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Roadshow from Fetch Softworks downloads videos to iPad for offline viewing

Longtime Mac users are very familiar with Fetch Softworks. The company has been around since 1989, and is named after the classic Mac FTP client -- Fetch. Now Fetch Softworks has branched out with a new addition to the family named Roadshow.

Roadshow (free download, $4.99 in-app purchase to remove ads and enable unlimited video) isn't a Mac app, and it's definitely not an FTP client. It is a fun iPad app that answers the question "How can I download online videos for viewing on my iPad at a later time when I'm offline?"

How it works

Roadshow has a built-in web browser that you can use to head out to your favorite sites. When you find a compatible video (more on that in a moment), you'll see it show up in a horizontal scrolling icon list above the browser. To download and save the video for offline viewing on your iPad, just tap on the video icon and a progress bar shows you how the download is coming along.

The app worked well in limited cases. For example, when I browsed Vimeo I was able to tap on any video and have it appear in the scrolling list for download. I easily queued up a few videos for download in this manner. However, I didn't have a lot of success with many other sites. Anything that is stored on YouTube, for example, cannot be downloaded. That's not really the app's fault, but more a legal detail of the terms of use for YouTube.

Compatible videos

My next idea was to see if I could download some of the tutorial videos from Apple's support page, hoping that if my Dad ever gets an iPad, I could preload a bunch of tutorials on the device. No such luck. Next, I headed out to PBS to see if I could grab some video. Nope, it's all Flash content, so there's no way to even watch the video on the iPad, nonetheless download it.

I went out to four local TV channels to see if I could watch news stories, thinking that Roadshow would be a great way to capture the news for viewing later. Once again, I was stymied by the inability of the iPad to play Flash video. Fox Business News video was available, so I quickly grabbed copies of our very own Mike Rose in several of his frequent appearances as an Apple pundit.

Fetch lists Vimeo, MSNBC, and TED Talks as sites that have compatible video. After this experience, I'm going to go out of my way to make sure that TUAW TV Live can be watched using Roadshow -- right now, we host the completed videos on YouTube and embed them into each week's show post.

Other washouts included ABC.com (they want you to watch the video through their free app), NBC.com (Flash...), CBS.com (full episodes weren't available, although clips were), Fox.com (Flash, although they do have an iPad app), the Food Network, A&E TV, Xfinity.com, you name it. I didn't realize just how bad the situation is for video on the iPad until I wrote this review. C'mon, Apple and Adobe -- let's get this resolved!

The collection

When you do finally locate a video that is viewable on the iPad and you download it, Roadshow puts the captured video into a "collection," a virtual storage shelf onto which each of the video clips is placed. To watch a video, you tap on it and then tap the play button. The video goes full-screen, and you're able to enjoy it. To delete a video, there's a trash can icon. Sharing videos is made possible by a button that allows you to send a link to the original source web page.

Conclusion

Roadshow works as advertised. I only have one minor complaint about the app. For a company that has had such a beautiful icon for Fetch for many years, the Roadshow icon is disappointing. Perhaps you can change it to your Fetch dog carrying a video in his mouth...

Unfortunately for Fetch Softworks, the inability of the iPad to view Flash video makes it difficult to get source material to watch! If you have a source of non-Flash video that you're used to watching through Safari on the iPad, then by all means download the ad-supported free version of Roadshow. You can try it out and watch up to 15 videos; after that point, there's a $4.99 in-app purchase that removes ads and lets you watch video until you drop -- or run out of non-Flash videos.

Roadshow is fast, intuitive, easy-to-use, and a wonderful way to view video offline on an iPad. It's so nice to see Fetch Softworks branching out into the world of iOS apps, and if Roadshow is any indication, we're going to see some great things out of this venerable development house.

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