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Thank you!

It's now almost two weeks since ThinkBook launched and it's well past time to thank all those who helped.First of all I need to thank Thom, who took on ThinkBook graphics design and came up with something so wonderful that I still can't believe I wrote the code behind it. If you have any doubts as to the importance of someone like Thom to an aesthetic tragic like me, let me show you what ThinkBook looked like last December.

Next, the beta testers. Some of them started when ThinkBook looked like the video above and have tested version after version after version. They provided fantastic feedback and really helped shape ThinkBook. All while keeping up with the releases and constantly re-testing. Thank you gals and guys!

Last but not in any way least, I have to thank all of you who helped with the launch of ThinkBook. If you've re-tweeted an announcement, told a friend about TB, showed someone the demo video or even better, demoed the app running on your iPad we just can't thank you enough.

Announcing ... (for a little longer)

Dearest readers, it sure has been a dry spell hasn't it? Sorry for the lack of news. We were working on something super secret. In the end I'm not sure we needed the secrecy, but you start doing things a particular way and if you're stubborn you tend to continue doing things that way till something happens.

In this case what happened was that we finished.

Anyway, so towards the end of last year we got to a point in Comic Zeal development where the next update would have to be a huge one.

You see, the issue is that ordering comics (or other things) can be a bit of a chore. Putting the view into a special mode is a pain, then dragging items up/down is ok, but it breaks down really quickly when the destination is a few screens away, or if you have to move a lot of items. Of course, it doesn't work at all if you want to move things to an entirely different place, like to a different series entirely.

We needed to have a much more flexible system to re-order, move and organize comics. We wanted it to be fun too, take the chore out of it.

We were working on that problem, and coming up with some nice things too, when we realised that we had the basis for a different kind of app on our hands. Something that we've needed for a while but never found one that we liked. We decided to have a play with it and the little experiment went really well. We made an app out of it.

It's ready now, we'll be releasing it in a couple of days.

Today I'd like to tell you about it, but I'd like to make a game out of it.

It's been a few long months of working on this and I've been looking forward to today since the day the first prototype gave us a glimpse of what it could do. So I want to have some fun with it and hope you will join me.

Starting at 11:00 CST today (so around two hours from now if I've calculated it right) I'll be answering questions about the new app on Twitter. We'll start off limiting answers to YES/NO if that's ok with you all and see where it gets us. Your aim will be to find out the function of the app, and, for extra non-existent bonus points, the name.

It should be fun, I hope you'll join me (most of the rest of bitolithic will be asleep! it will be 0300 over here).

The twitter account is @bitolithic.

At the end I'll post a link to a very nice video demonstrating the app.

A new, exciting, feature coming to Comic Zeal soon.

By now you probably have a version of Comic Zeal with the page lock feature. There's been an item on the to-do list that's been niggling at me for over a month now.

When the user has page lock on and they get to a landscape page (normally a two-page spread from a portrait single-page) CZ forgets about the lock parameters for that page and shows the landscape page in a height-fit mode.

In most cases that's enough to read the text on the iPad, the user can see the second page by panning to the right.

When the user turns the page again the page lock settings are re-applied and everyone's happy.

Except for this one thing ... it's not always obvious to the user that they have opened up a landscape page. In most cases it is, text, characters or panels are only partially displayed. Sometimes though, it isn't.

Which brings me to the niggly to-do. It tells me to add an indication to the user that they are looking at a two-page spread.

I was thinking of adding a little graphic, but there are some issues with that. Most of the time people don't want the graphic, so there will have to be an option to not show it, which people will use, which means they won't see the graphic when they need it.

Thank goodness for the beta testers though.

One of them said 'Why not just move the view to the right when they press the next page button?'.

Well, duh.

Obviously that makes a lot of sense. If the user indicates that they want to go onto the next page, but they haven't seen the second page in a two page spread we simply show them that second page. It's better than a graphic because it automatically does what the user will want to do when they see the graphic.

Now we start extrapolating.

Should it also work if the user hasn't seen the bottom of the current page? It would be nice wouldn't it?

What if we look at this as a way to navigate the page? instead of having to perform a careful action (panning the image right or down), the user can just press the next page button or tap zone.

How about this ... how about if pressing the next page button progresses you along the 'natural' reading direction until you run out of page? (natural reading direction is left to right, then down, then left to right again in western comics).

It's really quite a simple feature but it could be very important, it has the advantage of not needing to detect panels but greatly simplifying the reading experience and can be tweaked in the future to stop at panel boundaries depending on zoom levels, panel size etc. We could even adjust the zoom level a little bit to help fit panels or read text better.

You probably want to SEE it don't you? Well, do I have a screencast for you!

It's a little experimental right now, so I'm going to add it to a new 'experimental features' section of the settings pane. That will give us a chance to get your feedback (and work out bugs) before making it official. Naturally, this mode will always be an option that you can turn off.

I hope you enjoy the screencast and I'm really looking forward to getting this feature out to you.

Speaking of new features, the universal version of CZ 4 has been submitted to Apple for review.