Thursday, May 20, 2010

NewsRob 3.9

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NewsRob 3.9

Fit-To-Width for Images

This was one of the top 10 feature requests (link).

Images that are larger than the current width of the screen are now automatically downsized to fit the width.

Play with it, it's simple.

You can skip to the next section now, but here is also some more background info that you can later on refer to when you have more questions.
The functionality works independently from the current orientation, density and zoom level.
The downsizing happens when the content is first loaded however, so if you change any of the aforementioned parameters afterwards the resizing will only take effect for the next article you view (or you need to tap twice on the article header, which also forces a content reload).

This functionality needs to change the content of the actual web page and only works for the feed view, not the web view, as this would mean NewsRob would change the color scheme of a website that it doesn't know. As NewsRob knows what the pages look like that are processed with the Google Wireless Transcoder (option: Simplified Web Page) those pages are processed too when downloaded.

New Theme For Night Time Reading (Pro)

This was the top feature request (link).

The theme was implemented with somebody in mind who woke up in the middle of the night and whose eyes don't expect to look into a flash light right away.
Or with the dad in mind who wants to do some reading when rocking his little one into sleep and who doesn't want to keep the baby awake with the bright screen.
Therefore the new theme uses muted colors and a low contrast.

Hence the theme is not meant to be an alternative look or to be used under direct sunlight.

From an implementation point of view this feature doesn't only change the lists and other UI elements owned by NewsRob but also changes the feed content. Hence the some caveats apply as for the image-autofit-feature above.

Other Enhancements And Bug Fixes

New Swipe-To-Read implementation

The swipe gestures on the article list (left-to-right to mark an article as read, right-to-left to mark an article unread) are implemented differently than before and should work much more reliable.

Not Enough Space Notification

NewsRob doesn't want to surprise you with a full SD card. Therefore NewsRob stops downloading the content of new articles when there are less than 100 MB free on your SD card.
With this version NewsRob now shows a notification that it did so.
You need to make more space on your SD card then or reduce the configured number of articles in Settings/Local Cache/Reading List. Otherwise you'll see this notification after each sync ;-)

"Unread Only" Is The New Sync Type Default

A couple of releases ago "Unread Only" was introduced as an option for "Settings/Sync/Sync Type". When choosing this option during a sync all read articles will be deleted and older unread articles will be fetched to fill up your local database again.

Details: Actually not all read articles are deleted. The most recently read article will not automatically deleted, so that you can change your mind on the read status of this article even after a sync. Also if you have the Pro version your shared articles, starred articles and notes are not deleted if they do not exceed the configured capacities for those entities.

I declared this functionality experimental in the beginning, but it worked great so far and so for all new NewsRob installations this is the default. Old installation will not be force-migrated to this new default, but I would recommend you to consider this option.

No Hovering Zoom Controls On HTC Incredible

Because of a bug with the HTC Incredible the hovering zoom controls are disabled for the time being. I will reconsider this after the next OS upgrade for those devices.

Good Bye Android 2.0

Now that Android 2.0 is on its way out I removed the workaround for an Android 2.0 bug. As a result the NewsRob download is now quite a bit lighter. For people with Android 2.0 devices the icons will look a bit fuzzy now - please upgrade to Android 2.1.

Download Timeout

Some people commented in the Android Market that NewsRob was sucking their battery dry. Fortunately some users came forward and entered a two communication. Looking at their log files I saw that some servers were very sloooooooooooooooow to respond. From this version on, NewsRob will interrupt the downloading of a web page after two minutes. Articles that fall victim to this drastic measure will be marked with a little red dot.

Closing Empty Feed Lists

Returning to an empty feed list will now close it, if it is not the task that launched NewsRob. This is now consistent to the other lists' behaviors and also with auto-skipping empty levels, like feed lists with only one feed etc.

Articles in Bundles / Duplicates

Articles that are in a bundle will now also be below a folder that is called "xyz bundle", where xyz is the bundle's label. As a consequence you won't see any duplicate articles anymore when you have a bundle and label with the same name.

Background Data Setting

Also NewsRob will now obey Android's system-wide background data setting. If this is disabled NewsRob's auto-sync will not fetch new articles, upload changed articles' status or download any pages. However a manual sync – including a trigger from Setting Profiles or Locale – will still work. This is consistent with NewsRob's "WiFi-Only" setting for auto-sync and downloading.
If you start NewsRob afresh and have auto-sync enabled, but background data disabled you'll see a quick toast mentioning that discrepancy.

Froyo / Android 2.2

At least according to my initial testing NewsRob runs well on Android 2.2.

The Tool Action Bar

I am a bit torn here. The Android Market comments were very loud and angry, but despite that and my promotion of the two alternatives to solve it, still less than 20 people have actually voted for either the option to remove the action bar or to optionally move it to the bottom.
Both options will add to the download size of NewsRob, but more importantly take significantly time to implement. Time that I cannot use to implement other features. This lack of actual features will impact all users.

