readR Touch is a browser for the iPad that comes closer to real browsing than anything else available. It has a rather intimidating array of features aimed at users who find Safari lacking, and is the big brother of its sister app readR 2 for the iPhone.
The user interface is not the prettiest (though not ugly in any way) and is a prime example of function over form. It is designed to maximize screen real estate and options without ever taking you away from the webpage. On the margins are eight buttons that toggle the navigation bar, tabs, bookmarks, and more.
Navigation and Tabs
The navigation menu can be toggled on the top left, and in addition to an address bar has standard buttons such as forward, back, reload, stop and home.
The tab bar can hold up to four active pages at once, meaning you can have YouTube playing a music video while you browse the TouchFans forums; something not possible with Safari. When you want to open a new page, just touch the tab button, highlight an available tab slot, and type in the URL or choose a favorite from your bookmarks. This design removes the need to bounce back and forth between windows just to change tabs.
Bookmarks and History
The bookmark and history toggles are simple, an just show a vertical list of your favorites and most recent pages. There is currently no way to organize them or import from other browsers, but this may come in a future update.
The most unique feature of readR Touch is the text-to-speech function that can read any page aloud. There is a toggle on the left that can easily turn this on an off, or if you want finer control there is a dedicated menu that lets you edit the text on the current page and jump forward by sentence or paragraph. There are five voices to choose from (one is a slow-motion robot, and another is a Scotsman) which are easy to understand, although they have a rather large stop in between sentences.
Utilities and Settings
Another interesting feature are the “Web Curtains” which are basically shades that you can pull from either side to block parts of the webpage. For example, you can ‘draw the curtains’ on a three column page with ads on either side can have just the text be visible. The curtains change color to match the webpage, which makes them seem natural and unobtrusive. It’s a rather unique feature that I’ve never seen before, but could make staying productive much easier.
My favorite feature above all is the integration of Readability. On the desktop, it is a bookmarklet that you can click to parse the juicy bits out of webpages for easy reading, and it works the same on readR. It makes reading long texts much more enjoyable, and is a welcome feature to any web browser of mine.
I would consider readR to be in its beta stage as there are still some bugs that need to be worked out and some polishing to do, but it is still completely useable as-is. For users who want a variety of features that a desktop browser would have, I would recommend this app. But people who just want a quick Google search would probably find the app to excessive. I believe all the features are there, but just need to be spit shined in order to warrant the $4.99 price tag.
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