Simplify Your Web Browsing on iOS with Cyberspace

Do you often find the web too cluttered on your iPhone or iPad, or find it too difficult to share what you’re reading with others? Today we’re going to look at a browser that was designed from the ground-up to provide a great online reading, bookmarking, and sharing experience on iOS.

Most of us have gotten used to using Safari for our daily iOS browsing; it’s fast, smooth, and gets the job done. But it’s not perfect. Adding support for Instapaper to Safari is difficult at best, and browsing between multiple pages can be confusing. Plus, if you want to take advantage of newer search engines, there’s no way to add new sites to Safari’s search box.

Cyberspace is a new browser that aims to tackle some of these problems. It integrates Instapaper deeply into your browsing experience so you can read any site easily on your device. Then, it lets you share anything you read with a number of popular social networks and bookmarking services, and keeps a list of articles you want to read handy. Let’s dive in and see if this browser is right for your needs.

Getting Started

When you first launch Cyberspace, you’ll notice that unlike many alternate browsers, it’s nearly as simple as Safari.  You can get right to work with it, too.  You’ll see a welcome page when you first launch the app, explaining how to use the DuckDuckGo powered DuckBar and other Cyberspace features.  Or, if you already have a URL clipped in the clipboard, it’ll recognize it and offer to let you go ahead and open the site.

Check out an overview, then quickly go to your favorite sites.

Check out an overview, then quickly go to your favorite sites.

The DuckBar is very similar to the combined address and search Omnibar in Google Chrome on a PC.  You can simply enter a website address or a search term you want, and it’ll take you to the site or search results respectively.  As you’re typing in your search term, you’ll see suggestions that often make it quicker to find what you’re looking for.  And, if you type in a popular site name, the suggested entry will take you directly to the site.  By default you’ll see the standard keyboard that iOS uses when entering an address in a browser address bar, but you can tap Switch Keyboard to get the standard layout if you’d like.

Searching with suggestions and DuckDuckGo Bang finds results faster

Searching with suggestions and DuckDuckGo Bang finds results faster

Since the DuckBar is powered by the new DuckDuckGo search engine, you can directly enter special bang syntax to find results quicker.  Tap the ! button on the top of the keyboard to get an overview of search goodies and Bang syntax so you can get the most out of your DuckDuckGo powered search.

Get quick tips on using DuckDuckGo

Get quick tips on using DuckDuckGo

Once you browse to a site, you can view it in either Full or Text mode.  Full mode renders sites the same as Safari Mobile, while Text mode runs sites you visit through Instapaper Mobilizer to make them easier to read on a small screen.  While you could manually visit a site through Instapaper Mobilizer on Safari, having it just one tap away is incredibly handy.  The Text feature works surprisingly good, even on rich, multi-column layouts like the WordPress.org site uses.

View full sites or an Instapaper-powered text version

View full sites or an Instapaper-powered text version

Save or Share Sites

Cyberspace’s two main areas it shines are making sites readable and then letting you share them easily.  When you’re reading a site you want to share or save to read later, tap the arrow button on the right in the bottom toolbar.  You can quickly select from three popular options, or press More to access all the actions and services that Cyberspace integrates.  Once you’ve started using services, the share menu will show your 3 most recent choices so you can get your favorites easily.

Cyberspace lets you share or save sites with a ton of services

Cyberspace lets you share or save sites with a ton of services

Before you can start sharing, you’ll need to add your account info for most of the services to Cyberspace.  Once that’s done, you’ll be able to tweet about a site in just two taps: tap the arrow, select Twitter, and your link will automatically be shortened and ready to tweet.

Add your account credentials, then share with one tap anytime

Add your account credentials, then share with one tap anytime

Alternatively, if you’re wanting to read a linked page later, tap and hold on the link to copy it, add it to your queue, or save it to your Instapaper account.  Cyberspace doesn’t include support for browsing multiple pages or tabs like Safari and other browsers.  Instead, it includes a Queue so you can save sites to read later.  Once you’re finished on a site, press the drawer icon on the bottom left to see your queued sites and visit them.  You can also save a note about sites you want to visit or things you find online from the button on the top right corner.  These tools let you manage your browsing session in a unique and productive manner.

Keep a Queue of sites you want to read later

Keep a Queue of sites you want to read later

If you want to save a site for good, then Cyberspace works great for that too.  Press the plus button to bookmark a site as you would in other browsers.  The nice thing here is, you can choose to save your bookmarks locally on your device, or in a social bookmarking service like Delicious or Pinboard.  You can also easily save or share your bookmarks with an easy HTML export.

Save bookmarks locally or online with Delicious or Pinboard, then export them to share or save

Save bookmarks locally or online with Delicious or Pinboard, then export them to share or save

Tweaking Cyberspace’s Settings

Cyberspace includes a lot of features, but you can also tweak these to work just like you want. Head over your device’s Settings app to tweak Cyberspace’s settings. Here you can turn on or off actions based on apps and services you use, select your favorite service for reading articles, turn off ad blocking, and more. Also, if you have OmniFocus or Pastebot installed, you can enable support for them here so you can integrate these into your browsing experience. There’s way more settings available here than in most alternate browsers, so you can take some time here to get it working just like you want.

Tweak tons of settings from your iPhone Settings pane

Tweak tons of settings from your iPhone Settings pane

Pros and Cons

Cyberspace definitely makes it easier to integrate Instapaper and social bookmarking into your iOS browsing experience. However, if you’re not a fan of reading sites in plain text and don’t share links often, you may not find these features helpful. Additionally, the new features can take some time to get used to, though we did find the queue feature handy once we got used to adding sites to the queue instead of opening them in new pages.

The only major problem we had were some occasional crashes. The app closed itself a couple times when opening a link, and once we had to remove it from the currently running apps on iOS 4.2 before it would open sites again. Cyberspace is very new, so we hope to see some stability updates in the near future.

Conclusion

The breadth of the App Store lets you find apps for every taste and style. This time, more features mean less clutter and easier ways to read and share online. We found Cyberspace to be a promising new browser, and appreciated many of the new touches. From the deep integration with Instapaper to the innovative Queue list, several of the features made browsing easier, especially when reading longer websites. Plus, after getting used to Chrome’s combined address and search bar, it was nice to see this feature on iOS along with DuckDuckGo’s new search tools. The stability issues were frustrating, however, so hopefully we’ll see an update soon that fixes these problems.


Summary

Cyberspace is a new browser focused on making the web easier to read on iOS. With an integrated DuckDuckGo powered search and address bar, simple sharing to popular networks, and integrated social bookmarking, it's designed for those who share and consume the most online.

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