Get off my lawn.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Handstand: Google Reader integration

I've been getting a lot of feedback on Handstand lately, and one thing a lot of people have asked for is the ability to define their own RSS feeds.

It's a feature I wanted too. However, something like an Android-based RSS reader seemed a little too obvious. I'm a frequent Google Reader user, and I thought it might be cool to integrate Handstand with it in some way. That way, you could have all of your feeds in one place, whether you're on the phone or on your desktop.

My first idea was to let someone manage all of their feeds in Google Reader and merely read them in Handstand. I tried that, and it seemed too limiting. It didn't give me the ability I wanted... which is to have full Google Reader access on the phone, and not through a browser. I want to be able to add feeds, edit them, remove them, shuffle them around, mark items read/unread, starred/not-starred, e-mail them, etc.

So, since the last update, I've been banging out code until my knuckles are hot to the touch (and a little sore). And now, Handstand includes all of the above. You can add feeds, edit and remove them, and mark items as read/unread, and add or remove stars from items, and every change is reflected in Google Reader.

There are a few wrinkles at this point, which I'm going to fix in the next couple of days:

Screen flow: Currently, the screen right under "News/My Feeds" in Handstand goes to the article list. If you haven't selected a feed yet, you get the feed selection screen. If you have, the last feed you were reading is the one that pops up. I don't like this, because I'm always hitting the "back" button to back out of the article list and into a feed selector. This is how it's going to work in the next update. I'm also going to add the ability to browse by folder, starred items, and the "reading list", the list of new items Google Reader shows you when you first log into it.

Performance: Some of the feeds I read take a while to load. I think I can make it work faster, or at least appear to. Caching is coming.

Error messages: Oh yes. You'll be seeing some error messages in this release. Things like "Credentials are not set!" and various "Socket timeout" errors. I get these occasionally when I'm sitting on my deck in the no-man's land between my Wi-fi connection, my neighbor's Wi-fi, and the EDGE network. I think I can at least make the error messages less startling... Perhaps a nice picture of some cuddly kittens to go with them. In the meantime, just click "OK" on the error message, and maybe "update", and it will usually right itself. That is, unless you're out in the middle of the desert without network coverage. In which case, you should be using the compass and GPS to get yourself back to someplace with a Wi-fi connection.

Finally, there's the way the Google Reader integration sticks out of Handstand like a... I don't know, thing that's out of place. (My "witty comparison generator" seems to be broken.) Having it there is like the same old Handstand, but with Google Reader tacked on to it. I need to think about this. Either I come up with a better way to integrate it into the app, or I make a separate app out of it now. Until I decide, enjoy this version of Handstand, and let me know what you think.


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