There’s just something about a big screen.
I’m not talking about the 60-inch kind that fanatic Super Bowl party hosts go out and buy. I’m talking about your computer, the screen you sit in front of for eight or nine hours every day, replying to emails, browsing the Web, editing videos or writing code. Once we get to work, our playful smartphone apps get left behind, trapped on smaller screens as we turn to the more serious keyboard, mouse and full-sized Web browser.
For the past month, I’ve been road-testing a desktop version of an app that was born and raised on tablets and smartphones: Flipboard.
Since its launch on iPad in 2010
, Flipboard has always fancied itself your personal magazine — a stunningly-designed app that connects to your social networks and gathers articles from all sorts of sources on topics you want to read.Yet, it has only been available as a mobile app for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. This meant you could flip through thousands of articles about nearly any topic that came to mind, but not when you sat down at your computer and had some time.
Starting today, you can access Flipboard from your desktop. It runs in your Web browser, and if you already have an account, you can log in at Flipboard.com. If you don’t have an account, Flipboard walks you through the process of selecting topics you like — a concept it introduced in late October with Flipboard 3.0, which integrated topic-suggesting smarts from Zite. (Flipboard bought Zite from CNN about a year ago.)
People who use the most up-to-date version of Flipboard on their smartphone or tablet will see some design similarities in this browser version. But news junkies shouldn’t expect it to replace their as-it-happens desktop news feed of choice. Flipboard for desktop is clearly made for people who have more time to read and learn about a topic.
Clean design, easy to digest
On the Web, Flipboard can really stretch its design legs. Single photos from articles bleed across the entire screen, selectively-placed animated GIFs dance to liven up the page, and gobs of white space help you read without feeling overwhelmed. Several photos from one story can be displayed in a block design that pulls a common color from each photo; Flipboard calls this its Gallery layout.
As you move your cursor over Flipboard’s suggestions of what you might also like to read, the image below your cursor grows slightly bigger — just enough to notice, but not enough to distract you. Featured-article images that stretch from left to right offer another subtle animation: As you move down the page, the image and the text floating over it bob up slightly, reminding me of an effect I first saw in the New York Times’ “Snow Fall” multimedia article.
Flipboard as a news feed
Compared to TweetDeck, which serves up snack-size pieces of news from Twitter, Flipboard for the Web is more of a sit-down restaurant menu.
TweetDeck is designed so that new tweets continuously appear as they are posted by other Twitter users. This fills your TweetDeck news stream with tweets so quickly that you can’t possibly read them all, and the experience can feel overwhelming. Still, TweetDeck is useful for staying up-to-date on news as it’s happening.
Flipboard, on the other hand, specializes in roundups of news — especially in The Daily Edition, Flipboard’s own magazine. Instead of interrupting me with breaking news, it encourages me to scroll through articles at my own pace. I can either open stories I want to read right away, or click a plus sign to “flip” them into one of my personalized magazines for digesting later.
This isn’t to say that recent news won’t appear in Flipboard. Each time you hit refresh, news gets pulled in from topics or people you’re following. And if there is breaking news that the Flipboard news desk is covering, these editors will add that news to The Daily Edition.
Become your own Conde Nast
The concept of creating magazines in Flipboard was introduced in 2013, and it has improved dramatically in the last few months. Flipboard users have created more than 15 million so far, and as you scroll though Flipboard on your computer, you’ll see suggestions of other people’s magazines you might like to follow. These suggestions come from Flipboard’s editorial team and its algorithm, which studies the number of readers, followers, likes and comments associated with each ’zine.
Flipboard magazines on the Web are like roomier versions of what you see on your smartphone or tablet. While the mobile app uses Flipboard’s namesake flip gesture to quickly skim through articles, on the desktop the flip is replaced by scrolling.
I used Flipboard for the Web to create magazines like “Kids: I Need All The Help I Can Get,” which I filled with articles about parenting, and “Food, Glorious Food,” for recipes and food stories. I also piled a mishmash of stories into a magazine I called “Read On My Own,” and marked it as private, meaning only I could read its contents.
One of my favorite things to do with Flipboard magazines was curating stories for other people, like “Reads Kevin Would Enjoy,” which I filled with stories for my husband. I included an article on flowers that women actually want to receive on Valentine’s Day (hint, hint). And I added stories he’d like reading, like an NPR interview with Benedict Cumberbatch after we saw “The Imitation Game.”
I shared this with him via email; Twitter or Facebook also work via Flipboard for desktop. But to do this, I had to make the magazine publicly visible. In the next couple months, you’ll be able to make magazines that are only visible to the people with whom they’re shared. “Fifty Shades of Grey” bookclubs will appreciate this.
Like Pinterest, Flipboard for the Web has a bookmarklet that you can add to your browser bar. When you’re reading an article or video that you like, tap this button to add it to a magazine for reading later.
Another useful tip: Save flipboard.com to your browser’s bookmark bar. Like all new things, you won’t use it unless you see it every day. When I had this link to Flipboard at the top of my browser window each morning, I opened it and used it more.
If you’d rather not see suggestions for topics you might like in Flipboard, turn them off by going into your profile (top right corner), selecting the “Signed in as __” drop down menu, clicking on Settings and unchecking the box for Content Recommendations.
Currently, you can only flip an article into one of your magazines at a time, which is frustrating if you find a story that would fit well in more than one magazine. Flipboard says it is working on a solution to this, perhaps as soon as this summer.
In the not-so-distant past, people piled their desks with stacks of magazines and newspapers they hoped to read when they had time. The modern-day version of this is saving a bunch of links in a read-it-later app like Instapaper or Pocket, or in the case of Flipboard, flipping a bunch of articles.
Flipboard magazines were already addictive, but now this is especially true on the Web, where you have more space to look around and more time to read. A few dozen flips later and your habits backfire, surrounding you with virtual stacks of articles that you may never have time to read.
I recommend alleviating this burden by sharing Flipboard articles with social networks and friends, or creating a magazine to share with someone else.
If you’re a Flipboard user who, like me, has waited for years for this to come to the Web, I can say that you won’t be disappointed. For new users, I recommend adding this tab to your browser.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.