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Early Edition 2 rebuilt, offers Google Reader sync, UI changes, more

When the original iPad was released last April, Glasshouse Apps released The Early Edition, one of the first styled RSS readers for the device. Much like Flipboard and some others, The Early Edition gathered your feeds into a self-curated "magazine." It was nice, but The Early Edition 2 (TEE2) is a huge improvement.

A complete UI redesign, gesture support, Google Reader sync (as well as in-app feed additions) and a fun sharing function make TEE2 a pleasure to use. Here's my look at The Early Edition 2 (US$4.99) by Glasshouse Apps.

Overall UI

Glasshouse went with a newspaper theme. When you first launch the app, a rolled newspaper appears on a hardwood background (reminds me of my days as a paperboy). A progress wheel spins as the app updates your feeds. Once that's done (it was quick over Wi-Fi for me; I was unable to test 3G), your paper "unfolds" and the front page is presented.

Its appearance will be immediately familiar to anyone who's seen a newspaper during the last 100 years or so. The app's title is written in script across the top with the current date just below it. Blurbs from the first three articles can be read, and photos will appear as they're downloaded. Kudos to the Glasshouse team on keeping this initial download nice and snappy. I subscribe to an insane number of feeds and watch as well over a thousand images download (you can track their progress on the front page). Yet, the app's performance never suffers.

Unique to the front page is the "Sections" section. If you're using Google Reader as TEE2's source, the sections correspond to any folders you've set up.

To read an article, just give it a tap. The black-and-white layout keeps everything legible, as does the optional style override (more on that later). Additionally, three font size options let you choose the size that's right.

The second page of each issue offers several handy features. A "trending words" feature lists terms that appear frequently; tap each for a list of the top articles. Saved searches offer additional content customization and the Sync Stats let you know the last time the app performed a sync with your RSS source(s). The remaining pages offer individual articles, sorted by topic. This is where the fun begins.

Cool features and other UI goodies

Three super-cool features of TEE2 include the Browse Menu, the Clippings Menu, sharing options and the Toolbar. Each offers a fun and darn attractive way to interact with your news. Here's a look at each.

The Toolbar remains hidden until you need it, which is nice. To produce it, swipe down anywhere on the screen (just not the very top, as that will reveal the iOS 5 Notification Center). The chestnut-brown Toolbar offers access to the app's preferences, brightness settings, help files and sync progress notification.

Among the more interesting options is the Featured Feeds list. Just tap the spotlights icon in the Toolbar and the app "flips over" to reveal a list of suggested feeds across several categories, like Mac + iOS, Business, Entertainment and more. Tap any category to reveal its sources and check those you'd like to subscribe to.

The Browse Menu is also pretty cool. Tap the Toolbar's list icon to produce a list of your defined sections and feeds. Each displays an unread count and an optional star rating. Starred articles go into the clippings file.

Consider the clippings to be a collections of favorite articles. To access it, swipe up from the bottom of the screen. The newspaper will disappear and a box of your favorited articles appears. It looks great, in keeping with the rest of the app. Have I mentioned that The Early Edition 2 is very pretty? Because it is.

Sharing

Speaking of pretty, prepare for some serious eye candy. TEE2 goes all social on you with its sharing feature. To share an article, tap the share button in the article-specific toolbar (available when reading an article full-screen). A "Shared Copy" stamp appears on the article, and a manila envelope UI slides into place, offering to share the article with Twitter, Instapaper, Facebook, Delicious or Read it Later. Once you've set these up, just tap Send and off it goes.

Gesture support

Who has time to tap buttons? TEE2 offers some sweet gesture support. Swipe left-to-right with two fingers to bring up the Browse Menu. Swipe up to produce the Clippings UI (though you can't swipe again to put it away) and swipe down to reveal the main Toolbar. Finally, swipe left-to-right on an individual, full-screen article to dismiss the style override and read it as it appears on its parent website (I much prefer the ad-free style override).

The Early Edition 2 will be available from the App Store on October 20. Note that this is a separate purchase from The Early Edition, and requires iOS 5. In my opinion, it's absolutely worth it. The app looks fantastic, has a clever and engaging UI and is plenty fast. Plus, those who don't use Google Reader aren't out of luck, as you can switch to standalone mode and add feeds a la carte style. I recommend you check it out and curl up with a good read.

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