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Pulse gives RSS feeds an iPad-friendly sheen

Newspaper, magazine and website publishers are excited about iPad, as it lets them create standalone visually-rich apps to serve up their articles (and ads). Want to read GQ on your iPad? Get the app. Want the Wall Street Journal? That’s another app. Fancy Mashable too? Yep, another app.

What if you want something a bit more… aggregated? An app that pulls in articles from a bunch of your favourite sources, and serves them up in a whizzy iPad interface? Apple’s tablet can and will be perfect for a new generation of user-friendly RSS readers, which look less like geek tools, and more like, well, interactive magazines.

Pulse News Reader is an early attempt. Out this week, it costs £2.39 on the App Store, and has plenty of promise. You add up to ten news sources, using keywords to search rather than typing in lengthy RSS feed addresses. Those sources can include Twitter feeds and YouTube channels too.

It then sucks in the latest stories from those sites, and presents them in a nifty grid-based interface. You can scroll along each source’s row by swiping your finger, while tapping on a story opens it up full-screen – while keeping that site’s feed running along the bottom of the screen.

The obligatory sharing via email, Facebook and Twitter features are all there, and you can choose to read pure text versions of stories, or switch to their website views. It’s the work of two students from Stanford University, who say they’re working on Google Reader integration for a future update, and have set up a forum for users to request more features.

There are a few wrinkles at this stage. The app isn’t pulling down thumbnail pictures for every site I’ve set up, which makes the homescreen look a bit text-heavy. And since this is based on RSS, for some stories you’ll only get a paragraph extract, if that’s what a source supplies. Flicking into web mode brings up the full piece in those cases.

Still, Pulse News Reader is an intriguing take on personalised news, and well worth a slot on your iPad alongside all those standalone media apps.

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