zebra barcode printer in vb.net Figure 2-8. Viewing an item in Objective-C

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Figure 2-8. Viewing an item
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CHAPTER 2: Yet Another Google Reader
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I d like to think I can make this experience better in a number of areas. Let me go through a few of the biggest problems. It basically boils down to lack of overview, cumbersome navigation, and lack of data control.
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Lack of Overview and Cumbersome Navigation
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The cost of the iPhone s portability is obviously screen size, and there s only so much you can show with just 320 480 pixels available. This limitation makes it a lot harder to be a UI designer but also a lot more fun. In my opinion, one of the best UI designs Apple has made with the iPhone OS is the navigation view paradigm. They ve obviously felt challenged by the screen size limitation and have come up with a great solution. The way they ve designed the table view and navigation bar to present and offer navigation in an indefinitely deep hierarchy of data is simply ingenious. And it s become the obvious choice for presenting large amounts of data. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that pretty much all the newsreader applications I ve come across use the table view and navigation bar. Except for not being able to see more than what fits the screen at a time, there s one problem in particular with this solution: it s very inefficient to step through data sideways (i.e., to go directly to a sibling). Not only do you have to make several taps, you also have to go up a level just to see if there is something else at that level. Take, for example, the folder hierarchy shown in Figure 2-9. If you ve drilled down to the A/AA path on the iPhone, and you want to go to A/AB, you first have to know there is an A/AB path, and then you have to go back one step to A before you can move into AB.
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Figure 2-9. A simple, illustrative folder hierarchy on Mac OS X and the iPhone OS
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CHAPTER 2: Yet Another Google Reader
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But that s just two quick taps, you say. You re right, but again, it s not just the two seemingly easy taps. It s mainly that you can t see what s in the parent, only its name if that name fits on the back button, that is. In other words, when you re in folder AA you can t see there s a folder AB. Depending on the context, this can cause a feeling of tunnel vision by narrowing the user s perception of the data being presented. An example of this problem is the popular demand for a unified inbox in the Mail application. The navigation view paradigm is great for looking forward, not so much sideways or upward. All newsreaders that rely exclusively on navigation views will inherit these problems, and Google Reader is no exception. Google Reader is further taxed by living inside Mobile Safari s chrome. In Figure 2-10, you ll see the worst-case scenario with the address/search bar visible. In real-world usage, this bar is most often not shown, but the toolbar is, and in Mobile Safari, the toolbar s visibility has nothing to do with the Google Reader functionality.
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Figure 2-10. Google Reader confined to the area between address/search bar and toolbar
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In the newsreader applications I ve used so far, I ve spent a proportionally large portion of my time navigating up and down between groups and feeds. I d like to do more reading instead.
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Lack of Data Control
Lack of data control is a very broad term, and I use it as such. So let me dig a little deeper. We re living in the information age, and that doesn t seem likely to change anytime soon. With all the information available to us everywhere, it becomes
CHAPTER 2: Yet Another Google Reader
increasingly important to be able to filter information and to make it available to us when we want to consume, or discard, it. As the screenshots have revealed, I can have thousands of unread items at any given time. I usually catch up once or twice a month when I have the time for it. When I glance through news items, I may read some right away and save some for later, but I often don t know which I ll save until I view the individual items. Even what currently seems to be the most polished and popular Google Reader application on the App Store doesn t support all these use cases. If you tap an item, for example, it gets marked as read, and there s no way to mark it back to unread; therefore, you lose track of the item and can t easily find it again if you ve chosen not to have read items displayed in the application. With so much information available, I bet many users have chosen this option. You can star an item and review it later, yes, but you may want to use the star in a different way. When we software developers put these kinds of constraints on our users, we may limit them severely in their productivity. Google Reader lets you toggle the read status, but it requires you to scroll all the way to the bottom of the article, which can often be quite a travel especially if you want to read it later because it s a lengthy article. Another and possibly even more important issue, to which I haven t seen a solution anywhere, is the ability to prioritize your feeds and the items therein. I can make no distinction in the applications between what I must read and what can wait. As you saw in Figure 2-6, I subscribe to various related feeds that I ve grouped in the iPhone folder (only feeds with unread items are shown). But some of these are more important to me than others. Instead of grouping my feeds they way I have, I could group them by importance, but I would lose the current grouping and have unrelated feeds mixed together, which is not what I want. That would be like having a newspaper with sports and politics mixed together, and who could even imagine such a thing Besides, the importance is also likely to change from time to time, depending on the things I m currently working on or active within. In other words, neither Google Reader nor any other newsreader application I ve used lets me give a hint as to what s important to me and what my reading patterns are, let alone automatically adapting to them. Every feed, every item is treated the same.
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