Still, as this topic seems so very close to the heart of some, I will implement one or the other, but only one. Currently there is no clear winner. So if you have voted for both, please retract your vote from the one that is less important to you. If they stay head-to-head I will implement the one that costs less time, but can't tell you off the bat which one this will be.
Or if you haven't voted before, please do so now.
If you have voted, but meanwhile totally love the action bar and can't live without it anymore, you could also remove your vote ;-) If the numbers of the leading one significantly falls I'll skip the whole thing ... one can dream.

Here are the suggestions again:

Update: Check out this suggestion: Add an option to disable fit-to-width.


  1. Hello,

    Thanks for this update.

    I had problem using the swipe to mark as read in v3.7: while swiping, the articles was selected and from time to time, instead of marking as read, i was sent to the rss article.
    It was improved in v3.8.
    And now it seems back to the same behavior as in v3.7.
    Are there anyone experiencing the same ?
    N1 / Android 2.1

    Regards, julien.

  2. Originally, I was not a fan of the action bar. But after using it for a couple of weeks it has grown on me just were it is..... very nice app.

  3. Thanks Blee. I really appreciate you saying this!

  4. Great app. Re action bar, where's the voting to leave it where it is. I like it.

  5. I started off hating the action bar but now its awesome. I vote to keep it. Btw, I'm a paying pro user.

  6. Thanks guys.

    Well, there should've been a third option "Keep it & focus on other stuff" ... It's too late for that now ;-(

    I think I'll wait for Google to opensource the official twitter client and then I will have a look at their toolbar and use it. I will then think about how to make it appear on the top or bottom and how to integrate it with the status/title bar.

  7. I've come to like the action bar as well. My only note on it is that the icon for show all vs show unread could be changed to something that more clearly shows its function. The circles aren't the most obvious icon in my mind. Maybe something with an eye?

    Also, I hadn't noticed this blog before. There's nothing I like to see more than a friendly developer who communicates with his users. You just earned yourself another Pro version puchase. ; )

  8. Tayrtahn, thanks for the praise and the purchase ;-)

    I actually asked users if they had recommendations regarding the icon and Corinne suggested the open/closed eye ;-)

    However, I wasn't able to create an icon that looked like an eye when producing it for the lowest possible resolution that I need to support (HTC Tattoo).
    Also to create an open eye is not that bad, but how do create a closed eye that is recognizable on without seen the other icon?!

    I am not at all happy with the symbol myself, but I haven't come up with a better idea so far.


  9. Where do we vote if we like the toolbar as-is? That gets my vote.

  10. Well, as I said above, there should've been a third option, but I don't submit suggestions myself (this is to make sure that there always is a godfather of a suggestion who is not myself) and there was none.
    And meanwhile it's too late. I already heavily promoted the other two options in this and the last release notes as well as in the previous Market description.

    Anyway as I am already convinced that the toolbar is good as it is, the third option is not *that* important.
    ;-) Take care.

  11. Hi!

    First of all thank you for this great app. This is the most-used app on my HTC Desire and I really like the new toolbar. :)

    I've only got one feature request: please implement some kind of (optional) "live" mode where upon entering a certain feed all articles are fetched immediately, just as they would on the Google Reader site. In the current version all feeds are in the worst case as "old" as the synchronization interval.

    Best Regards,

  12. Hi Jörg,

    NewsRob is at it's core meant to be used to efficiently keep up with news, not so much for casual, on-demand usage.
    A major corner stone of this philosophy is that NewsRob is not used live, but that it is able to download and process your news in advance, so that you can go very quickly through them.

    I am just saying this to explain NewsRob in general.

    If the news are too old, wouldn't it help to pick a shorter sync interval?

    Also check this out and vote for it if you like:

  13. How can I disable the image scaling/downsizing ? It has made this awesome application totally unusable for me :-(

  14. Totally unusable? Wow?

    You can't. You can use the web view or show an article in the browser.

    You could also submit a suggestion to to add a per-feed option to disable downsizing.

  15. Wow, thanks for the quick reply - now THAT's how support should be! :)

    I also really like the offline concept of NewsRob - that's why I suggested this live mode as an optional feature. I often use Google Reader on multiple computers and of course NewsRob is most of the time out-of-sync regarding the read-status of my feeds.

    So another suggestion could be to download feeds for offline usage but fetching/pushing the read-status of the feeds in a "live" manner.

    Best regards

  16. Hallo Jörg,

    well, now I understand your use case better. But actually for this use case NewsRob is well prepared. Taken it could be supported better with the suggestion that I linked to above.

    As a result of your commet I now added something to the FAQ:

    >>Anything worth mentioning regarding the auto-sync?

    I am glad you ask ;-)

    When you have auto-sync turned on every time you change an article, e.g. mark it as read/unread, star it, etc., a 5-minutes-countdown is initiated. If you change an article and a countdown is already running it is starts over. When the countdown reaches zero a sync is initiated. However this sync only uploads the changes you made and doesn't check for new articles / downloads new pages.

