The Early Edition and a Cup of Coffee: A Perfect Pairing

The Early Edition for iPad (link opens iTunes) by Glasshouse Apps is an RSS feeder with the look and feel of a daily newspaper. Priced at $4.99, The Early Edition is in the same price range as Instapaper Pro and Newsrack, and is significantly less expensive than NetNewsWire.

When you open the app for the first time you are greeted with a welcome message and a set of sample feeds. The feeds are interspersed on the reading pages like articles in a newspaper–but this newspaper can be customized just for you.

Early Edition can be used in both portrait and landscape modes.  In portrait the entire page is taken up with the “newspaper” and feeds are accessible via a pop up menu.

In landscape mode the list of feeds remains constant on the lefthand side.

The interface is intuitive. To read an article in full, just press on its headline. This takes you to a snippet page and from there you can click through to the entire article. You can email links to articles, send them to Instapaper, open them in Safari, or copy them.

One really nice little feature allows you to scroll through individual articles on the main pages without having to open them up.

To turn a page simply do a swipe gesture and an animated page turn follows.

Or, if you want to move through several pages at once, you can use the scroll bar at the bottom of the screen.

To add a feed you’ll need to know its URL, and you’ll either have to type it by hand or cut and paste it from your web browser. Currently, Early Edition does not support importing feeds from Google Reader (but see below), so manual entry of feeds is your only option.

One thing I couldn’t test was how Early Edition handles large numbers of feeds. My impression, though, is that Early Edition is probably intended for people who read RSS feeds casually. Hardcore feed followers may need a more traditional app that allows them to sort feeds into folders and have more control over where the feeds appear.

What’s Macgasmic:  The Early Edition makes reading RSS feeds an enjoyable experience. Instead of a utilitarian screen with a list of feeds like most other RSS readers, Early Edition transforms feeds into something aesthetically pleasing. Plus the feeds are distributed randomly throughout the “paper” so your reading experience has variety. The UI is intuitive and the page turning animation adds to the newspaper-like experience.  Like other feed readers, you can send articles to Instapaper or email links.

What’s not:  A few things detract from the app. Adding feeds is just too cumbersome: you have to leave the app, go to Safari (or whatever web browser you’re using), find the RSS page, copy the URL, and then return to Early Edition to paste it in. Fortunately, the developer is already well on his way to completing Google Reader integration, something that will appear in a forthcoming update.

Another minor gripe I have is the slowness of the page turning. When you swipe to turn a page there is about a full second or two delay before the page actually turns. Hopefully this will be addressed in an update, or, at the least, perhaps the developer could offer the option to turn off the animation in the settings.

One last thing: often the picture rendering is grainy or there are large gaps of white space in between articles.  This may be something that can’t be controlled–the pictures are being drawn from thumbnails and when they are enlarged they become pixelated. Nevertheless, it is noticeable enough to detract from the overall newspaper experience.

All in all, Early Edition is an excellent RSS reader. In fact, I hesitate to call it just a feed reader because it does more than list the feeds, it transforms them. It makes reading news feeds an enjoyable activity, like poring over a beloved newspaper with a cup of coffee. Once Google Reader integration is included, the app will be close to perfect.

I am a professor at a small liberal arts college in West Texas where I teach Old Testament and Hebrew. I am also a writer. I have a wonderful husband, two amazing kids, two destructive labradors named Calvin and Hobbes,… Full Bio