ailon's DevBlog: Development related stuff in my life

Public App Feedback #1: Nextgen Reader for Windows 8

1/29/2013 6:03:22 PM

I’m going to try something new. There are quite a few apps that I use very often and like a lot, but obviously I have a few things I don’t like about them or some minor things I miss. I was meaning to send feedback to developers of these apps for a long time, but couldn’t find the time/willpower.

At the same time I promised myself to blog [almost] daily. So I thought I can shoot 2 of these goals with one shot. Hopefully this feedback is valuable not only to the developers of said app, but other developers too. If not, just let me know in the comments below and I’ll consider shutting down this new “section” of this blog.

To be clear, I’m only doing this for great apps that I really like, so you can consider these feedback posts as my endorsements of the apps. I have no interest in providing feedback for crappy apps (well, unless I have some special feelings towards the developer ;)

Nextgen Reader for Windows 8/RT

The first app in this series is Nextgen Reader – an RSS reader (Google Reader client). I’ve tried quite a few of the feed readers. Some of them were more “powerful” than Nextgen Reader, some offered more “innovative” approach to reading RSS feeds, but I prefer the straightforward approach of Nextgen Reader.

That said I had a love/hate relationship with the app for some time because it wasn’t very stable a couple of minor versions ago. At some point it was crashing too much and I thought I had enough. So I switched to Feed Reader which is another great reader even though I don’t like the UI all that much.

It seems that after an update a couple of weeks ago Nextgen Reader stopped crashing (at least didn’t crash on me yet), so I’m back to using it as my primary reader and here are things I don’t like or miss…

Do we need 2 modes?

Screenshot (6)Screenshot (7)

One of the “killer” features of Nextgen Reader is support for 2 modes: “classic” which is close to Google Reader or Mail app or something you would expect a feed reader to look like (left); and “modern” which looks like People and other Windows Store apps with large panels for each feed item.

I assume the first is aimed at keyboard-mouse users and the second one at touch users? Honestly I don’t know which one I prefer. And most importantly I don’t hate any one of them. I could’ve used one or the other just fine. The presence of 2 modes just adds confusion and wastes my brain cells when I think about switching (or not switching) to the modern mode on every launch. I’m pretty sure it also wastes precious developer time. But I guess there are people who feel strongly in favor (or against) one or the other. So dropping one of them now could result in a public outcry.

At the very least there should be an option to pick the mode it launches in. Or better yet just persist the mode between launches.

OneNote-like collapsing of hierarchy

Another annoying thing is that in classic mode all 3 columns (feed list, feed post list and content) are always visible. This is not a big deal when used in full screen mode, but I mostly have a Tweetro snapped to the side when reading feeds and all 3 columns suffer:

Screenshot (8)

I really don’t need to see the feed list column when I’m reading 20 articles in a particular feed. The list should be collapsed. Most of the other RSS reader apps do this. Even craptastic Mail app does it. And OneNote does it beautifully.

Wider reading pane in “filled” mode

Hierarchy collapsing would allow for content pane to be wider in classic mode and there’s no reason for reading pane to be as narrow in filled mode as it currently is.

Screenshot (9)

Just make it wider.

“Open in browser” is behind ellipsis in “classic” mode

When I read a post and want to read the comments or post my own I’d like to go to the website in a browser. In “modern” mode the “open in browser” button is front and center (top left, actually ;) (see the screenshot above). For some reason in “classic” mode the “open in browser feature is hidden behind an ellipsis

Screenshot (11)

There’s more space in that top bar to fit it even in the filled mode. And I sync once per reading session and wouldn’t mind going to that sub menu or app bar to do that, but I’d love to be able to open the post in browser without that extra tap.

Video resizing

New version resizes images to fit the reading pane. That’s great. It would be great to do the same for videos (at least YouTube) and I think it’s pretty easy to do.

Screenshot (13)

Part of the video doesn’t fit and YouTube’s HTML5 player craps out a little when it doesn’t fit into the screen.

Sync doesn’t load feeds that had no posts

And finally a minor bug report. It seems that after you’ve read all the posts in a feed syncing doesn’t load new posts for that feed.

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That’s it. As you can see most of my issues are pretty minor and otherwise Nextgen Reader is an awesome app. Highly recommended.

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