Times Reader, from the NYTimes

September 24, 2006

As a subscriber to TimesSelect, I have recently had the opportunity to test a near-final version of a software program called “Times Reader” that allows Times aficionados to read the paper in its own desktop application with much the same formatting as the physical paper. The advantage, of course, is that the content can be dynamically refreshed as often as the reader would like and that, in the meantime, all current articles are stored on the hard drive for instant access.

Smooth, Apple-like screen wipes and fades accompany transitions between sections of the paper, and text and photos scale dynamically based on the size of the application window and the user’s own preferences. Many illustrations accompanying articles, for example, feature a zoom function that allows for viewing them in much higher resolution than is available on the Times website. Maximizing the window on a high-resolution display allows users to see both full-quality photos and subheads beneath each headline (they disappear at a certain size threshold).

What distinguishes Times Reader from online browsing is the speed and seamlessness of access to Times content. A row of buttons along the top offers one-click access to every section of the Times, and the noticeable lack of any loading times gives users even more instant gratification than usual, even considering modern multi-megabit Internet connections. A built-in search function with graphically-presented results is also a great tool for finding out more about nearly anything of import.

Times Reader is the first program to make use of Microsoft’s .NET 3.0 platform, a beta version of which is included in the installation utility. Having such a powerful back end in the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), the application itself relatively lightweight in install size (3 MB) and memory footprint (about 35 MB on my machine). For space (and other) reasons, all downloaded content is deleted within one week of downloading, but this is certainly long enough to allow for, say, a leisurely reading of the paper during a plane trip, and you can even annotate articles for future reference right in the application window. How convenient!

Best of all, The Times has recently made Times Reader available to all customers with an NYTimes.com account, which is free to acquire, though stability issues will likely continue until the end of the beta period. Interested readers with an NYTimes account can download v0.1.0.2 here, and an FAQ about Times Reader is freely viewable here.

Bottom Line: Convenient, pretty, and free of charge. What’s not to love?

–D. S. W.


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