iPhone Developer’s Library App reviewed

The iPhone Developer’s Library App (appstore link) contains an great set of e-books that any cocoa developer would be proud to have on their phone: Programming in Objective-C 2.0, by Stephen Kochan, Cocoa Programming for Mac OS X, by Aaron Hillegass, and The iPhone Developer’s Cookbook: Building Applications with the iPhone SDK, by Erica Sadun. There can be no question that this is a great selection of books, so I focused my review on the e-book reader itself, which contains some bonus features for developers that make it really shine.

Unfortunately, some of those features can be a bit difficult to figure out at first. When I launched the app, I expected to see a menu or a help button. I think this reader in particular could even have given me a brief tutorial when I first launched the app. Regardless, there is a help screen, but you have to get all the way into reading a book before you can get to it. Click into the book you want to read, then click past the table of contents, and only then you can tap the center of the screen to bring up the menu. From here the Q&A style help screen is accessible by touching the question mark icon in the upper right. I know I wanted to read this first.

Once I got started actually reading one of the books, things were pretty much as I’d expect from any e-book reader. The main exception to this is that clicking on an image, a link or a bit of code requires a touch-and-hold method. This is indicated nicely with a sort of shrinking border around the item you are selecting. I think this was probably implemented to avoid accidentally opening something when you meant to page forward through the book, but I found myself avoiding those types of things instinctively when touching to turn a page, so I think it would be nice if that was configurable someday. I also found the length you have to hold before one of these opens (two, maybe three seconds) seems a bit on the long side.

Speaking of configuration, the settings screen has three different tabs full of configurable items, but still somehow felt bare to me. Most of the settings were on the “Appearance” tab, which consisted entirely of color options, but I missed the ability (common in e-book readers) to simply reverse all the colors to view white text on black instead of the default black on white.

I was pleasantly surprised to note that clicking a link opens a browser page without leaving the app, but still gives you the ability to open the link in safari. Clicking an image opens the image in what might also be Safari for all intents and purposes, allowing you to scroll and zoom in a recognizable fashion. Clicking on a bit of code opens the much-touted “code view”, which I found to be a very nice addition. Essentially this allows you to scroll and zoom (via a text-size slider) a given piece of code. You can copy and paste the text here, but more practical is the ability to email it to yourself for use on your mac.

Now I’ve got a lot of reading to do.