iPhone App Developers: This is What I Want!

Ok, so a few app developers have stopped by my earlier post on the iPhone and digital comics, and Sherm over at iphonecomicbookreader.com has had a few visit him as well, so in light of that (and Sherm’s most recent post, in which he lays out how he’s using DataCase in the same manner I talked about using Files, Caravan, et al), I thought I’d collect my thoughts on what I’d like to see in an iPhone app in order to support reading digital comics. They’re below the break.

  • Bulk importing of images to Photos. This is the big one, and one that I feel like should be possible. iTunes mangles images when importing them for iPods and the iPhone, but it’s possible to add images to Photos from another app on the iPhone - Safari and Mail let you save images, and at least one third party app, MoPhoTo, lets you save individual images from Flickr, Picasa, and some other sites. So what I want is to integrate Files/Caravan/DataCase/etc’s ability to copy images onto the iPhone with this functionality - give me a “Import images in directory to Photos” button, and I will not only buy your app (admittedly, odds are pretty good I already have bought your app in the first place), I will sing its praises to the very heavens. This seems attainable - so c’mon, guys, make it happen!
  • Opening .cbr and .cbz files. I’m not quite as optimistic about this one, especially because of the weird decision someone made at some distant point in the past to use RAR for digital comics. I’ve seen at least one app with the ability to open zip files, so .cbz would be a small step forward from that - it’s the same format, after all, just a different name, same as .jar files, .war files, etc. But .cbr files use RAR, which isn’t an open standard. I’m betting there isn’t an implementation of RAR for the iPhone available, and even if there were, it’d cost money. So yeah, that’s not particularly feasible, but might as well put it up here.
  • A computer-side utility to prepare a comic for the iPhone. This is less of a concern for me personally than it is something that would make reaching a wider audience a lot more viable. Given that .cbr support is almost certainly a non-starter, there’ll always be some work needed to be done before a digital comic is ready to get moved over to the iPhone. If we get bulk import to Photos, then the only thing users would have to do is extract the images from the .cbr or .cbz file and copy them over - but even with that, the images in the .cbr/.cbz files are, frankly, a hell of a lot larger than we actually need on the iPhone. We’re talking like 2000×1300 or so - that’s just excessive. As I mentioned before, images resized down to 40% or so of the original are just fine for viewing on the iPhone and take up a LOT less space. A simple utility that’ll take a .cbr or .cbz file, extract the images, and shrink ‘em accordingly would make the whole process a lot more user-friendly. I know that the iPhone Manga Converter does this sort of thing (and more, wrapping those resized images in Javascript-driven HTML for pagination, etc), but it’s fifteen bucks, and if we get bulk import, we won’t need the HTML wrappers at all. So app developers, write a utility that does this and offer it for download on your webpage, alongside your pitch for your iPhone app - I guarantee you it’ll get you at least a few extra sales.
  • Left-to-right pagination in PDFs. This one’s specifically aimed at Jim Brink, the developer of Annotater, which is, without a doubt, the best PDF reader I’ve tried out on the iPhone. But it still lacks a couple key features for me - most notably left-to-right pagination (and sticky scrolling/zooming, like how Photos and Safari work, but I’m assuming that’s merely a pipe dream). All of the third-party PDF readers on the iPhone switch between PDF pages by scrolling up or down - but I think of a comic book as switching pages left to right. There’s something inherently intuitive to sliding your finger to the left when you want the next page - dragging your finger up just doesn’t fit as well. This may only be a cosmetic thing, but it’s a cosmetic thing I’d really like to see.

So yeah, there’s what I’ve got. For right now, I’m considering going with the Manga Converter and Files (it still wins in the image/HTML browsing area of all the apps I’ve tried, since the toolbar/reception+battery+etc bars vanish when you are looking at an image or page), but that’s another fifteen bucks I’d have to spend for still not quite good enough. If it’s at all possible to get bulk import to Photos, well, then I’ll happily wait, even if it takes a couple months to implement and get through Apple’s review process. Adding that feature to your app, dear developers, would make it a true killer app for me and other digital comics readers, and frankly, it’d be useful for other non-comics-related users as well. Why focus on your own internal image viewer when you can just fob it off onto Photos proper, right? Anyway - if any developers do happen to read this and have any thoughts on the viability of any of these features, please, do let us know in the comments. Thanks!

5 Responses to “iPhone App Developers: This is What I Want!”

  1. jeff Says:

    hope you’ll try ComicViewer.app. Many nice options for scaling and page turning. Takes zips so .cbz works but not .cbr. There is a way to unrar ( and rar, zip, & unzip) on iPhone. Along with the safari dl plug-in,which just came to 2.x, I dl comics from usenet, unrar them, zip them, & read them all on my iPhone. All these tools are available from Cydia packager except ComicViewer. Here is a link:
    For English menu in ComicViewer delete the “Japanese.lproj” folder. Anyway, thanks for the information - I was unawre of tools such as iPhone manga converter.

  2. Sherm Says:

    Well stated wish list…thanks for putting this together. I hadn’t thought about the left-to-right pagination before…you’re right — it feels a lot more natural that way. Let’s hope some app developers are listening!

  3. Mike Taylor Says:

    Hi Andrew. I’m an iPhone developer with an app in the cooker that could be of interest. Drop me an email if you want to chat.

  4. manga.converter Says:

    Hi Andrew and Sherm

    I’m a developer of iPhone Manga Converter, Thank you so much for your input. As an developer I love to hear comment and input. Fixing the problems on cbr and cbz is on the way.

    My original idea for this software was just prepare for online version only. Never thought that the off-line is important too. The new comming version with new offline contents ,cbr/cbc fixing and improvement of panel detector will be released probably in about 2-3 days.

    Thanks again.

  5. Devo2399 Says:

    Maybe I’m just stupid, but I just downloaded the Comicviewer App for my Iphone and I can’t find any instructions to find out what folder to put the comics i so I can access them.. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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