I’ve been a Pinboard user for a few months now. The service is great: its a bookmarking tool for those of us that prefer to be organized about it, letting us tag everything we bookmark for reference later. The full-priced annual membership fee (for $25), an optional “accessory” which I don’t subscribe to, allows you to save a cached copy of any website page at the time of initial reference and provides full text search across all your bookmarks.
There’s bevy of great Pinboard clients out there, and for a long time I was using Pincase for my iPhone and iPad. It’s a great app with a beautiful iOS 7-inspired design, but it’s certainly not perfect (read more about it in my review). That’s why I’m excited to talk about Pinswift, a fast and beautiful Pinboard client for iPhone that I’m absolutely in love with. Read on to find out what makes this app such a great buy.
Simple, But Powerful
As far as design goes, which is of the utmost importance with an app whose primary purpose is easy saving, navigation, and tagging of articles, Pinswift is both fantastic and boring. There’s little here that isn’t delivered in the format of a list, which is exactly how it should be, but the app’s use of colours, gestures, and animations really show it apart.
The colours are of note: although the app doesn’t look inherently special, using colours as an easy way to reference where you are makes the feel much easier to navigate. It’s a little touch and a well-planned touch that resonates throughout the whole experience. I have a little concern over how a colour-blind person would navigate the app, but there are system options in iOS for them that are meant to help navigate colourful menus to begin with, so I’m hoping it’s not a problem.
Take, for example, editing or sharing a bookmark. Swiping a bookmark in a list brings up a beautiful little action sheet where you can edit tags, add a description, and the like. Swiping to the right makes it easy to share on social networks using the standard iOS Share Sheet.
The app also knows the difference, based on the Share Sheet, whether you want to tag something as unread or not. So I found a bookmark I was interested in reading, but didn’t have time to check out now. I added the public bookmark to my own list, and because I already hit the Read Later button, it marked it unread automatically. Marking it as unread adds a blue dot beside the item in your list of bookmarks, making them easy to find while browsing. Unread articles also get their own spot in the app.
All of this is to say that the design isn’t just intuitive, it’s also smart. So the app knows, or guesses, at least a little bit about what you want to do with each article. It also has tag suggestions for every article that are actually intelligent and usually fairly complete, unlike the standard Pinboard bookmarklet I normally use. Pinswift is a smart app.
For all of that, there are little touches that I don’t like. Instead of the main menu being a button that you access on the top left, the Pinswift “Menu” button of sorts is located on the top right. That requires me to relearn a little bit of my automated muscle memory.
The Other Perks
Unlike some Pinboard clients, Pinswift has a few tricks up its sleeve other than just easy saving and editing of bookmarks. You can also do some great tricks with its search function, which I really like. For example, you can search for multiple tags with a problem, a feature that many Pinboard apps don’t have. Searching for Chimero and TGD for me brings up Frank Chimero’s interview on The Great Discontent. While some apps can do that, Pincase, my previous pick for Pinboard based on design alone, simply couldn’t.
I also like the full text search, which works only if you have the annual subscription to an archival account on Pinboard. I don’t have that, so it didn’t work for me, instead acting like a tag search. Some people will wonder, then, why the two categories have to be separate — one for full text search and one for tag search. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure it’s necessary, but it does make it just a little bit easier if there are specific tags you’re looking for.
There’s one feature the app doesn’t have, though, speaking of tags, and that’s tag browsing. In order to browse tags, you’ll have to find an article with the tag you’re looking, tap the article, hit the Bookmark button, and then tap the tag name itself. Either that, or you can just search for the tag you need, but since tag search doesn’t feature autofill, that doesn’t feel much more effective.
If you want to save specific tags, you can set that up as a Saved Search for easy reference later in the main menu. It’s not perfect, but it’s there. That’s a definite perk, even though it doesn’t fix all of the problems with Pinswift’s tag organization. So for all the benefits to tag searching in Pinswift, it also feels like it needs a little more improvement.
One feature I’m undeniably impressed by is the x-callback-url implementation. I won’t explain it full because there’s documentation on the Pinswift website, but it’s a useful tool. For me, it allows me to easily send whatever I’m reading straight to Drafts and build a workflow from there. There’s also handy bookmarklet available on the Pinswift website that makes it easy to send over links straight from mobile Safari.
The biggest missing thing for me is the social element. I don’t necessarily think any Pinboard app has gotten this completely right, but I wish it was easier to follow users. Pinswift allows you to bookmark users’ tags and follow along, but you can’t follow just a user.
Although I’m not sure if this is a part of the Pinboard architecture, I’d love the option to find friends on Facebook and Twitter who use the service and follow them from there just to see what they’re publicly saving — not unlike a service similar to what Instapaper uses.
But these things are moot points in the grand scheme of things — Pinboard has been meant for a lot of people as a private way of bookmarking and tagging websites for later reference. In that respect, I think that Pinswift is a contender to be one of the best Pinboard apps on iOS. Its iOS 7-inspired design finds its own footing without a problem, and the app is easy enough to use that it’s perfect for casual users, hardcore Pinboard fans, and even iOS geeks who like to fiddle with x-callback-urls.
The bottom line? Within minutes, Pinswift knocked every other Pinboard client off my iPhone. I look forward to seeing how it evolves in the future, but for now, Pinswift is an easy and beautiful recommendation for anybody on the service.