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iOS 5 delivers 'a wealth of changes'

Michael deAgonia | Oct. 14, 2011
Four months after it was introduced at this year's Worldwide Developer's Conference, iOS 5 is finally available.

Safari tweaks

Safari gets several updates, including improvements to its rendering engine (it feels a tad faster to me) and the addition of two new features: Reading List and Reader.

If you come across an article online and want to save it for later, Reading List allows you to do just that. Tap the Share icon in Safari -- it's between the forward arrow and Bookmarks icon on the iPhone, and it's the icon immediately to the left of the address bar on the iPad -- and tap Add to Reading List. This saves a bookmark to the article for later and syncs the bookmark across iCloud to other supported devices: Macs, PCs, iPads and iPod Touches.

The other Safari feature, Reader, offers the same function as its desktop Safari cousin. Tapping on the Reader text to the right of the address bar brings up a new interface that formats the Web content for minimal distraction by ignoring ads and joining articles spread across multiple pages.

On the iPad, users get tabbed browsing, similar to that already offered on desktop browsers. To add a tab, press the plus button; to remove, tap the x located in the tab.

Mail

Mail gets some refinements, too. You can change quote levels in an email, and add basic customization to font styles (bold, italics or underline) by tapping BIU on a highlighted word. The iPad email client can bring up the Mail sidebar, which stores individual mailboxes such as In and Sent, with a swipe from the side of the screen; you can drag names in the address fields, and you can create mailbox folders on the fly. Email search results now include text from the body of messages. And message flagging is now supported.

The improvements to Mail, like those in Safari, are more or less subtle; there's no breakout change, but you can see where Apple has sanded away rough edges compared to previous releases.

Newsstand, Twitter, the Camera app

If you subscribe to magazines or newspapers, iOS 5 keeps them organized in a folder on the Home Screen, aptly called Newsstand. If you've downloaded the app and bought a content package, all of your previous dead-tree subscriptions are now stored here, updated automatically when new issues are released. Those issues are downloaded in the background, a number badge shows up in the Newsstand icon, and the magazine icon changes to reflect the latest cover.

About the only problem I have with Newsstand is that it is, by itself, a folder, and that limits how it can be arranged on the Home Screen. Since you can't place a folder in another folder, I wasn't able to put Newsstand into my Reading folder, where similar apps are kept. Otherwise, Newsstand is a nice little addition.

 

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