Elytra Blog

The simple RSS Reader. This blog publishes release notes, engineering and design details.

Elytra – 2021 Q3 Schedule

Elytra v2.4 is on track for its release later this year in Q3 along side iOS & iPadOS 15 and macOS Monterey. Apart from the various goodies that’ll be introduced in these versions, Elytra will additionally gain support for:

  • Tables in articles
  • Improved external display support (via Airplay or connected through a cable)
  • Inline support for Vimeo videos (similar to Youtube videos)
  • Instagram Feeds support
  • Additional per feed settings

Elytra will also include options to reset various data points of your account directly from the app without having to contact support. This will ensure that should the data on any of your devices get corrupted, you’ll be able to start fresh immediately.

iOS

iOS and iPadOS 15 include some interesting improvements especially around sharing your onscreen content via SharePlay, new multi-tasking views and wider widgets on iPadOS.

I’m also working on improving the overall reliability of the app by digging through older known bugs and patching them as I go. Some of the bugs have been fixed by Apple directly and Elytra gets that added stability for free.

Back in February, I started the process of migrating a lot of code from Objective-C to Swift, but I left out the Article Reader view since its code was thousands of lines spanning across several files. As of last week, I’ve completed the migration for the Article reader as well and found several bugs thanks to Swift’s strongly-typed nature.

The Article Reader is now more resistant to crashing, locking up and sometimes straight-up bad rendering. I’ve even managed to log improved performance under certain cases, but the average performance is roughly the same (differences in 1/1000th of a second) so you won’t notice any difference.

macOS

Apple has thankfully introduced some new APIs in macOS Monterey for Mac Catalyst apps which enables me to reduce some workarounds in code. I’ll be fully supporting Big Sur until a later point in time, so I’ll have to maintain some of them, but I’m glad we have direct access to some of macOS’ existing features now.

I’m also investing some time in writing new interfaces for existing ones which look and feel at home on macOS and work with the various experiences we’re used to on non-touch input based devices. The filters preference tab was the first view to get such a treatment and others like: New Feed, New Folder, Import and Export OPML, etc. will also be getting the same treatment.

Shortcuts

Apple is also bringing the Shortcuts app to macOS Monterey. Now that shortcuts is available across iOS and macOS, I’d love to hear from you about automations that Elytra can enable for you. As an RSS Feed Reader app, there isn’t much Elytra can do for you, but whatever little it can, it should. So please reach out to me at support@elytra.app with your ideas.

If you have any other ideas, feel free to get in touch with me on the above email.

Timelines

Beta builds on TestFlight are now processing once again as of iOS & iPadOS 15 Beta 2. The public beta program for these operating systems has also commenced. If you’re going to be living on the bleeding-edge of things, I’d really appreciate your help in testing Elytra on these versions. These are beta software (both from Apple and I) so proceed with caution as you could end up losing a lot or all of your data.

But if you’re throwing caution to the wind, head over to this TestFlight link and get signed up. I’ll start sending out new builds for iOS 15 starting 5th of July, 2021.

For macOS, head over to the Elytra Releases page, download the app and set it up. Then, open preferences and under Misc > Updates, select the Test builds line. The macOS update will also be available on the same day as the iOS build goes up.

I look forward to your feedback, until then: Happy Reading!

Bug Fixes available for the Summer 2021 Release

Elytra version 2.3.2 running on a Macbook Pro in dark mode.

Since the release of the Summer 2021 builds last week, I have released two additional patch versions for Elytra.

The builds are available on the App Store and on the dedicated Releases page.

Combined Release Notes:

  • Fixed an issue where the app would crash when creating a new folder.

  • Fixed some minor visual bugs with the Subscriptions Interface.

  • Fixed a bug causing the app to always index feeds on launch for Spotlight.

  • Fixed a bug where the article reader preferences would not apply in real time.

  • Drag & Drop for feeds across folders is now enabled.

  • Drop & Drop for articles into Unread or Bookmarks is now enabled.

  • Fixed an issue with articles rendering empty audio players in the article reader.

  • Fixed an issue with the articles next / previous commands being mapped to cmd + up and down arrow. They are now correctly marked to J and K including the app menu.

  • Fixed an issue where no activity indicator would be shown on macOS when adding a new feed.

  • Fixed some minor bugs with adding new feeds.

  • Fixed loading Youtube videos.

  • Fixed an issue where audio from videos wouldn’t play if the mute switch on your iPhone is on.

