Earlier this year Microsoft announced the debut of the NY Times reader. The announcement featured lots of talk about the new FlowDocument markup and the convenient FlowDocumentReaders that are part of the WPF world. Here’s a quote from Tim Sneath about WPF’s reader friendly bits.
From the early days of Avalon (as it was then known), we made a pretty hefty investment in improving the text reading experience. You can see this at every level of the stack:
- In ClearType, we implemented sub-pixel positioning and y-direction smoothing. Studies done by the University of Texas show that ClearType increases reading speed by 5-7% with no reduction in comprehension.
- Within the rendering stack, support for OpenType features such as ligatures, contextual alternates, traditional numerals and swashes improve readability and allow for greater freedom of expression by designers.
- At the document level, the implementation of flow content allows semantics to be applied to text such that it can automatically reflow across multiple columns and pages, with embedded headers and footers, figures, floaters, tables, lists and formatting and support for dynamic resizing of the containing element.
Combining these three capabilities together provide a major set of enhancements over traditional web-based interfaces: instead of a fixed column of text with fixed pagination and limited font support, you have tremendous flexibility, control and customization over the reading experience.
When we started to work with the New York Times, it was clear that we could go still further by creating a client-side Windows application that applied these technologies. And so we collaborated with them to build a full reader application that supplements the above services with ink and text annotations, advertisement support, offline synchronization, integrated search, dynamic retrieval of new articles from custom RSS feeds, and smart templates.
A couple months ago several other newspapers – Seattle PI and Daily Mail and Forbes.com – announced that they were using the same WPF engine to publish online version of their newspapers.
The publishing industry obviously prints more than newspapers. Two other major categories are books and magazines. If WPF is such a good document reading system you’d expect more publishers to start adopting the platform. Markus Egger, of EPS Software recently announced the release of Xiine, a online reader for magazine content.
Xiine publishing system
I’ve been a fan of CoDe magazine since its launch in 2003. Not only does it have good .NET programming articles but it is easy to read. Too many times I find that magazine designers go for the cool factor and ignore the readability of the content. I’ve never felt that way about CoDe magazine.
CoDe magazine, like many technical pubs, has a website for viewing their archives. The problem with reading content online is the readability factor. Key benefits for online content is the easy access and easy search via online search engines.
CoDe is now available via the Xiine reader.
Xiine is installed via Click-Once. It’s a simple process, didn’t take me more than a few minutes to get the application installed. You have to create a user account which enables the system to remember your settings. Currently there is no charge for this account. Next you choose the content. There are only a few choices so far. CoDe, Markus Egger articles, and Classic Books (War of the Worlds, etc.).
Once you pick CoDe the Xiine engine starts downloading the content in the background. After a minute or so you can start reading the latest issue.
All the power of the FlowDocumentReader is available for your reading pleasure. The content is automatically placed in columns and paginated for easy reading. The reader quickly adapts to your window size and allows you to zoom in or out of the content. One nice feature is that Xiine remembers your zoom level. If you wear glasses and need to bump up the font size a couple notches in order to see the words you’ll be happy to find the app uses the same comfortable font size the next time open it.
You can annotate any article, the changes are persisted and available the next time you open the article.
Xiine supports embedded video, audio (example: podcasts) too.
Content is automatically updated when new issues are available.