When it comes to apps that let you view news in innovative formats, Flipboard occupies a special place. After all, the app was one of the first to throw a totally different spin on reading news on tablets, delivering it in a digital magazine-like format. And while a number of clones and imitators have sprung up, Flipboard remains in a zone of its own, and pretty much one of the first apps that people download when they get a new Android or iOS device. Well, it has now moved up to version 2.0 and while its news-to-magazine-format magic remains intact, the app has added a new bayleaf to its wreath – that of passing on the power of magazine creation to its users.
First things first, for those who know not about Flipboard (we will refrain from questioning the planet of their residence), the app basically aggregates news from a host of sources and then presents it in a very catchy, flippable digital magazine-like format. You have the option of being able to choose your sources from a variety of headings and well-known websites and publications, and you can even integrate your social networks with it, to see them ‘magazinified’ as well. You can share stories on social networks, and tweak settings to view them in all their glory or only in part and so on. Basically, it presents news in a magazine format and does so brilliantly, with illustrations and images very well interspersed amongst text.
Fine, THAT bit of the app has not changed. It pretty much looks and works the same away as in the past – launching the app shows you a slew of tiles, each one of which represents a source of news, and clicking on each shows you the items under it in a flippable magazine format (and the pages flip faster and more smoothly, thanks to some tweaks, we are told). And, praise be, neither has the fact that the app comes free of cost, although unlike its predecessor, Flipboard 2.0 has not yet made its way to the Google Play Store.
What IS new is the tiny ‘plus’ symbol that appears in the corner of every news item that you read. Tap on it and the news item gets transferred into a magazine that has been made entirely by you. You can give the magazine a title of its own, add it to a particular category and even throw in a catchy description if you feel up to it. You can also opt to make your magazine a publication for your eyes only or be generous and leave it open to the public, even giving users the option to subscribe to it. And well, if even that does not suffice, you also can share your magazine on your social networks or mail them to people you deem worthy of reading it. Round that off with the option of getting notifications whenever someone likes or comments about your magazine or subscribes to it, and the option of adding content from your browser using a bookmarklet, and well, you should be feeling a bit like a publisher by the time you are through making your magazine. Should you prefer staying a reader, you can also browse through and subscribe to select magazines created by other Flipboard users.
In best Flipboard tradition, it all works very smoothly indeed. Magazine creation and subscription was a snap. Yes, we wish there was a way in which we could control the ordering of the stories in the magazine and the cover, both of which seem to get generated automatically and cannot be moved around, but then, Flipboard has always stood for ease for use rather than super customisation. And we have to admit, we have not seen an app that has made magazine creation this smooth. A must download? Need you even ask? When was the last time an app let you not just read news in a digital magazine format but even let you create and share your own magazines, so elegantly and with so little fuss? We just hope it comes to Android soon, because having it on just one platform is downright criminal. Now, if you will excuse us, the publisher in us will go back to bringing out a new magazine…
Available from: iTunes App Store