App Review: ComicBookLover

Today marks the first in a long line of weekly app selections (and reviews). We’ve posted two app reviews prior to this (Little Galaxy and Deus Ex: The Fall), but they were one-off reviews, and not a weekly series. Now, you can look forward to at least one app, handpicked and reviewed by one of our writers, each week, posted every Monday. So without further ado, the app picked for today’s review is ComicBookLover for iOS, a free app for, you guessed it, reading comic books, available for the iPhone/iPod and the iPad. I only have an iPhone, and not an iPad, but the difference should be minimal apart from the increased screen size.

Overview

ComicBookLover is a free app available for the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, and Mac (free download link to Mac version). I will only be reviewing the iPhone/iPod Touch version, because I do not have an iPad, and the Mac version adds a humongous watermark to the comic, taking up around an eighth of the page, which can only be removed by buying the software here. That said, the iPhone and iPad versions are superb, free, and also ad-free, with incredible features such as on-the-go, over-the-air downloads of comics from your online storage accounts (such as Dropbox, Box, Skydrive and Google Drive), Manga mode, and support for comics in CBZ, CBR, and PDF formats.

Getting Comics Into Your Device

There are several ways to get comics into your device.

Photo 1

Firstly, and likely the most familiar to everyone, is through iTunes sync, which is available for Windows and OS X users. Here are the instructions from the app page.
1. Connect your computer to your iPhone/iPad using the USB cable.
2. Launch iTunes on your computer.
3. In the Devices section of the left-hand menu, select your iPhone/iPad.
4. Click on the Apps tab and scroll to the bottom of the page.
5. Select ComicBookLover and then drag and drop CBZ/CBR comics to the document list. Alternatively, click on the ‘Add…’ button.
6. In ComicBookLover on your iPhone/iPad, select Transfer, iTunes File Sharing, and then click the ‘Add to Library…’ button.

Pretty standard stuff, like I said.

Another way is to use the “Open In…” function of iOS, where you download a file and copy it over to another application, in this case, ComicBookLover. This works with Safari, Mail, and other apps supporting the copying of files over to another application, like a download manager. Once, again, this is one of the simplest ways to get your comics into your device. When using Safari, simply download the file in CBZ, CBR or PDF format, and once it is downloaded, if there is already an option to “Open In ComicBookLover”, click that, and if not, click “Open In…” and select the ComicBookLover app.

Yet another way is to use the Mac software ComicBookLover Sync coupled with the Mac ComicBookLover reader (everything can be downloaded here. I have taken the liberty of quoting the site for the instructions.

How To Transfer Comics (Mac OS X Users)

You can transfer your comics in a few easy steps.

1. Get ComicBookLover for your iPhone or iPod Touch.

2. Download ComicBookLover (for Mac OS X). You don’t need to register or purchase the application, you can run it in Demo mode.

3. Download the transfer helper tool, ComicBookLover Sync (for Mac OS X).

4. On your iPhone or iPod Touch, enable WiFi, and select the Transfer option in ComicBookLover, and select ComicBookLover Sync as the transfer method.

5. On Mac OS X, drag’n’drop a comic from ComicBookLover to the transfer helper tool. That’s it!

Do note that you need to first open your CBZ, CBR, or PDF file in the reader app first, and then drag the comic book from the reader to the syncing application. Also, you can only transfer one comic book at a time, so you would have to manually drag, drop and upload each comic. Other than that, it’s actually pretty nifty, allowing for quick transfers without a cable.
You can also transfer the comics using FTP. Once again, I have quoted their instructions.

How To Transfer Comics (Windows and Linux Users)

You can transfer comics via FTP (File Transfer Protocol)

1. On your iPhone or iPod Touch, enable WiFi, and select the Transfer option in ComicBookLover, and select FTP transfer.

2. Use FTP software like FileZilla (all major computer systems) or CyberDuck (Mac OS X) to copy comics to your device.

However, the best way to transfer your comics is still to store your comics in a cloud service such as Dropbox, Box, Skydrive or Google Drive, and then download it to your device whenever you feel like reading the next comic issue. It’s really simple. All you have to do is log in to your cloud service, navigate to the comic, and tap on each one you want to download. This has several big advantages. One, if you are low on space, you can download only several issues at a time, and delete them once done (they stay in your cloud service). Two, you can download multiple files all at the same time. Three, you don’t even need a computer for this. However, the speed of the download will definitely not be as good as FTP, ComicBookLover Sync, or iTunes File Transfer.
User Interface
The UI is pretty simple, just a barebones (not too appealing) interface that fades away when you are reading the comics. It has not been updated to reflect the iOS 7 design aesthetic, but in my opinion this is not a big issue. Nobody needs to care about what the menu bars of the app look like, when the main focus of the app is the comic. There is support for both landscape and portrait modes. On a small device like an iPhone/iPod Touch, you are going to want to use landscape mode. When in landscape mode, you can see a lot more of the pictures and the text is big enough, so you don’t need to zoom in so much to read the comic (but you will still need to scroll). To fill the screen, and then be able to “pinch to zoom” into the image, you need to double tap the image. I’m not very sure why you cannot just “pinch to zoom” without first filling the screen, but it does not bother me much.
If you have sorted out and added in your comics’ metadata, specifically the series, publisher and genre (I haven’t, whoops), then ComicBookLover organizes it for you. Still, the organization lacks one simple feature, which is simply an option to organize everything alphabetically. Most likely, you have organized your comics by their issue number already, but sadly it organizes all your comics by “Recents”, which can get a bit annoying when you are trying to find the next issue in a long list of them.
Not very great organization...
Not very great organization…
To go to the next page, you can either press and hold the right side of the page (or left, when on Manga mode), or swipe to the next page, which I find more intuitive. Also a useful feature, when you decide to stop reading, you don’t need to bookmark your page, as CBL saves the page for you and brings you to it the next time you open the comic.
The menu that is brought up upon tapping the screen once
The menu that is brought up upon tapping the screen once.
Settings
There are tons of settings for you to customize your reading experience. When reading a comic, upon tapping anywhere on the screen, you get a menu showing a shortcut to your settings, the orientation lock, Manga/English mode, brightness control, “next” and “previous” page buttons, and buttons to go to the last or first page of the comic book.
You can change settings for your reading, numbers of fingers required to swipe to the next page, the ability to tap to change the page, or even to back up your comics to iCloud.

Verdict

Pretty much one of the best comic book readers out there, this app is a great download, especially since it is free. It supports nearly all comic book formats you will need, and due to its support for multiple ways of downloading the comics to your device, is truly versatile and useful. Whether on the go or at home, your comics will only be a tap or two away, especially with the killer feature of being able to download your comics from Dropbox and other cloud services.

Well, that’s it for this week’s App Of The Week. Do tune in next week for App Of The Week #2. Hint: It’s about one of the most popular sports in the world.

Have you tried ComicBookLover? Do you like it, or hate it, and why? Are there any specific apps that you want us to review? Do air your opinions and request for specific reviews, down in the comments section below, and also, like our Facebook page, and follow our Twitter to receive updates from us on the go, and share this story with your friends and family. If you are a developer and would like your app reviewed by us, do send a promotional code to our email at [email protected], and we will get back to you within 2 working days.

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