Elytra – Notarized Builds Now Available

Elytra running on the M1 family of Macs

Elytra v2.3 has just been released, you can read all about here.

I’m also excited to announce that Elytra is now also available on macOS as a Notarized app. You can head over here to download the latest release.

It’s same as the Mac App Store release with two distinct differences:

  1. The app can auto-update itself (or you can manually check for updates) between the two Release and Test Build pipelines. The release line is recommended for most users, the test line is for those who like living on the edge.
  2. The app will use an external Payment Processor which enables me to offer discounts, especially for students, you can read more about it here.

Going forward, I’ll be able to release more frequent fixes directly to the Notarized builds. These builds currently do not have any kind of crash reporter built-in. So if you encounter any crashing bugs, please do take a moment to send me the crash report.

I look forward to hearing from you about this, you can always reach out to me on twitter or email me at support@elytra.app. Happy Reading.

Elytra Summer 2021 Update

Elytra’s 2021 Summer Release is here, just in time for WWDC 2021. It’s been extra challenging to work on v2.3 as this is the first release of Elytra that introduced Swift into various core systems of the app. 

If you have read my earlier post about the public beta, you’d know this has been in the works for a while, but the work on the new version started all the way back in February of 2020. 

This is slightly bigger release (even I am not used to this) so this is going to need a TLDR.

TLDR;

  • New system for adding feeds: You can explore topics by prefixing your keyword with the # symbol. Or directly search for a website with its base URL.
  • Sync is now faster: more reliable and uses a delta updates approach to conserve power and network bandwidth.
  • Two new Widgets: Folders (configurable) and Bloccs.
  • Improved App Performance: Thanks to a new core, the app’s performance has seen a big boost and crashes less.
  • Filters on macOS: You can now add and remove filters directly from the macOS App.
  • Mini Audio player: Elytra now ships with a mini-audio player to quickly browse through audio-clips and podcast episodes.
  • Media Playback: Elytra now comes with improved support for Youtube and Apple Trailers feeds.
  • Search: Searching for feeds and articles is now simpler than ever and on macOS, it’s always available.
  • Reader Bar: You can now customise the reader bar size and choose from three sizes: Small, Regular and Large.
  • Finally: As always, an assortment of improvements and fixes.

New

Adding Feeds

Elytra's new Add Feed interface shown on the M1 iPad Pro and iPhone 12.

Elytra v2.3 introduces a new system for finding and adding feeds to your lists. You can explore some pre-defined topics or search for topics of your interest by prefixing the keyword with a # key.

Elytra's new Add Feed UI on iPhone 12 showing feed suggestions.

To directly explore feeds linked by a website, simply type in the website’s URL. If you have a feed URL, then you can directly use that.

Something that been asked for a long time is to directly add a feed to a folder when creating it. It’s now possible to do so and all your folders will be listed out. By default, None will be selected.

Core Sync

Syncing across all apps is now faster, more reliable and also automatically syncs in the background to keep all your devices in sync and ready to go. This lays a critical foundation for future releases.

The new sync system is written in Swift (version 5.4 for those who care) and is much more resilient, fault-tolerant and heavily tested compared to its previous iteration.

It also now uses a delta updates system so your devices only download the data they don’t already have. Multiple sync triggers can happen simultaneously on a single device of yours (say you added a feed, then marked all the items inside that feed as read which will trigger two events). This ensures your devices consume less power and consume less network bandwidth.

Two New Widget Types

Elytra's new Folders and Bloccs widgets running on ithe iPhone 12.

v2.3 brings two new Widgets: Folders and Bloccs. The Bloccs widget brings up to 6 of the latest unread articles from your feeds to your device’s homescreen, decorated by the articles’ cover images. The Folders’ widget enables to you select a folder of your choice and showcase up to 4 articles from that folder. I can’t wait to see how you have these setup on your devices.

Performance

I’ve spent all of March working through various modules in the app to optimise the performance. The Article Reader was the only component in the app that was optimised down to the last bit (to my best knowledge and technical capabilities). Everything else was just mish-mash. You should now notice improved performance in the app for just about any activity you’d perform in it.

Filters on macOS

The new filters UI in Elytra on macOS.

Filters have been available in Elytra since v1.0 so it was always weird that there was no UI for it on macOS. Now there is, it’s mac-assed and works exactly as you’d expect it to.

### New Subscriptions UI

Elytra's new subscriptions UI. The prices in the screenshot are placeholders.

