Other Things

(a blog)

A Blio Update

A new update of K-NFB's Blio for iOS [app store link], which uses our libEucalyptus, was released today. If you're not aware of Blio, I wrote a bit about it when the iOS app first came out a few months ago. There are lots of great little additions in the update - both utilizing updates by us in libEucalyptus, and otherwise in the app itself. I'm really enjoying reading with it on my iPad.

Blio in 2-Up Flow View

The major changes are of course all listed in the "What's New" section in the App Store, but I thought I'd take a little space here to talk about my favorites, mainly from the features that libEuclayptus enables or supports. This is not an exhaustive list, there are lots of other small improvements you hopefully won't even consciously notice. As ever, I'm speaking for myself and Things Made Out Of Other Things, I'm not in any way an official spokesperson for Blio or K-NFB.


It works on iOS 5!

Quite an important feature, but should go without saying - let's gloss over that one...

Two-up landscape 'flow' mode.

I'll admit, I was a skeptic about this before it was done. My favorite mode before was portrait 'flow', and I didn't really see why you'd want to read two-up on a device like the iPad. I certainly didn't like it in iBooks - I always read portrait with it. Now though, Blio's two-up is my favorite way to read on the iPad. I'm not sure why I like it so much, to be honest; perhaps the svelte nature of Blio's reading interface enables the pleasing width of the text on the pages to be more 'obvious' to my subconscious. With some behind-the-scenes knowledge, I can reveal that the Golden Ratio is involved in the text layout, but surely that can't really be making a large impact? Whatever it is, if you're a skeptic as I was, I urge you to give it a go for a while nonetheless - it might surprise you.

Configurable justification for book body text.

You can now choose between left-justified (for the purists, "ragged right", as God intended text to be), fully-justified (which, I'm ashamed to admit, I sacrilegiously prefer), or 'original' justification (as specified by whoever designed the ebook).

Improved text rendering, with richer ligature support.

I suspect many would disagree, but this is perhaps my favorite new feature (and it didn't even make it into the list on the App Store!). There's more use, on iOS 5, of ligatures in the 'flow' view. If you're unaware, ligatures are, in basic terms, special designs for adjacent characters that are (in theory) better looking, and easier for to read. Wikipedia will tell you all about them.

Blio uses a beautifully designed font and - although I'd agree it's tough to notice on a casual glance - I think this improved text rendering really does make books more readable. The ligatures are fun to try and spot too (although don't look too hard - the point is that they make things easier to read, which they wouldn't if you noticed them all the time).

Subtly improved inverse-brightness 'night mode'.

I've talked about the innovative inverse-brightness mode before, and it's improved in this release - previously, sometimes you'd see strange 'blown-out' colors in some areas, that's a thing of the past now. Couple this with Blio's support for changing the brightness in iOS 5, and you've got a really great way to read in bed or at night on a plane without disturbing others.

iOS 5 dictionary support.

Not really much done by libEucalyptus for this, but I find myself using it all the time, so I think it's worth a mention. As you would you expect, you can select and define any word using Apple's lovely dictionary popover.

iOS 5 continuous-reading VoiceOver support.

Now that Apple has provided the APIs in iOS 5 to enable it, Blio will read any book to you with VoiceOver, turning the pages as it goes. This is a great feature for blind or partially sighted users, who previously had to turn each page manually even though they were being read automatically. To be honest, it's great for those with perfect vision too - configure your home button to switch on VoiceOver with a triple-tap, and you can two-finger swipe down to have VoiceOver - which is the same voice as Siri - read books to you. It's not a replacement for Blio's excellent text-to-speech feature, which is a lot more 'seamless', but unlike that feature it works with all books.


That's it for my list - you can see the full list of updates, and of course download Blio, on the app store.

As always, you can use Blio with non-DRMed ePubs (or, in 'Layout' view, PDFs or XPSes) you already have, or, in North America, buy books for it from the Blio store.

1 Comment
  • Blio looks great--libEucalyptus is a beautiful engine. But aren't you going to release it as a successor/update to Eucalyptus? Since Stanza went down with iOS 5, millions of Gutenberg users are looking for a replacement, and there aren't any good ones out there. It's the biggest gap to fill on the entire App Store! And you have the killer app up and running in libEucyptus!

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