Better iPad Web Browsing

Filed under: iPhone iPad iOS | Tags: , , |

One of the failing points of the iPad (which is otherwise an amazing device), is the web browsing experience.

I typically do “back and forth” browsing: I am looking at the Social Security News (ok, in reality, it is probably Gizmodo or Mashable), selecting articles to open in tabs behind the browser.

On a computer this is no problem. I open a good dozen articles in tabs and then read them in turn. On an iPad though, this does not work.

  • I can not open articles in tabs behind the current window. While I can open article links in a new window, the selected article takes priority. Worse, when I select the originating (main) page from the page browser, the entire page reloads. In fact in my experience, the only time the iPad caches a page is if the user selects a new page and then opens a URL. So I might as well have just opened the link in the current window since I will still have to reload the originating page.
  • Reloading pages is still a fairly lengthy experience. Of course, this is when compared to using a computer which may be an unfair comparison. However, using the iPad is otherwise such an enjoyable experience that it is easy to think of it as a computer. Reading multiple pages though, sends you crashing back to earth.

Fortunately, this can be overcome.

RSS newsreaders redefine browsing on the iPad

Since RSS newsreaders do not have to download entire pages, they are FAST! Not only do I get a list of articles along with images, when I select an article, it pops up immediately. No more waiting for the page to load! I get the immediate gratification of being able to read the text of any article that catches my eye.

RSS readers also feed my techie A.D.D. Not only see the current article, I see what else I could be reading.

Of course, RSS readers are nothing new. However, I never found them particularly enjoyable. They are fine as a business tool to keep track of a large number of blogs, news stories, or search results to identify developments in my industry. But, they always felt like a tool. I may have to use Excel at work, but I am not going to relax with a spreadsheet in my off hours.

Offline iPad browsing with RSS readers

Refresh your newsfeed before leaving your wifi network and your articles are downloaded to your iPad and available for offline reading. There are some blogs that only provide excerpts rather than full text RSS feeds, which keep you reading the entire article if you are out of range of a wifi signal, but so far this has not been a problem with most of the sites I follow.

NewsRack ad NetNewsWire for iPad

I have used both NewsRack and NetNewsWire. Both provide nearly similar functionality and nearly identical interfaces. Additionally, both sync to Google Reader, so you can easily keep your feeds in sync and only see unread articles.

NewsRack seems to have a slight edge in terms of what you can do with articles including being able to share via Google Reader as well as sending the article to the following services

  • Twitter
  • Email
  • Instapaper
  • Delicious
  • Readitlater
  • Facebook

NetNewsWire seems somewhat dowdy in comparison: “only” allowing sending articles to email, twitter, and Instapaper. However, unless you specifically need one of the services NewsRack provides, NetNewsWire is an excellent choice. Also, since we are in the very early days of iPad apps, with updates flying fast and furious, I expect developers to quickly match features in competing products.

If you are feeling ham-strung by the limitations on the number of windows you can open in Safari on the iPad and slow page loads, give a RSS newsreader a try and get back to browsing at full speed.