App Review: Blogshelf for iPad

The web is so chock full of information that keeping up with favorite sources can be daunting. RSS feed readers are a dime a dozen, yet a good way to follow lots of blogs and online resources. If you’re like me, in addition to tracking many RSS feeds, there are a few blogs you keep up with because you like to read everything the writers publish. These blogs are the go-to blogs that you like so much you don’t want to miss anything, and, unfortunately, RSS feed readers can let them get lost in the crowd. That’s where Blogshelf for the iPad fits in nicely — it is like iBooks for blogs.

In essence, Blogshelf is another RSS reader. While it’s not as good as other readers at following a lot of content, it shines at grabbing the content from a few blogs — the app is limited to 90 blogs maximum — and presenting the content in a format that’s easy to read. The app’s utility is extended as it caches the content locally, so you don’t need a connection to the web to read content. This makes it a great tool for following favorite blogs on trips where connectivity may not be available, like on flights.

When you first fire up Blogshelf, you see a familiar bookshelf interface that is very much like iBooks. It is pre-populated with some popular blogs, but you can add the ones you want and delete the ones you don’t via the Edit button at the top of the screen. As soon as the app is activated, it goes online and downloads fresh content for every blog on the shelf. That only takes a few seconds and then Blogshelf is ready to present some blog posts.

When you tap a blog on the shelf, a content screen appears with all blog posts available to read. Each is presented with an excerpt so you’ll know what the post is about. Tapping the excerpt gets you a full screen display of the blog post. The content is displayed in a format that is easy on the eyes, with all links and images intact. Tapping a link opens the internal browser for full web interaction. Tapping the back button at the top of the screen brings you back to the article in Blogshelf.

Blogshelf provides display controls to customize the article display. The font size can be customized, and the display can be switched to white text on a black background. Entire articles can be sent via email by tapping the envelope icon at the top of the screen.

If you just want to follow a lot of blogs through RSS feeds, you will want another reader since Blogshelf is not designed for handling reams of content. It does a good job following those few great blogs, though, and is a capable reader that is enjoyable to use. $4.99.

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