I didn’t post to blog like for ages. Now I am back, at least I hope that my drafts won’t grow mouldy and I’ll finish them. What’s the best way to tell your brain to start working? Make something interesting and resource-intensive. So we (me and akella) did it — 24 hours project. It took us 33 hours to finish. When it was 26th hour we started to notice that it takes more than two dozens of hours, on the hour 30 we understood that we are a bit late. Anyway, we finished and one of us went to have some meal and another started writing the blog post, fell asleep right in front of his display and pushed a ‘Publish’ button just now ;)

Project Idea

The idea is sweet and neat — to give the ability to read books on iPhone without installation of any additional software. I loved this idea because I love simple and interesting things and akella was fond of it because he couldn’t install any application on his locked to AT&T iPhone which was hardware unlocked. As the process doesn’t include the installation from AppStore or Cydia we should create HTML-application. I forgot the correct name Apple calls them.

Project Design

The first groundwork was made almost half a year ago and it was something like iBooks we can see now. As I joined the process I came up with idea of ‘separate book — separate icon’ and separate application. So the library is stored online and you can use any book you want even downloading it for offline use. Besides using the trendy idea of storing everything you don’t need somewhere and the things you need on your device this approach makes reading book really about reading — nothing redundant, just you and the book. The negative side was that it wasn’t very convenient for storing more than two or three books. We accepted it once more understanding that all books are stored online and ready to be downloaded. The folders in iOS 4 proved we were not so wrong and up to dozen books now can be organized in one nice icon.

The whole application and its work can be separated on two phases. Phase 1: choosing or creating book to read and adding it to iPhone Home Screen. Phase 2: Reading the book even if the iPhone isn’t connected to the internet.

Supported formats so far are .html and .fb2 but we are working on compatibility with others.

Project GUI

Pictures finally ;) You could check the live version and compare it with the sketches but now it’s down. We’ll resume it shortly!

Everything started with application icon in different sizes because I had a hope that there is a way to make different apple touch icons for different devices. There isn’t.

The first thing user sees starting the project site is the interface to find a book in catalog and browse it or to create the book of existing .html or .fb2 file. Search results and catalogue of all books look almost the same but catalogue provides the ability to filter books by genre.

Then we moved to the screen sketches. After the user have chosen the book it starts loading. User can start reading it already. When it’s loaded the hint describing how to save the book appears. The arrow shaped background points right on the plus icon in the bottom toolbar of iOS Safari.

After the book is added to Home Screen, book icon appears there. This is the end of Phase 1.

Next time user taps the icon he sees the loading screen (takes couple of seconds to load a normal book on iPhone 4 and a bit longer on iPhone 3GS). And after the book is loaded user can read it. It automatically remembers last read place and scrolls to it.

That’s it. So easy, so cool!

There is a special version (differs a bit now) for those, who didn’t use iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad to access the site.

Fun Facts

  • The GUI is 100% made in vector graphics editor
  • All icons and our logos are used on site/in application in vector using SVG
  • All graphical elements, except icons and arrow shaped background, are 100% CSS. Yes! These gradients, shadows and backgrounds are not pictures!
  • Apple Touch Icon in iOS 4.0 looks crappy and blurry and there is no way to fix it except updating to iOS 4.1
  • All fonts used are default in iPhones, iPods and iPads
  • Thanks to all that stuff application looks the same on iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 and iPod Touches. We are waiting for the iPad test results ;)
How everything looks on iPhone 4 (bigger) and iPhone screens. Almost the same ;)

Oh, as to the backstage, there were lotsa things one of them is different ideas about organizing the book download process:

tl;dr

Surf to project site (will be resumed shortly) with your iDevice to save books right to your Home Screen and read them later. No additional software needed. Formats supported are .html and .fb2. We luv ya!