Slicereader: The Most Innovative Reading App Yet on the Mac

Slicereader 0.2 is now on the App Store, with a bookmarklet to make it easier to add websites to read, support for Markdown, HTML, and plain text, and more.

It’s been an amazing past few years for writers. With full-screen distraction free writing environment pioneered by WriteRoom, Markdown formatting from Gruber, focused writing from iA Writer, the exporting wonders of Marked, the brand-new hidden Markdown formatting of Ulysses III, and more, it’s amazing how far we’ve come from the cluttered days of drafting our work in Word.

Reading apps, unfortunately, haven’t gotten much attention at all. Yes, there’s a number of apps for reading articles later on your Mac, some of which are even very nice (I’m particularly fond of the new ReadKit). But, sadly, none of them are totally new. They’re not changing the way we read on the Mac, the way iA Writer and Folding Text and others have changed the way we write on the Mac.

This weekend, that’s just changed with the brand-new beta app Slicereader. Designed by Mutahhir Ali Hayat, a programmer at Hog Bay Software that works on FoldingText and Oak Outliner, Slicereader is the most innovative reading app on the Mac yet. It’ll change how you read longform text. Here’s why.

Chopping up Your Text Into Tiny, Readable Bytes

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No matter what reading app you’re using, it’s easy to lose where you’re at in your text. Inevetibly something else will grab your attention, and when you come back to what you’re reading you’ll have to re-read for a bit to find where you left off. There’s also the problem of a wall of text making it difficult to get started reading in the first place.

Writing apps have already worked on solving this, and Slicereader does the same for reading — albeit with tweaks that make the most sense for a reading app. At first glance, Slicereader looks much like any focused writing app, with a light background, dark grey large typography, and nothing else. It shares more simularity with iA Writer than any other app, since it has zero settings, a built-in font (the suprisingly elegant Linux Libertine), and hard-set font size, color, and line width.

Poke around a bit, and you’ll notice that it only shows one paragraph at a time, and lets you move between paragraphs with your arrow keys, a two-finger swipe, or your spacebar. Top that off with a circle graph of how much you’ve read in the bottom right corner, and you’ve got the simplest reading app for the Mac yet.

Slicereader makes it easy to read, no matter how much text you’re reading. You’ll be able to focus on each paragraph, one at a time, and can move between them in any way you want. The first character of each sentence after the first is darker, as a small aid to help you find the sentence you’re reading. And rather than a daunting page or word count, the small graph gives you a quick way to see where you are in your article without the data overload other metrics can give. Best of all, it looks sharp.

It’s slightly reminscent of the iPhone app Fish, a short book that led you through its inspirational and thought provoking sentences one at a time. Applying a similar idea to anything you want to read, though, is a nice leap forward.

Adding Your Reading Material

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It’ll take a tiny bit of work to get your articles into Slicereader. You’ll need to first copy the text you want to read, perhaps from an article in your browser, then press CMD+N in Slicereader and paste in your text. You can add the title in the top field, or Slicereader can just show the first line in your text as the tile — an option that’ll work great if you copied a full article from your browser. Alternately, you can drag-and-drop any plain text file into Slicereader to import it to your reading list. This is a great way to import, say, books from Project Gutenberg, or to proofread your own writings before publishing them.

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Or, there’s one other way you can add your articles: through your OS X Services menu. You’ll first need to open your Keyboard Preferences and enable the Slicereader service under Services -> Text. Then, just select the text in any app that you’d like to add to Slicereader, right-click or click the app menu and select Services, then Read in Slicereader. Or, just press Shift+CMD+R to send the text to Slicereader from any app, once you’ve endabled the service

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Switching between your articles is simple — and you won’t ever lose your reading position. Just press CMD+L and select the article you want to read, or search for the article by its title. You’ll see the now-familar graph of your reading progress on each article, and can even edit the article’s title or text from the list. When you open the article, it’ll open right at the same paragraph you were at when you stopped reading last time so you can pick up where you left off.

Going forward, Mutahhir told me he plans to first add a bookmarklet to let you add articles directly to Slicereader, as well as potentially adding integration with Safari’s Reading List and/or other reading services. For now, though, a quick copy/paste into Slicereader isn’t way too difficult.

A Beta You Should Try

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Slicereader, as mentioned already, was just released as an early beta over this weekend, so it’s not finished yet. There’s a few tiny bugs, but none that impact the way the app works overall. It’s fast, feels smooth, and definitely gives you the nicest reading experience I’ve ever had on the Mac.

It’s opinionated software — something designed specifically for one use case — and that’s where the best results typically come from. It doesn’t try to do everything, but instead tries specifically to make reading longform text better, and that’s awesome. As mentioned already, it’s great for proofreading your own writing — something I’m already using it for — and it’s equally great as your own native Mac replacement for Instapaper.

Go try it out, and you just might fall in love with it too.


Summary

An innovative reading app that helps you focus on the text, one sentence and paragraph at a time.

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