    The use case behind this is you riding the tube from work to your home, reading articles with NewsRob. When you hop of the tube at some point the countdown runs down and syncs what you read back to the Google Reader mothership. So that when you reach your computer at home you can pick up were you were.<<

    So that handles the upsync in a matter that should fit the bill of your use case. However, you're right when you get back from another client to NewsRob you might find the old state. Currently you need to push "sync" then, with the proposed feature the sync would kick in automatically. I would probably still check if the most recent sync is at least 10 minutes ago.


  17. Hey, I really like the dark theme, thanks! I like all my Android apps to be be light on dark, regardless of the time of day. ;)

  18. Thanks Nathan, got a dark soul? ;-)

    So, just following up, you don't need it for night time reading then, but more for some visual appeal then, right? I am just asking, because then a high contrast theme, i.e. brighter whites, might be even cooler?

    I don't intend to implement this right away (trying to follow the uservoice ranking though), but like to understand how people use NewsRob.

  19. Hey Mariano,

    cool, sorry for not realizing that the autosync feature is already implemented that way. :)

    Being able to configure that countdown time (maybe even set it to 0) would be awesome.

    Together with an option to fetch read state (of already downloaded feed items) in a "live" manner while browsing feeds would be exactly my first request. :)

    Best regards

  20. It's very inefficient to sync the read state, because I need to read all unread IDs that you have in your GR account (up to 10,000).

    When looking at the many configuration options in NewsRob one can think that I like to provide options. But honestly, I really do not.
    I only make things an option when it make a significant difference, because it doesn't help to focus on getting from 92% to 94% perfect, that would likely be not the perfect for somebody else (because the remaining percents are where it gets very different for everybody) and also involve high costs.

    Check the mailing list archives for my stance on options ;)


  21. Nevermind, these are just (in my opinion) minor "flaws" in an otherwise excellent program. I have no problem with using that sync button manually. Keep up the good work! :)


  23. help! I accidentally marked all(1750 items) read. Can I mark all unread? Or a work around to prevent newsrob from preventing the sync?

    thanks -ry

  24. By far my favorite app!! Do I need to uninstall and reinstall for the night viewing and slide L-T-R and R-T-L? I did the upgrade install, but these new features aren't working. (very well could be user error!) :)

  25. Winchendonspring, I hope it's not too late.

    You can Clear Cache to reverse your action.

    To prevent syncing you can turn off auto-sync in the settings.

    How were you able to mark all as read? You did get a confirmation dialog asking you about it, didn't you?

  26. Hi Jessi,

    the night theme is only available in the paid version. When you have that you can enable the night theme in Settings/UI/Theme. You need to launch NewsRob again afterward.

    There are two places where LTR and RTL swipes work: In the article list and in the article detail view. In the former you swipe over a row, in the latter you swipe over the article header.

    You may have disabled them in a previous version? You can enable/disable this functionality in Settings/UI. You'll find two settings there, one for the list and one for the detail view.

    Does that help? Otherwise please ask again?

  27. No, it's not too late I will clear the cache. Thanks so much for the quick reply. Yes, I did get a mark all read confirmation but, I was going fast and hit okay on accident. I love NewsRob and I love the new dark theme. I am not the biggest fan of the new toolbar though. I think it takes away from the super simple interface.

    -thanks again

  28. Ok, glad it wasn't too late.

    I am thinking about a toolbar.

  29. a -> the
    toolbar -> action bar.

  30. so a setting option to enable/disable the toolbar? that would be cool

  31. It's not that easy. I need to provide different icons then and have different dispatching code.

    You can vote for you approach above. See the bottom of the post.

  32. I prefer the white-on-black night mode for all viewing (easier on the eyes), but it breaks some mobile websites, the ones where the feed shows the message "Page Shown from here. Go to page 1." at the top. If you click the "Go to page 1" hyperlink (which shows the most recent version of the page) you either get black-on-black text with blue hyperlinks, or a white line across the middle of the screen.

    By the way, PLEASE don't get rid of the menu bar. It's unobtrusive and very quick to get accustomed to.

    Thanks for the great work!

  33. Mgl,

    oh, right, I just tried it out and it's bad.
    I didn't see that before and I am not sure how to solve that, but I will find a solution for the next release. For the time being you need to long press on the link and show it in the browser.

    Most likely I will check if any link is activated and then change the background color to dark gray, as you can already see for those GWT articles that are not yet downloaded.

    The action bar makes totally sense to most people. It will stay. However it will be different. Most likely a bit higher and instead you will not be able to tap above it anymore as you can today, but then you can also place it to the bottom and maybe disable it.
    I can't say for certain yet. There is no simple, clean, elegant solution that everybody would love. I need to think about the proper tradeoffs.


  34. Hi Mariano,

    I like your app . Its simple, its fast and its easy. I want to buy it but unfortunately I am out of US so cannot use google checkout. Do you have any other mechanisms that I can get a pro version ?


  35. Thanks, yes, you can buy it using the AndAppStore: