Blame it on Flipboard. The app that made it big on the iPad has pretty much redefined our expectations from newsreading apps, pulling us away from the text-heavy RSS feeds of yore and tossing us into territory that looks more like a digital news magazine than anything else. The result: scarcely does a new platform pop up on the horizon than the pundits nod indulgently at its interface and then pause and ask “Ah yes, all very good. BUT does it have anything like Flipboard in the app department?” (and Instagram too, but then hey, this is a story about a Windows 8 news app). If you think we are exaggrating, just ask Android users how long they laboured under that slur.
Well, the Windows 8 crowd won’t have to do that. For while, Flipboard itself shows no sign of arriving on the platform, it does have a few handy clones out there. The best of which is News Bento. No, it does not have the kind of social network integration that Flipboard or Pulse have – you cannot get a magazinifed look at your Twitter and Facebook account on it – but if it is plain news you are after, then the app certainly does enough to draw comparisons with Flipboard.
The concept of the app is the same as Flipboard – present news in the form of a flippable digital magazine instead of the normal mostly-text-and-odd-picture mix. The system too is rather the same – you choose the channels you want to follow, and can also add the RSS feed of a website if that is not among those mentioned, although there is a very good selection of them available readymade. In a manner of speaking, the app reflects Windows 8’s tiled interface look, with different ’tiles’ representing different websites. Tap on one and you see the content laid out in a magazine-like format which you can browse through easily – you can flick through stories. There is Google Reader support too so you can just check the feeds you follow there in a flip-through format. You also have the option of viewing the article in an even less uncluttered format using the ClearView option, or to just view the story in the browser. And just like on the Windows 8 homescreen, you can move the ’tiles’ around and rearrange them in any order you like. Of course, this being a Windows 8 app, you can use the OS’ native sharing muscle to share stories on social networks.
All in all, it makes reading a lot of fun on high-resolution Windows 8 tablets, with its abundance of white spaces and good formatting. No, it is not quite as awesome as Flipboard which has subject-based channels of its own, works signficantly faster, lets you even check and update your social networks in that magazine-like form, and even seems to lay out articles a whole lot better. But still, this is by far the best news reading app we have seen on Windows 8. Pretty much a must-have if you love keeping in touch with the news and have a Windows 8 tablet or touchsreen device – the magic is not quite the same when it comes to flicking between stories using a touchpad. Ah, but then that is something we said about Windows 8 too.
Available from: Windows Store (Free)