The Paper Chase

A few weeks ago, we mentioned reports of a new Facebook app in the works — called sort of weirdly enough for the digital realm — by the name of Paper. Last week, Facebook confirmed Paper’s existence, put out a promo video and released the app on February 3rd. Many people virtually ran right over to the App Store to download it and check it out.

fbp1So just what is Paper? In short, it’s basically a new skin for your Facebook page that knocks it out of the endless vertical scroll format. Paper looks like a visual mashup of elements — part Flipboard’s mix of news and status updates, with a dash of the full-screen photo-treatment found Google+ and a splash of the modular tiles seen in Windows Phone. It’s customizable (to a certain degree) so you can arrange stuff the way you want to see it. With it, you flick through both your Facebook life and news from around the world.

fbp5Right now, the app is for iPhones running iOS 7 only. There’s no widescreen iPad HD version, nor is there an Android edition. (Perhaps the larger screen sizes of tablets and phablets defeats the purpose of having Facebook as a one-handed read.)

When you download the app on your iPhone and open it for the first time, it lifts your Facebook credentials from the regular Facebook app — if you have it installed. So there’s not much effort needed to get rolling in Paper.

fbp4The Paper app divides the screen into one large section at the top, and a series of smaller vertical tiles long the bottom half of the screen. You flick through each half of the screen to navigate through your chosen feeds: Facebook, Headlines, Tech, Pop Life and so on.

As usual, your Facebook feed shows the stuff from your friends, and the others (like Headlines) show articles from major news organizations and blogs on various topics . Overlaid icons at the top of the screen let you tap in to see Facebook messages and notifications without having to navigate away from the screen at hand.

Flick through the tiles along the bottom to glance at status updates and news dispatches in small type; tap one to make it readable.  A tutorial greets you the first time you open the app and explains all the various swipes and taps you need to do to navigate Paper. You may need to use it a few days to get the hang of what to swipe and where to flick, but here are some basic moves:

  • Drag down from the top of the screen to see your timeline, create posts, edit sections or adjust your settings.
  • Drag up on the top of a story tile to open the full version in the site. This part feels very Flipboardy.
  • Tap photos or videos to see them in full screen.
  • Drag a tile down to the bottom of the screen to return to the layout.

fbp2Who might like Paper? People who like all their information in one place, ready to be absorbed at a glance. Or maybe those who were bored with the regular Facebook mobile app.

But for those who like their Facebook feed all mixed together and linear — or who get mad every time Facebook redesigns itself — well, those folks will probably be annoyed with it. The app doesn’t feel as customizable as it could be with fonts and section topics. With iOS 7, there’s also the clashing UX issues of swiping the edges of the display and inadvertently summoning the iPhone’s Notifications screen or the Control Center.

But Paper is free, easy to install and worth a look if you like your news updates to be a mix of personal and  public. (Want more reviews? Time, The Verge, CNET and even MIT have weighed in.)

And if you don’t like Paper, go back to the old Facebook app. They haven’t taken it away. Yet, anyway.

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