Posted on by & filed under android, general, ipad, kindle, mobile, product management, Product Updates & Tips, Safari, Safari Flow.

We’ve had lots of requests for offline reading in Safari Flow, and I’m excited to share that we’ve started development work on the native apps* that will offer offline first.

We’ve been giving this a lot of thought and have looked closely at how to balance starting from scratch against building on what we discovered from the existing “Safari To Go” apps that complement Safari Books Online.

We’ve also examined what we think are some of the best reading apps, and looked at how other subscription services offer “companion” apps for words and video. For us this has meant looking at apps like Instapaper, Medium, Kindle, Spotify, Rdio, HBOGO and others.  (Have other recommendations? Let us know in the comments below)

It makes sense to us that the first release will be centred around the Queue feature in Safari Flow. If you’re not aware of the Queue, it’s a shortcut on any chapter, table of content entry, search result, recommendation or video to “save it for later”. You can add or remove items to your Queue by just clicking on the Queue icon, and your Queue is available from any page on the site.

Safari Flow Queue and Offline Native Apps

Using the Safari Queue to power the offline experience in the native apps

This week, we just added the ability to Queue whole books, so you can now add chapters, clips, and whole books and videos to your Queue in Safari Flow. The Queue is very popular with many of our users, and so for all these reasons, we think that the Queue provides a great foundation for also providing the means for choosing content to save for reading or watching offline.

We would love to hear from you on some more specific questions we have. For example, we are keen to take advantage of features like “background sync” that would allow us to instantly start downloading content to your devices as soon as you make a change to your Queue. However – some of our books (and almost all of our videos) can be hundreds of megabytes. Should we automatically do that for large files? Or make it a user setting? How respectful should we be of your bandwidth and storage limits?

Other questions include the weighting of reading books offline vs watching video offline, and whether just reading individual chapters in isolation is desirable (spoiler: we think it is). At the other end of the scale, one thing is abundantly clear – iOS far outweighs usage of Flow than any other platform (although don’t worry, we are also working on Android and W8 apps too).

We are hoping to make the apps as elegant and intuitive as Safari Flow. For us that means doing less rather than more, and releasing early and responding to user feedback. Like the web “app”, we think the heart of the experience should be an elegant reading and watching experience for the awesome material in Safari, and to try to get out of your way the rest of the time. So that means also handling the difficult transitions between “offline” and ‘online” (and indeed “intermittent” connectivity) on a subway ride to work.

Please share your thoughts on this below, and do bear in mind that it will be a while (“months rather than weeks”) before the apps are released!


* We’re sad that the current state of native offline support in HTML5 makes it very difficult to provide a good experience in the browser, so we’ll be starting with iOS and then moving into Android and Windows development.








14 Responses to “Offline “Queue” content in Safari Flow Apps”

  1. Isaac

    Awesome! I’m really looking forward for a safari flow native app. And Spotify as you mentioned is a great reference, it has a great interface (the new black one) and the way it manages offline content is great. What I like the most is the option to have predefined offline playlists, so whenever you add a song to that playlist it downloads automatically.

    Spotify helped me listen to more music, I’m sure Safari Flow app will do the same with reading :)

    • Peter Collingridge

      Thanks Isaac! The goal is that as soon as you add a chapter to your Queue, it will download automatically. We’re not sure if doing that with whole books and videos is “polite” on a cell connection. What do you think?

  2. Isaac

    Hey Peter

    I’m really data conscious myself, Spotify has a setting that restricts playlists sync while on cellular connection. The Audible app has that option as well, where you can restrict downloads to only use a WiFi connection. I download full playlists and full audiobooks both on high quality and so far I haven’t had a problem with my cellular data usage.

    I think this setting could give a solid option for data management.

    Also, I have no problem that you take your time working on this, I really want to have offline content, but I know how tough is to develop an app like this. Luckily there’s tons of apps out there, with great UX design were you can get some inspiration.

