16 June 2012

BeyondPod

For some time now, I've been meaning to build on my mini reviews of DoggCatcher and BeyondPod in the PSC Forums, and perhaps do a comparative review.  However, this intention has been overtaken by the news you'll find at the end of this post.

I was involved in the beta testing of BeyondPod 3.0, which involved a major redesign of the UI.  This addressed the vast majority of my gripes with BeyondPod 2.9.15 and transformed it into something which (to my mind at least) is much more intuitive.

New Views

There are now 3 top level tabs, or Views (Feeds, Episodes and Player), and the Categories can be selected from a drop down list by tapping the tabs for Feeds and Episodes - both of which now identify themselves as such, as well as showing which category is selected.  The Category choice is consistent across both views.

The feed list is now accessible (as before) by opening up an individual feed in the feed view, but is now subordinate to the Feed view (i.e. you return "up" to the Feed view from it, rather than it being sandwiched between the Feeds and Episodes view in 2.9).  Category management is accessible from the bottom of the category drop down list or from the menu button.  Settings are accessible from the menu button in all views. 

Easy access to Sleep Timer / Stop at End

A sleep timer button (including stop at end of current podcast) has been added in the player, and you can configure your choice of timers (or take the defaults).  I have set my default to be sleep at end (i.e. stop at the end of the podcast), so that when I'm in the car and know I'll reach my destination shortly after the current podcast ends, I can quickly tap the button to tell BP not to start playing the first few minutes of the next podcast in my playlist; I have also set additional options of 10 and 30 minutes, which I genuinely use for falling asleep to.

Why I like it

In short, the things I already liked about BeyondPod 2.9.15 still apply (including its readable fonts and colours in the dark theme). In addition to that, all of the cons listed in my original mini review have been addressed.

There are lots of options for more advanced use, including default sort orders for episodes and feeds, the ability to lock (i.e. disallow automatic deletion of) certain feeds or individual podcasts - useful for some BBC podcasts which are only available to download for a limited time after transmission, so you don't want to accidentally delete an episode, and Episode Cleanup mode, where you can select multiple episodes to be deleted in one fell swoop ... and much more.  

Of course, if you want a simple, minimalist podcatcher, all this functionality is a bit overwhelming, but I love being able to have a playlist that always contains the things I'll want to listen to, in the order I want to hear them in, without me having to do anything at all, now that my SmartPlay list has been set up.  As I do almost all of my podcast listening whilst driving, that's an important feature for me.  And yet, I can still change my mind and pick another category to listen to just as easily. 

For the sake of completeness, one thing in the main text of my mini review that hasn't been addressed is the inability to order feeds within a category ... but unlike DoggCatcher, where the feed order in the category mattered, as that defined the order they were played in, BeyondPod can play the episodes in date order within the category anyway, so in practice I don't find that to be an issue.  Also, you still can't choose "All" episodes in a category when constructing a SmartPlay list, but you can manually play all episodes in a category - again, in practice it's never been an issue for me.

Active Ongoing Development


The BeyondPod version in the market is currently 3.0.19, and beta test versions are available to anybody who's interested from the BeyondPod website (although at the time of writing, this is currently 3.0.19 too).  BeyondPod is a full time job for its developer, and the team is keen to make it work as well as possible for as many users as possible - they welcome feedback on the forums and try to find ways to implement solutions where they can.  Ongoing development is very active. 

Why no comparison or proper review?

I said that the outset that I'd been intending to write either a comparative review, or a more in-depth review of BeyondPod on its own.  So why haven't I written the post as intended?

The answer is that, as a result of my beta testing involvement and contributions to the BeyondPod user forum, I am delighted to say that the BeyondPod team have offered me some part time paid work to get involved with the product on a more formal basis, and I have accepted their offer.  Writing a comparative post (or even a full blown review of BeyondPod on its own) as a paid member of the team seemed unethical. 

Future developments

I'm looking forward to the new developments in BeyondPod - just the next beta release, due out within the next week will include some interesting new features (which in turn open up other possibilities for future features), and 3.1 will introduce some important new functionality too.  Exciting times!
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