I also took this opportunity to redesign the subscriptions interface. The new design is an indicator towards the next iteration of the design system for Elytra, it better and more clearly explains the advantages of each subscription type and enables you to quickly switch between the two offerings.

Mini Audio Player

The new mini audio player playing the Core Intution podcast's Episode 462

For a long time, I’ve used Elytra to notify me when new episodes are available for the podcasts I follow. In v2.3, I’ve built a mini-audio player into the app. It detects Podcast episodes and automatically updates its rendering state. This is in no way a replacement to a full-fledged Podcast app, but just a little something to get you a sneak-peak into that episode if you so desire.

Rich Media

Elytra now supports playing audio clips within the app.

I’ve made several improvements to the API and the apps to improve media playback. This fixes some Youtube videos not loading correctly. But most importantly, the apps now load, and enable playback of Movie trailers from the trailers.apple.com RSS Feeds.

Search results in Elytra now also match Article titles and author names.

The apps now feature global search enabling you to search for Feeds and Articles. You can also match for author names. In a future release, tokens will also be introduced to tokenise your search for a more precise hunt.

Search results in Elytra on macOS now also match Article titles and author names.

If you’re looking up an article and there are no feed suggestions for the app to provide, the app will suggest feeds from the articles it has found. So you can jump to the feed or the article.

Reader Bar Sizes

The two new reader bar sizes: The small size on the left and the large size on the right.

To ensure the app is accessible by everyone, Elytra has always supported Dynamic Type, Voice Over and the various navigation accessibility features that macOS and iOS provides. In March, a customer got in touch with a complaint about the reader bar and a potential solution. We worked on that solution and I am now happy to let you know that the reader bar now comes in three sizes: Small, Regular (default) and Large. You can toggle the size from Settings > Misc.

PS: This setting has no effect if you’re using the toolbar.

Improvements

  • Drastically improved performance and accuracy of batch marking articles as read. (In my testing, marking a batch of 2000 articles as read previously took over 8s, and now only takes 2s).

  • Counting unread articles is now literally 6 times faster. The app can now spend less time keeping these counters up to date and more time rendering articles.

  • Improved handling and logic for rotation on iPadOS. This also fixes the blank slate launch state of the app on iPads in portrait mode.

  • Sharing articles on macOS will now use the recommended approach instead of the workaround I was previously using. This will ensure a smoother experience across various macOS versions.

  • The macOS app will now correctly sync after waking up your mac from sleep.

Fixes

  • Fixed a critical and long standing issue where articles marked as read on one of your devices would not sync to your other devices.

  • Fixed a critical bug where the “Start Trial” button would have no effect or start the process and keep the button disabled preventing retries.

  • Fixed an issue where opening a Feed or a Folder and then opening the Unread list would reset the sorting preference to Unread – Latest First.

  • Fixed an issue with sync not working correctly upon a fresh signup.

  • Fixed an issue where the wrong state for the article reader would be setup: incorrectly showing next and previous articles to be available when only a single article was available in that list.

  • Fixed an crashing bug on iPadOS where the app would crash after backgrounding the app.

  • Fixed a bug in which HTML would show in the summary field.

  • Fixed a bug with Substack newsletters where the images in the posts would be really small (Substack converts the original URLs into their image proxy URLs for the Feeds which caused this issue, Elytra strips out this information and then loads the images).

  • Fixed a bug where custom feed names would not correctly sync across to your other devices.

  • The macOS app will no longer open duplicate windows. If it finds an existing window for the same activity, it’ll bring that window to the foreground.

  • Externally connected displays on iPads will now mirror the the iPad screen. This would previously display the app’s UI at native resolution with no scaling. A future release will correctly address this issue.

Elytra is now available for macOS Big Sur

Elytra is now available on the Mac App Store.

It’s finally happened. It took 3 years and I hope it was worth the wait.

Elytra running on a Macbook in Dark Mode

Elytra for macOS brings the same native rendering performance you have come to know and love on iOS and iPad OS.

All of this has been possible because of Apple’s Mac Catalyst system which has been significantly improved on Big Sur, since its debut on macOS Catalina.

Your subscription will carry forward to the macOS App as well, no separate purchase or subscription will be necessary. (You can also take this opportunity to take advantage of the special pricing I have going on for Diwali)

I’ll be sharing a deep-dive into the design decisions for Elytra, but for now, I hope you enjoy the release.

As always, Happy Reading!

