The iPad is Apple’s best hardware device for reading web pages, PDFs and digital magazines. Downloading or importing your reading content to the tablet reader means no more file drawers of folders or stacks of paper, or magazines collecting dust in your closet.
Zite (iTunes Store Link) brings the right mixture of customization and newspaper style reading to iPad users. With a Wi-Fi connection, you can easily access news content with a tap of a button. Let’s take a closer look.
What distinguishes Zite as a news aggregator is that it attempts to customize and deliver the type of articles you like to read. When you first open the Zite, it asks you to create your magazine using your Twitter feed and Google Reader if you use them.
Zite doesn’t directly download your feeds from your Google Reader, it uses the reader to build the type of topics you’re interested in. If you don’t use Twitter or Google Reader that much, no problem, just tap the “Skip this step” button. At this point you can select from a broad range of topics to build the type of articles that you want downloaded for you.
As you can see in the screenshot above, the categories include politics, business and investing, gaming, gadgets, science news, food and cooking. You simply tap the sections to start the process.
On the last page of the sections process, you can enter keywords, such as wedding, urban planning, San Francisco, and knitting. Wait a few seconds for Zite to see if there are enough articles for the topic. I tried inputting some topics (such as “Sacramento, and “MacBook Air”) and didn’t get anything. Seems as though the topics need to be more broader in scope, such as “California” and “MacBook.”
Zite delivers an almost magazine style layout of suggested stories and categories from popular websites. The huge difference between this digital reader and paper magazines is that you don’t have to flip through pages and pages of advertisements and wasted content to find what you’re looking for.
Many potential users of Zite will not like that they can’t””at least in this initial version of the application””enter specific sites or RSS feeds in the application. However, when you do come across articles from sites you like, you can specify your preferences.
Click on the right sidebar of an article and you can tell Zite if you like or dislike the article. You can also tap “Give me more from,” to get articles from a particular site or author. There’s not much explanation for how suggested articles are pulled from various sites, your Twitter account, or your Google Reader. Each time you launch Zite, it refreshes your content. Sites I subscribe to in my Google Reader do show up, but I can’t gauge the content which is not delivered.
Magazine Style Layout
I like the way articles are laid out, and though the application can hang for several seconds before articles open, pages are clean cut and reader friendly when downloaded. The interface is very easy to navigate and it doesn’t feel overwhelmingly crowded. You get three text and text style sizes to choose from. And selected content opens in the application’s internal web browser.
However, unlike the two other popular news aggregators, namely Flipboard and Pulse, links inside of articles downloaded in Zite must be opened in the iPad”˜s Safari web browser, which means you must leave Zite in order to read linked content.
You can of course, share selected articles on your Twitter and Facebook accounts, or via email. However, Zite doesn’t seem to have a direct synchronization with your Google Reader. It just pulls suggestions from it. This is not a problem for me; since I started using the iPad to read news feeds, I don’t have much need to read articles in Google Reader itself. I am satisfied with just linking to it, via apps like Zite and Pulse. I get more than enough content to consume, and I typically save my favorite articles in Instapaper.
Zite may not appeal to many users who want more control over what they read, but many will like how easy it is to navigate and consume content. Let me know what you think of it.
Also, if you’re an owner of an iPad or are interested in getting one, check out MUO’s free “iPad: A Magical and Revolutionary Guide,” by James Bruce. It’s packed with tips and tricks for using the device.