My Favourite Set Up For Online Reading – iPad Plus Mantaray

When I first bought my iPad last year, my intention and hope was to see if it could completely replace my ten year old MacBook Pro.

In the end, the “proper” keyboard of the MacBook (still the loveliest keyboard I’ve ever used on any computer), the larger screen, and the need to plug in things like SD card readers to upload photographs and hard drives for back ups, mean at this stage and for the foreseeable future, I’d still rather have a laptop over a tablet.

In addition, I’m so used to keyboard shortcuts on my MacBook for things like copying and pasting, opening and closing windows/tabs, switching between apps etc, that all of these frequent actions slow me down greatly on an iPad and just seem too fiddly – especially selecting text to copy and paste! Anyone else find the lack of keyboard shortcuts or an equivalent in a tablet a major pain??

Anyway, so my poor iPad lay redundant for some months – especially after I’d moved from an iPhone to Sony Xperia Android phone and stopped using the Apple iOS-only app Hipstamatic altogether.

Nearly all of my photo processing was then transferred to Snapseed on my Xperia.

Then I started to explore the iPad again for the use it was probably initially optimised for. Reading online.

In terms of size, it’s pretty much perfect.

Big enough to see plenty (and vastly bigger than my not exactly tiny 4.6 inch phone), but nothing like as heavy and cumbersome as a laptop. Plus of course, with most apps, virtually its entire surface is optimised and in use.

For viewing pictures in detail my 15″ MacBook obviously has the edge in pure screen area.

But when viewing text and pictures at the screen width of the iPad, it’s as large as you ever need for the vast majority of sites I frequent.

The iPad interface generally is pretty slick and intuitive, and in something like the Flickr app it excels.

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Flickr app on iPad standard view

Viewing images full screen one at a time is an utter joy, and even better than the MacBook’s full screen mode, with absolutely nothing else but the image displayed full screen, and just a swipe needed to move to the next one. Plus it’s easy to tilt the iPad to view portrait photos and back to landscape, so each type fills the available space. Try it, if you haven’t before.

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Flickr app on iPad full screen – as pure and uncluttered as it gets

But in Safari or Chrome, whereas if I’m reading a blog post or article with my MacBook and can tap the space bar to scroll down a page at a time, with the iPad there’s no equivalent. You have to swipe to scroll, and then usually swipe or tap to stop the page from scrolling too far.

This sounds like a trivial difference, but when you’re reading a long post, and/or multiple posts, it becomes tiresome needing your fingers almost constantly clattering up and down the screen.

Plus with the iPad, annoyingly often you’ll think you’re just swiping upwards to move the page a little, but because your fingers haven’t struck the screen precisely enough, it will resize (zoom) or shift to the side a little, or both.

So I wondered if there was a way to make the page scroll automatically so I only needed to touch the screen again to navigate to a different page right at the end of the post.

It turns out there are such auto scroll apps, and after a bit exploration I’ve settled on Mantaray.

It’s essentially a web browser that you can set to scroll automatically (pausing and playing again when you wish to) with a widely adjustable speed.

Beyond that, its features aren’t vast and it doesn’t feel like something I would use to replace a browser overall.

But purely for reading, which accounts for at least half of my time online (the other half is writing!) I can’t really imagine an app and device in combination that could work any better.

The scrolling is smooth, even at slower speeds, and once you find the right kind of speed for your pace of reading, it doesn’t need further tweaking as most blogs have much the same font size.

I do tend to double tap the page initially so the main text fills the width (especially on the kind of blogs where the column with the main text is only a small part of the overall available screen width and/or shifted awkwardly to one side rather than central). Then I just tap the play button, sit back and enjoy.

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Mantaray app on iPad – excerpt from Lovely Bicycle – note the play button bottom right

This set up has meant that now most of my reading online is done this way, whether at the kitchen table with my iPad stood against a cup or jar, or on the sofa or in bed with the iPad on my legs or a cushion. It really is very comfortable and convenient and for me allows me to further immerse myself in the content of the pages I’m reading, without distraction.