PS: A small update for iOS and iPadOS has also been released, so be sure to grab that from the App Store as well. 

Diwali 2020 Discounted Pricing

This year for Diwali 2020, a few of us developers have decided to offer discounted pricing in our apps. Elytra is a part of that list and starting today (30th Oct, 2020) Elytra’s Monthly and Yearly pricing is discounted up to the 27th of November. 

The Monthly subscription is currently discounted to $0.49 and the yearly subscription to $4.99 during the offer period. 

If you’re on the 14-Day trial, now is a perfect time to upgrade to the subscription. 

However, this is not the new pricing. The pricing is only valid for your first (or upcoming) renewal cycle. If you are already subscribed and your renewal window falls between these two dates, you will be charged the discounted pricing. 

In the following renewal cycle, you will be charged the regular amount. Now this whole thing might sound a little confusing so here’s a quick chart to explain things visually using the Monthly subscription as an example: 

Diwali 2020 Promotional Pricing Chart

If you have any questions regarding the promotional pricing or how future cycles will be billed, please feel free to email me at support@elytra.app and I’ll be happy to answer them.

I wish you all a very Happy Diwali, happy reading!

Elytra 2.1.0 is now available

Elytra running on the iPhone 12 - Mutliple Screens

Version 2.1 brings a lot of stability and Quality of Life improvements to Elytra before the final Winter release of this year. This also brings the iOS App up to parity with its macOS app to be released soon.

This build also brings support the the newly released iPhone 12 lineup as well as the iPad Air 4th Gen.

Link: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/elytra/id1433266971

New Font: Atkinson Hyperlegible

Atkinson Hyperlegible font displayed on the iPad Pro Gen 4 and iPhone 12

Designed by the Braille Institute of America, and offered for free, Atkinson Hyperlegible is a great new font choice for greater visibility and legibility for low vision readers. Paired with an Accessibility focused app like Elytra, I hope this improves the reading experience for you. 

You can read more about the Atkinson Hyperlegible font here

Improvements

  • If you have a URL copied, the app will automatically detect it when attempting to add a new feed.

  •  Tapping an article now dismisses the sidebar on iPads in portrait mode.
  • The sidebar items are now correctly highlighted. They no longer use the tint colour when selected.

  • Search in the sidebar now uses Alpha sorting like the rest of the view.

  • Multiple improvements throughout the app for Voice Control (VC) and Voice Over (VO) a11y options.

    • The app now correctly shows titles for icon only buttons when VC is activated.
    • The app now correctly updates states for icon only buttons when VC is activated.
    • Simplified Article labels for VC to make it easier to select articles. They will now be presented as “Article 1”, “Article 2” and so on… Previously, the article title’s was used which could be difficult to command with long titles.
    • VO will now read the article index followed by its title.
  • Improves formatting for CJK Text. CJK text should no longer appear as one big blob of text. It may still happen if the source provides it that way.

  • Unreads Widget intents now work as expected. You can now toggle between loading favicons and cover images in the widgets.

  • The article viewer will now draw horizontal rules. (<hr /> element equivalent.)

  • During first launch, if your account already has a subscription, the trial interface is no longer shown. You are directly taken to the Feeds Interface.

  • Added support for dragging and dropping articles into the Unread or Bookmark rows in the Sidebar to perform respective actions.

  • Added support for dragging feeds between folders or outside folders.

  • Added support for dragging feeds to external applications. This action will drag with the RSS Feed URL. (iPadOS only)

  • Updated images for GIF loading and playback controls.

  • Tapping a gallery image now opens it in full view.

Fixes

  • Fixed a rare bug that would prevent the bookmarks counter from updating when adding or removing bookmarks.

  • Fixed an issue where unread counters would not update when you have 0 unread articles.

  • Fixed loading of GIF favicons.
  • Removing a bookmark while in the bookmarks feed now removes the article after a small delay.

  • Fixed a rare crashing bug that would occur when initiating a Refresh in the Feeds Interface. (Thank you for Lee.)

  • Fixed an issue with the Today Count always reporting as 1.

  • Fixed rotation behaviour on iPads.

  • Fixed an issue where the unread/today counts would change when reading an article from a feed you’re not subscribed to.

  • Fixed an issue where the selected feed would remain selected after opening recommendations.

  • Fixed an issue with the Unreads widget not updating in a timely manner.

  • Fixed a background crash that would occur when syncing and downloading new data.