    Please let me know if I can help you with anything else :)

    • Peter Collingridge

      Thanks Isaac – Wifi only sounds like a good call.

  3. Arpad

    Brilliant news! Can’t wait for the native apps. Would love to have offline content in a native SafariFlow app and the Queue seems to be the right place to add that. Just allow to distinguish between online and offline queued content (Maybe offline displayed on the top of the list and graphically distinguished from online items?).

    One more suggestion is to add a “Finished books” or a “book view” to the Recent section to see the list of finished books or at least be able to see the complete list of books I’ve read or started to read. Ideally both ways. A progressive bar like there’s now would be cool to see how much of the book I’ve read. If a prefer to read whole books the current “book section” view is not very helpful.

    I agree to Isac’s suggestion on the “download on WiFi only” option, too.

    Other than that I like the UI. Also tried the “classic” Safari Books Online and cancelled the trial the first day and keeping my SafariFlow subscription.

    • Peter Collingridge

      Thanks Arpad. You can now Queue “whole books” on the Safari Flow website.

  4. Tom

    Hi Safari,

    I enjoy using the site and look forward to the release of the mobile app. The following is admittedly an odd feature request; I’m a very big fan of the FS Me font and would like to know if you could include it as an option within the app? It’s technically designed to aid legibility for those with learning disabilities, but I use it a lot anyway simply because it’s modern and very readable in general. I usually install it over the god-awful Droid Serif font on my Android devices but would love to see it natively integrated into your app.

    • Peter Collingridge

      Hi Tom. Thanks for the feedback. We are looking at the type stack we will use in the app, and legibility and control is a high priority. Font licensing can be complicated, but I’ll pass this on to the design team. Please be sure to give us your feedback when v1 of the app comes out – although bear in mind that iOS will come first. Thanks again for your comment.

  5. Christopher Lindblom

    I like the idea of a native app. I do my reding on a Nexus 7 today, but if you released an app for iOS first i might have to get myself an iPad mini because I wouldn’t be able to wait for the android version. :)

    The only thing I wish for in the app that haven’t been mentioned already is the ability to play video at higher speed. I know you have your hands tied by brightcove on the web but I hope you’re not limited by them in the up coming apps.

    Thank you :)

    • Peter Collingridge

      Thanks Christopher! We are trying hard to get more features into the video player and are talking to Brightcove on this. Thanks for your patience and support – stay tuned!

  6. Johnathon D Smith

    I think that the offline reading features are great, but the interface that you already have is awesome. I would be really interested in having that be a native experience.

    I think that the ability to have offline books is a great feature, but videos should be downloaded on demand. Videos take up as significantly larger amount of space, and if you know your going to be workout data access you can manually questions it up on your device before leaving.

    Being able to share a paragraph by way of email or posting a link on social media sites would also be cool. There have been many times that a per needed an answer, and I found it on safari. Being able to share a link that takes them directly to that answer has great value. It is also a great way too get new users on your platform.

    As it sits now, I love the service. I think it was well designed, and I look forward to using it for a long time to come.

    • Peter Collingridge

      Thanks Johnathon! We’re starting with the Queue to get something out there quickly – offline has been the #1 thing people are asking for. We’ll take it from there. And yes, videos will be pulled down manually (possibly full books as well – they can get pretty big).

      As for sharing paragraphs, on the desktop you can just select the text and create a “highlight” and optionally add an annotation. That will build a new page for you and we have a “share this” link on those pages. Here’s some of mine for example:

      Hope that’s what you meant!

  7. rob nicholson

    Any news of the availability for offline content to be saved on mobile app? Desperate for it! I’m reading so much less these days than I did when I used your premium offering. Unfortunately my company forced me off that onto flow, which I find I hardly use.

  8. Steffen Uhlig

    iOS is great and probably most important, but I am also looking forward to read Safari books on the Kindle. ePaper is just great, and on the beach I’d rather pull out a 75€ Kindle than an 600€ iPhone. Thanks, and keep up the good work!