I’m pleased to announce the release of Byline 3, the long-awaited successor to the first and best Google Reader app on the App Store. (Well, I think it’s the best, but then I would, wouldn’t I?) Byline has been pulled apart and reworked from the inside out, and the result is a lean little monster of an app that’s more functional and elegant than ever before. I’m very excited about this update, and I think you will be too when you get your paws on it.
I wanted to add features to Byline without adding bloat — in fact, I wanted Byline 3 to be even more sleek and spare than its predecessors. Sounds like an impossible goal, doesn’t it? Yet this kind of magic is what the iPhone’s all about. Who needs abstract on-screen buttons when you can just reach out and grab what’s in front of you. Intuitive scrolling gestures have been part of the iPhone since the beginning, yet RSS apps tend to make you to stab at fiddly little buttons to get from one article to the next. Apple‘s own Mail app suffers from a bad case of the buttons too, but it’s RSS apps that really feel the pinch (as it were), since you’re likely to have a far greater volume of feed articles to sift through than email messages.
No more. Byline 3 lets you swipe from page to page with a natural sideways motion that feels just like moving between images in the Photos app. It’s amazing how fast and frictionless reading your feeds becomes when you no longer have to concentrate on controls — the interface seems to just disappear. Using Byline now feels completely natural whether you like hold your iPhone in both hands, your right hand, your left hand, your teeth … maybe not your teeth, but you get the idea. Once you’ve tried it you’ll never look back.
One of Byline’s most useful features is offline browsing, which allows you to read full web pages linked to by your feeds — with images and CSS — when you’re on the subway, in the sticks, or just stuck with a slow connection. The trouble is that caching web pages was an all-or-nothing affair in earlier versions of Byline, so you’d either have to wait a long time for Byline to cache your feeds or risk not having your links available when you really need them.
Byline 3 caches web pages up to twice as fast as before, but that’s just the beginning: caching is smart now. Byline 3 continuously analyses your feeds and automatically decides which ones really need to be cached, usually because the RSS feed contains only short snippets of text. Instead of wasting time caching web pages when the full text of the article is in the feed anyway, Byline just caches the web pages you’re likely to want, making your offline browsing experience far more complete than before even if you don’t have much time to let Byline cache when you’re online. This all happens automatically, but if you want to fine-tune the process you can manually enable or disable web page caching for individual feeds.
Byline is now tightly integrated with Twitter, Instapaper, and Read It Later. I’m especially pleased with the Twitter implementation, which automatically handles URL shortening if the Tweet becomes too long to post otherwise. You can even compose Tweets offline — if necessary Byline will automatically shorten the link before posting the tweet when you’re next online. Instapaper and Read It Later are handled in a similarly robust and offline-friendly way.
Emailing an article has been improved by embedding the full item content in the message, and sending it without leaving Byline. If you use Evernote you’ll love this, because it lets you save items by sending them to your Evernote email address.
Byline 3 doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel — it just gives it a good polish. All the graphics in the app have been tweaked till they shine by the ridiculously talented Emanuel Sá of Iconlicious. The result is a cleaner interface and a more beautiful app.
Big as this update has been, I don’t intend to rest on my laurels. I’m working on more goodies, including a native iPad version of Byline. Watch this space.