Review: NewsFlow


Google Reader is a blogger's best friend. For Symbian, the most accessible methods of access have been the various modes of its mobile website. However, noted Qt developer Tommi Laukkanen has been working on a Google Reader application called NewsFlow, which he has written in QML and Javascript. Read on to find out how well it can feed your news needs.

Author: Tommi Laukkanen

Version Reviewed: 1.04

Buy Link | Download / Information Link

Let's start with a quick video look, by Rafe, so you can see NewsFlow in action.

As you'll have seen in the video, NewsFlow has a very clean and slick user interface. The best aesthetic feature is surely the transitions. Having each subsequent view slide onto screen gives the app a refreshing sense of class. Something that is perhaps missing from other Symbian applications when compared to competing platforms.

The initial page gives you a list of links to all the standard Google Reader views: All items, Unread Items, Starred Items, Subscriptions, and Tags. One view that power users may miss here is the Notes view. It is worth pointing out that even the official Reader application for Android neglects to include this too. The 'Settings' page, also linked from the application's front page, currently has just one setting, to toggle the application's theme. The available themes are black text on white, and vice versa.

Viewing NewsFlow in either of its colour schemesq Viewing NewsFlow in either of its colour schemes

Viewing NewsFlow in either of its colour schemes

There are various context sensitive buttons which float at the bottom of the screen, depending on what level of content is shown. For post lists, there is a back button and a refresh button. NewsFlow lacks a 'Mark all as read' button, which is a sanity saving feature I particularly missed. While viewing an individual post, the back button remains, and is accompanied by forward and back buttons, which allow for navigating between posts without backtracking to the list.

Viewing the subscription lists and one of the posts lists Viewing the subscription lists and one of the posts lists

Viewing the subscription lists and one of the posts lists

When viewing a single post, there is an 'Up' button, which when tapped brings up a toolbar of actions for the current post. Posts can be starred, viewed in Web, tagged, kept unread and shared via Facebook or Twitter. The native Google Reader functions worked well. I would have liked to have seen some sort of text prediction for tags though (based on existing tags), as offered in Google's HTML5 Reader mobile website.

Toolbar buttons for individual posts Toolbar buttons for individual posts

Toolbar buttons for individual posts

As shown in Rafe's video, launching Web to view a post works fine, and is only limited by Web's capabilities. However, during testing for this review, the sharing links to Facebook and Twitter would not work. When they were tapped, Web was launched with a blank page, rather than a sharing page from the respective social network.

Tagging a post in NewsFlow

Tagging a post in NewsFlow

Viewing posts in NewsFlow is a pleasant user experience, especially with the silky smooth kinetic scrolling, in both portrait and landscape mode. This obviously works best with sites who publish their full posts via RSS. Regardless, NewsFlow displays as much content as is available, including images. However, there is no resizing control, which means images can get clipped by the screen width, and you're out of luck if the text is too small for your eyes to make out. The text is in a bold font which helps visibility and text size should only be a problem to those with ageing eyesight.

Viewing a post with images

Viewing a post with images

Overall, NewsFlow works fine for viewing the latest news posts in your Google Reader. It's certainly worth trying out if you find the Google Reader mobile site too cumbersome for reading content.

Looking at the inevitable comparison between NewsFlow and Google Reader's mobile site, there is one key differentiator. NewsFlow offers a clean user interface for simply reading content. Meanwhile, power users will appreciate the greater amount (or clutter) of bells and whistles, offered in Google Reader, to aid processing large volumes of news.

Symbian users can download NewsFlow for free from the Ovi Store. It is also available via Forum Nokia for both Symbian and Maemo users.


David Gilson for All About Symbian and All About MeeGo, 17th May 2011.

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