Aug 7 2011
There are a lot of reading apps out there for Android and everybody has their favorite one be it Moon +, Cool Reader, one of the many store apps (Kindle, Nook, etc.) or the well known Aldiko. A new app, called Mantano, has jumped into the fray with both feet and quickly become popular among many users. A friend of mine described it as ‘better than Aldiko with much better PDF support’, not a bad recommendation.
While Mantano if fairly new to Android devices the folks behind it have been developing reading software for ePaper devices for a number of years and you can tell that by the refined feel of the Android app. Mantano requires Android 2.1 or greater and supports both regular Adobe Adept DRM as well as the password based variation used by Barnes & Noble. The full version is available from the Android Market, Amazon Appstore, AppsLib and SlideMe for $4.99. The Android Market, AppsLib and SlideMe also have a full featured 7 day trial version so you can give it a workout before spending any money.
Upon launching the app you’re presented with your library. Library view can be customized for viewing with options for a simple list, a detail list or cover thumbnails only in three different sizes (list and detail also show small cover icons), cover thumbnails in all views have a graphic in the corner telling you if it’s an ePub or PDF. Books can be tagged from detail view or also by tapping and holding on a book to bring up its detailed information. The library can be sorted by Title, Author, Rating, Date Added and Date of Last Access. At the bottom of the screen are menu options for ‘Syncronize’, ‘Explorer’, ‘Filter’, ‘Views’, ‘Search’ and ‘Settings’.
‘Syncronize’ will search your device for compatible ebook formats (ePub & PDF). You’re presented with a list and you can select all or put a checkmark next to each book you want to add to your library screen. ‘Explorer’ offers you a file browser as another way to import books. ‘Filter’ lets you filter the books seen by all books, authors, tags, publishers and formats. ‘Views’ lets you switch between the library viewing options described above. ‘Search’ can be used to look for a book in your library when you have a long list to look through. ‘Settings’ is where you enter your Adobe ID and also has options for the Library, Reader and Lexicon (under the Lexicon option you can download various dictionaries). You can also turn on expert mode which hides button titles and get access to tips, help, a way to submit requests and download a user manual.
Across the top of the library screen are tabs for ‘Library’, ‘Lexicon’, ‘Notes’ and ‘Bookfinder’.
‘Lexicon’ can be used a couple of different ways and it seems to me it would be most useful for a student or perhaps someone learning a new language. The way it works is if you highlight a word and look it up either via one of the three default web based options (Google, Wikipedia and Wiktionary) or via one of the ten downloadable embedded dictionaries you can also add that word, along with it definition if using an embedded dictionary, to your personal lexicon for later reference. The dictionaries that can be downloaded are English, English-German, English-Spanish, French, English-French, French-English, Spanish-French, French-Spanish, English-Polish and Polish-English.
‘Notes’ give you quick access to all your notes. Notes can be sorted by creation date or title, filtered by type and location and also searched. Another useful feature is that you can also use the notes area as a notebook to create either written or drawn notes that are unassociated to a specific book.
‘Bookfinder’ connects you to a way to look for books (both free and pay). It’s associated with the Bookari website where you can create an account to customize things such as preferred language (although when going to preferences I kept getting an error). When you search your results supposedly come from a pool of more than 50 ebook catalogs including Barnes & Noble, but I found results to be incomplete at best. Every author I searched for was missing books and sometimes specific titles returned no results, yet checking B&N shows that they are available there. Also I found that after browsing for a while tapping a book started giving a blank page instead of the books details. When you do find a book you get a link that takes you to its source site for purchase or for free books from places like Feedbooks you’re given a download link. All in all I found Bookfinder to be of little use, just like I’ve found similar things in other non-store released reading apps like Aldiko. It’s just not a feature I’m likely to use.
Now on to reading. ePub reading is pleasant and much like other reading apps. Page turns are done by tapping or swiping and can also be set to volume button control. You can create both written and drawn annotations, highlight in various selectable colors and change font size via a + or – style control or by swiping up or down on the page.
There are built in themes for default (black on white), night and sepia, but you can also create custom themes. Custom themes include font (via a free downloadable font pack or you can add your own), line height, text alignment and margins (although sometimes margins fail to work, I’m assuming due to something in the CSS or Page Template of some ePubs overriding things). Text and background colors can be set to anything you want via a color picker and there are also options to force bold and italic text.
The menu also has search and dictionary option and one thing a lot of readers don’t offer Text To Speech. TTS appears to work pretty well, but as I’m not generally a fan of it I’m not likely to catch any big problems other might have (one nice thing is it works with the screen off so you can save on battery use). Brightness can be changed by simply sliding your finger along the left border of the screen. You can also at any time access the books info including, if available, it’s description/blurb, bookmark pages and access the table of contents. There is no two page mode in landscape like the Nook app has, but the developers have mentioned adding that feature in the future.
I found PDF reading to be great, and I can’t say that about most readers that handle them. Like with ePub you can annotate (both written and drawn), highlight, bookmark, use TTS, do dictionary lookups and search. There are also options to fit screen, fit horizontally and fit vertically and can also custom fit the PDF with the crop tool. You can also zoom and pan the PDF or switch it to reflowable mode and read it more like an ePub. In a PDF with columns a double-tap on that column will cause it to fit to the screen. I generally find PDF reading painful in anything that’s not a dedicated PDF app like EZ PDF or RepliGo, but for me this app can replace the need for a separate PDF reader.
Overall Mantano is one of the best reading apps I’ve ever used and has replaced Aldiko for me. It’s my go to reader when I’m not using something like Kindle for Android. While it’s not perfect I find the willingness of the developers to not only listen to, but implement requested features a sign that it will get nothing but better in fact they fixed one problem I found before I even got this review finished and posted. At $5 some will consider it expensive in the world of free apps, but I’ve found it to be well worth the money.
Below is a Youtube video of Mantano running on and Archos 7 (from the developers)…