, an RSS reader that uses a similar newspaper column-style metaphor. While not nearly as beautiful as Early Edition, Pulp won me over thanks to its OSX desktop equivalent that maintained synchronization between the desktop and iPad. This proved to be a huge timesaver, since I often re-read the same posts using Early Edition and Mac Mail's built-in RSS aggregator feature.


Early Edition 2

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Early Edition 2 (EE2) now supports synchronization between itself and Google Reader, so that limitation has been addressed. Additionally, Early Edition 2 takes "iOS-ification" to the extremes. Page animations, transitions, multi-touch gesture support, screen rotation, and the amazing story layout engine is a sight to behold. If Apple were still conducting their annual Apple Design Awards, EE2 would be a serious contender for the top prize.

Unlike the prior version, EE2 can also function completely offline by downloading and locally caching all related story images. While this sounds like a helpful feature on paper, it didn't work too well for me in practice. In fact, the first time I enabled this feature and it started pulling down images, EE2 crashed to the springboard (Apple's term for the iOS desktop). I restarted the app and it eventually completed its download, but it took nearly ten minutes to complete the fetch. It also inflated its local storage considerably. This must be the reason this image-fetching caching feature is disabled by default. Due to the amount of bandwidth this feature can consume when it's enabled, there's also the option to disable offline image fetching when connected over a 3G network.


Early Edition 2

After EE2 fetches the content, its intelligent story formatting algorithm reflows the layout into a beautiful, newspaper-looking style that is far more attractive compared to the original Early Edition release. I was stunned to see how smart this layout worked in practice. Depending on story length, image sizes and the story's neighbors, some stories would take up half a column while others could take up the full page, just like a real paper-based newspaper. Even page turns curl as you move your finger over the page, just like they do in iBooks. You really have to see it for yourself to believe it.

Glasshouse has also expanded the number of options that can be done with stories. In addition to the standard choices like post to Twitter and send email link, EE2 now allows articles to be clipped and stored in a virtual shoebox for later reading. They have also added a powerful search feature that pre-populates the search page with most frequently cited words in the stories that have been retrieved. And images can now be flipped through like a photo album, perfect for feeds that contain comic strip and photo enclosures.

So have these amazing new features been enough to unseat Pulp from my desktop and iPad? Almost. While I love the new look and the bevy of new features in EE2, I have been spoiled with Pulp's seamless desktop integration and story synchronization. Yes, I know I can now sync with Google Reader, but I'm just not that big a fan of this service. Now if Glasshouse decides to bring their design expertise to the desktop and can synchronize across the OSX desktop and iPad via something like iCloud, that would be a huge win and bring me back to using EE2 exclusively as my RSS reader of choice. As it stands, I will continue use both Pulp and EE2, and here's how.

For the more persistent feeds, I'll continue to use Pulp to keep things synchronized for the feeds that I refer to frequently. For the newspaper-style stories, I will rely on EE2. Almost like the distinction between magazines that have a longer shelf life versus newspapers that have throwaway content once the story has been read, these two apps will serve their own unique RSS aggregating functions.

That said, EE2 is an amazing update and one of those incredible showcase apps to keep when showing off the iPad and is a textbook example of how a text-rich iPad application should behave. Nice job, Glasshouse!

Product: Early Edition 2
Developer: Glasshouse Apps
Price: $4.99
Rating: 4/5 stars

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Mike Riley is a frequent contributor to several technical publications and specializes in emerging technologies and new development trends. Mike was previously employed by RR Donnelley as the company’s Chief Scientist, responsible for determining innovative technical approaches to improve the company’s internal and external content services. Mike also co-hosted Computer Connection, a technology enthusiast show broadcast on Tribune Media's CLTV.