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Byline 2.0 update a huge improvement: adds tag support, mini browser

Phantom Fish yesterday updated Byline to version 2.0, adding functionality to browse by tag, and a spiffy new wood-grain interface.

I briefly reviewed Byline 1.0 in July, but wanted to re-visit the application after the update. Byline 2.0 is a Google Reader client and offline browser for the iPhone and iPod touch. After having used beta versions for the last few weeks, I can say with certainty that this update takes Byline head and shoulders above the first version.

Byline 2.0 is faster than both version 1.0 and Google Reader's MobileSafari-optimized interface. Articles are now grouped in folders according to tags you've already set up in Google Reader. You can mark whole folders of items as read, and save items to your phone by starring them. The app doesn't show a splash screen at startup, but instead a "blank" version of the interface, which gives the illusion that the app is hanging for a short period of time. As soon as the list of folders appears, however, loading items was zippy on my iPod touch (connected via WiFi, of course).

Also, Byline 2.0 now includes a built-in web browser (similar to the mini-Safari that's built into Twitterrific), which eliminates the need to quit Byline and launch MobileSafari when you click a link. You can now create and delete notes, too, which will automatically sync with Google Reader (along with all your other read and starred items).

Byline's new wood-finish interface might not appeal to everyone, but I think it looks spiffy. Byline's icon also got a facelift that brings it in line with the texture of the rest of the app.

I found periodically with Byline 1.x, I would use Google Reader's MobileSafari interface, if only to read items in a particular folder. I'm pleased to say that since I installed the beta that Phantom Fish was kind enough to send me, I haven't gone back.

Phantom Fish has a video tour on their website, if you're interested in seeing the features first-hand.

Phantom Fish is offering Byline for $3.99 "for a limited time only." This is a six-dollar discount from its original price of ten bucks. It's an excellent product, and if you're as tied to Google Reader as I am, an excellent investment. You can get a copy of Byline 2.0 in the App Store.

Programming note: We'll also be sharing an interview with Byline developer Milo Bird later in the week.

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