Elliot Jay Stocks is a designer, speaker, and author. He is the Creative Director of Adobe Typekit, the founder of typography magazine 8 Faces, one half of Viewport Industries, and an electronic musician.

Pulse news reader for iPad

Posted on 11 June 2010 6 comments

Article illustration for Pulse news reader for iPad

I’ve been debating whether or not to blog about something that has already received so much attention in the online press (especially when it was pulled from — and then reinstated on — the App Store last week), but ultimately decided that Pulse is just too good an app for me not to mention. Weirdly, it doesn’t seem to have received that much recognition in the web community (or not as much as it deserves, anyway). In all honesty, I have to say that this is my favourite iPad app so far.

(If you’re stuck for time, feel free to skip to the end for the summary.)

Screenshot of Pulse

It’s not just this is a very aesthetically pleasing app (although admittedly my designer’s mind is easily swayed by such things); for me, the reason I’m so enamoured with Pulse is that it represents everything that’s great about the iPad: it’s an new device and it offers a new mode of interaction. The combination of vertical and horizontal scrolling wouldn’t work on a desktop: it’d be a messy affair with scrollbars all over the place. But on a touch-input device, it makes so much sense, and it’s executed beautifully. I catch up on feeds while I’m eating lunch or while relaxing on the sofa at night, and that’s exactly why it’s so well-suited to the iPad: it’s a casual app for a casual device. (Other apps that nail this concept are the Marvel Comics reader and Instapaper Pro.)

Without a doubt, it looks best if you’re subscribed to image-heavy feeds. Posts from Iain Claridge’s blog or Burstoid always look great, and are a constant source of inspiration:

Screenshot of Pulse

Pulse is clever, too. It will use the first image in a post as its background, even if that image is way down near the end of the article. But even text-only feeds look good, thanks to the designers’ tasteful use of typography and desire to keep everything pretty minimal. Have a look at Tim’s feed:

Screenshot of Pulse

Another nice feature is the built-in browser. You can toggle between the text-only view and the full browser view for each story, which is perfect for posts with multiple images, or for those where the published feed only displays a summary. Clicking on the article itself slides away the thumbnail nav, which is just one of the many subtle-but-lovely transitions all over this app.

Screenshot of Pulse
Screenshot of Pulse

There’s a button to open the site in Safari, and I’m hoping that the next version will add ‘save to Instapaper’ functionality, which is fairly likely if the forum is anything to by. An iPhone version is apparently on its way ‘very soon’, which spells good news for those without an iPad.

Pulse will probably not replace your desktop-based / web-based feed reader. I love Fever and will always use it for ‘power reading’, but Pulse is the reader I check the most often. And, although naysayers will moan about its 20 feed limit, there’s actually something pretty therapeutic about selecting your top 20 feeds and checking those alone. (It’s also worth noting that it integrates with Google Reader, if that’s your thing.)

Static screenshots don’t really do the app justice, so have a look at this video, as it offers a good overview of how easy it is to set up feeds in Pulse, and it also gives a decent run-through of all its features.

Summary

To conclude, this is why Pulse is favourite iPad app released so far:

The good

  • Absolutely beautiful interface
  • Does exactly what an iPad app should: embrace the benefits and limitations of the medium
  • Perfect for casual news catch-ups, like while you’re eating lunch or relaxing on the sofa at night
  • Offers easy switching between text-only version and a full web browser
  • Makes RSS fun again (and — shock horror! — visually appealing)

The not so good

  • Currently only supports up to 20 feeds
  • Occasionally fails to load the latest items in some feeds
  • No Instapaper support (yet)

I’d say it was time to head on over to the App Store, wouldn’t you?

6 comments

  1. Matt

    Matt

    11 June 2010 @ 04:54PM #

    Wow it looks absolutely gorgeous.

  2. Gareth Poole

    Gareth Poole

    11 June 2010 @ 05:21PM #

    Support for 20 feeds only is a pretty nasty snag, but that UI definitely makes up for that. Is this a paid app?

  3. Anurag Sharma

    Anurag Sharma

    11 June 2010 @ 06:37PM #

    The app looks gorgeous. I would like to buy it when I get an iPad.

    But, I am still thinking why they have a limit of 20 feeds. Is there some technological limitation or they thought who would read more than 20 feeds? But, then again a normal user don’t really go over more than 20 feeds a day, when you are updating yourself while going in that subway to your office.

  4. Amber Weinberg

    Amber Weinberg

    11 June 2010 @ 08:52PM #

    I’m a huge fan of the Early Edition reader. It arranges all of your feeds into a beautiful typographic newspaper…and you can add unlimited feeds :P

  5. Tom Muller

    Tom Muller

    13 June 2010 @ 07:27PM #

    See, I sadly have to disagree with you on this one. I bought Pulse as well, based on early buzz and seeing some screenshots — hoping it was going to be a really innovative reader. But alas it just style over content. Sure its probably early days for it, but having a limit of 20 feeds is not good, and those feeds only display a limited amount of posts (unlike lets say NetNewsWire or Google Reader where you can specify how long read posts stay in your reader).

    The interface design itself feels a bit 90s (45º corners anyone?) and how a selected article is displayed isn’t great either, scaling post images down so small, you’re forced to go to the web view within its small viewport to access larger images — pretty useless when reading image-heavy blogs — and the app crashes occasionally when you access the web version through its built-in web viewer.

    All in all I’d say its a good start, and I can see the potential here, but right now I feel its very counter-productive. Most (good) feed readers manage to strip out unnecessary fluff, not by adding it.

  6. Anders Gyllenhaal

    Anders Gyllenhaal

    29 June 2010 @ 07:08PM #

    I downloaded Pulse on my Ipad yesterday, but the program simply fails to open today when I try to use. This is not impressive. I’ll be waiting for instructions on this.

    Anders

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