  • The app now saves restoration data properly so launching the app from a saved state is now faster.

  • Fixed an issue where images in the article viewer would fail to load (network issues, invalid URL or for whatever other reason) and would show a large placeholder image.

  • Twitter apps selection now works again when tapping tweets.

  • Matched the keyboard navigation to the macOS App.

  • Images in Widgets should now load reliably. I’ve discarded the older method of loading images in favour of a more standard approach as recommended by Apple Engineering.

  • Fixed the app using a semi-bold font for headings on iOS 14.0.1 and higher.

  • Image Loading options now correctly apply to favicons inside the Articles List Interface.

  • Title Font preference now correctly applies to headings inside the article as well.

Elytra 2.0.3 is now available

Hot off the tracks of v2.0.2 comes v2.0.3 with a couple of more fixes. All known issues in Elytra’s v2 are now fixed and patched. If any additional issues are reported, those will be addressed in v2.1.0 unless they prevent the app from functioning.

Improvements

Improved Swift and SwiftUI Syntax Highlighting
Improved Swift and SwiftUI Syntax Highlighting

Improved Swift & SwiftUI syntax highlighting in code blocks.

Fixes

  • Fixed an issue where selecting the “Only load on Wi-Fi” image bandwidth setting did not persist correctly.

  • Fixed an issue where selecting the “Low Res” image resolution setting did not persist correctly.

  • Fixed a bug where toggling dark mode (or already present) did not correctly set the colours for the filters’ input.

  • Fixed an issue where the Image Viewer would not display the image at full resolution once it is loaded.

  • Fixed an issue where the OPML Interface would launch with the base tint on the button backgrounds and then update to your preferred tint.

  • Fixed an issue where semantic colours would not load correctly on iOS 14.0.1 for your selected tint colour.

  • Fixed a crash that would occur when bootstrapping the local cache database.

  • Fixed a crash that would occur when saving restoration data.

  • Fixed an issue where images in articles would be scaled incorrectly when using the image proxy.

  • Fixed a bug where tapping on the Attributions item in the Settings interface would crash the app.

  • Fixed a crash that would occur when decoding certain HTML encodings. (16-bit decoding is hard, y’all!)

Link: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/elytra/id1433266971

Elytra 2.0.2 is now available

Elytra 2.0.2 (38) is now available on the App Store. This build includes some critical fixes and an update is recommended.

Fixes

  • Fixes a rotation bug on iPads.

  • Fixes an article scaling bug on iPads when toggling the sidebar.

  • Changing the selected tint colour now applies correctly throughout the app.

  • Fixed the app not loading the selected tint colour on launch.

  • Fixed an issue when searching for a feed by title or keywords would dismiss the modal.

  • Fixed an issue with pagination when searching for feeds in the Add New Feed interface.

  • Fixed an issue where the App would show a “No Subscription Found” error after resetting or deactivating your account.

  • Fixed an issue where an interrupted on-boarding would prevent you from using the app without purchasing a subscription. This now ensures you are always able to start your free trial if your onboarding was interrupted.

  • If you’re currently enrolled in the Free Trial, the subscriptions interface will now correctly indicate that.

  • Some blog engines convert emojis to an image with the emoji as the alt text on the image. Elytra will now skip rendering the image and appropriately render the emoji used by the author in the same context as the original blog post. This prevents the paragraph breaking on to the next line to accommodate the custom emoji image the blog engine inserts.

  • Fixes an issue with sorting of Feeds. Feeds which are not inside any folder are now correctly sorted in ascending alphabetical order. Thank you Jason, for pointing this out.

  • iPads in Portrait mode now correctly hide the sidebar upon tapping an article.

Link: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/elytra/id1433266971

2.0.1 is now available. Update Recommended.

Version 2.0.1 (31) should now be processing for the App Store and should become available shortly. I run into a small hiccup with the Review Process causing a small delay with the release.

This release mostly contains fixes for a few crashing bugs and it’s highly recommended, if you’re running iOS 14 now, that you update to this release.

Fixes

  • Various fixes for adding new feeds.

  • Fixed applying selected tint colours globally.

  • Deleting a feed (which is inside a folder) no longer collapses the folder.

  • Fixes a crash on opening the Notifications Interface if you have 0 subscriptions.

  • Fixes a crash on adding a feed from the Share Extension

There are some minor issues I am aware of. I’ll post another release next week to address those.

In the mean time, happy reading.

Link: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/elytra/id1433266971