If you want to try yourself, here’s the link – Mantaray.

I did try it on my old iPhone too at one point, but since I try to avoid reading anything on a phone when I’m at home and have my iPad, it wasn’t getting used.

The stuff I use my phone for now is much more about quick checking and reading, like emails, seeing the weather etc, so I don’t have the kind of longer reading sessions where an auto scroll app would come into its own.

How about you? What device and apps do you use for most of your reading online, and what do you like about them?

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too. If you’re interested, this is what my photography and cycling life looks like right now.

9 thoughts on “My Favourite Set Up For Online Reading – iPad Plus Mantaray”

  1. I use feedly to gather the posts I am interested in, usually just skimming them. If there is something I am interested in reading more deeply, I transfer it to the app pocket. I put it in my pocket for later. I have an issue with feedly as it sometimes doesn’t load the full post, such as the 5 shots with….
    but in the end I like this way of sorting through the posts as they sync across my android phone, Mac, and iPad.

        1. Thanks. Feedly gets mentioned often, and I admit I tend to not follow Blogger blogs very easily because it all seems so clunky. The WordPress system works so smoothly, but of course it limits you only to WordPress blogs, which most, but not all bloggers I’m interested in use.

  2. I do as much of my online reading as I can on my MacBook Air. I’ve found no need for any apps except Safari for that purpose. When I can’t use the MacBook I read on my iPhone, using Safari or WordPress as works best for the particular source. I tried reading on my wife’s iPad but didn’t get on with it al all. I couldn’t find a comfortable way to hold it and I don’t like the non tactile “keyboards” of the iPad (and the iPhone).

    1. Hey Doug, yes I agree about the virtual keyboards. They do get a lot better with practice but are no substitute for me for a proper quality keyboard. And the lack of keyboard shortcuts (or indeed being able to press more than one key at once at all) is frustrating when you’ve got years of experience using Control-C to copy and Control-V to paste for example.

      As you might recall, a while back I resurrected my wife’s old HP laptop that had been unused for years and installed the CrhomeBook OS.

      One thing I love about that is everything is done via the Chromium browser – GMail, WordPress, GooglePhotos, Flickr, eBay etc. I just love that simplicity and the fact that Chromium is then the only app I ever use on the Chromebook – even simpler than my MacBook! (This is also why my next laptop will more likely be a ChromeBook than a Mac, I only need something simple, and a Mac would be major overkill and four or five times the price!)

  3. I’ve tried Feedly Dan, but not for long enough to know whether I really like it or not. I tend to use the WP reader for blog reading but it’s not great for non-WP blogs that I follow. I have not heard of Mantaray though so will give it a go. Oh and thanks for the reminder about @lovelybicycle. I used to love that blog but haven’t read it for a bit. Very inspiring for those of us that cycle a bit or commute by bike.

    1. Device wise, my main user is an iPhone SE. I love it’s compactness and great camera but as get a little older, I struggle a bit with the small size text. I find that in the evening I have to take my glasses off (I’m short sighted) to read the screen. That’s fine I suppose but a little inconvenient. I also have an fairly new iPad which as you observe is excellent for reading and looking at pictures. My only gripe is that I tend to find one of the kids has pinched it and left it with 2% battery left! Grrrr!

    2. Let me know how you get on with Mantaray.

      Lovely Bicycle is a wonderful blog, alas it seems to be in hiatus, with the last new post in January.

      I’m steadily going through the archives though, lots to enjoy and learn from for someone returning to cycling, and never having really been a commuter by bike until a few months ago.

      My eyes are still pretty good, it’s more about typing on small screen devices. I just can’t be bothered with the patience and dexterity required when I’m at home and have a MacBook I can pick up that is vastly easier to use. This is where the iPad bridges the gap between phone and laptop, big enough for reading and when you need to do some typing but not loads.

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