It's important to note that our review is of the ALPHA version of the software. Once it's been delivered to you, Graphic.ly makes no bones about letting you know there will be bugs in their current release & we did find a few (largely in setting it up after the install but Graphic.ly was very helpful in getting us up and running).
You will need to have Adobe Air installed to run the software.
Graphic.ly is pleasant to look at and easy on the eyes with a faded neutral color design. This is good, if publishers/developers want us reading comics on screens for any length of time I'd hope that they'd consider the condition our eyes will be in once we're finished. After all, we'll need them for more than just viewing digital comics.
The layout of the main page is clean and very intuitive:
Like a blog that you might read, or a social networking site that you might frequent, your profile info is on the left along with news & updates with comics you can buy on the right (this feature has been turned off in the alpha) and updates from your self and as anyone you've "friended" (another feature that seems to be turned of) inside of graphic.ly streaming down the middle of the page.
Across the top of the page are additional navigation links taking you to different areas inside of Graphic.ly: your full profile, your comics collection, news feeds, and more.
Graphic.ly's user interface is really very nice and where Graphic.ly shines as a digital comic book experience. There are lots of ways to customize how the information is given to you. Here is a look a the "collection" area where you'll find the comics you're able to read:
ly runs a bit like HULU in that many of the features "disappear" into the background and allow you to focus on reading the comic book it self as it transitions to a full screen mode by default (however you can resize the window which is nice for customization as well as machines with smaller screens such as netbooks).
Click on the comic you want and it automatically downloads for you while you're waiting. Click on the title and you can get information about that comic, or read it. If you've read a comic on the iPhone or another device then you've all ready gotten a sense of how Graphic.ly's reader works accept that Graphic.ly has lots more room to play with regarding screen size, enabling them to put up some very nice graphics that enhance the digital comic book reading experience:
WANTED #1 (TopCow)
Here we have a full 2 page spread view, which Graphic.ly gets too each time you click the arrows through reading one entire page (panel by panel - see below).
Once you click the left arrow, while on the 2 page spread view, Graphic.ly begins providing another layer to the experience and breaks the page down by giving you each panel, one panel at a time, until you've read the entire 2 page spread and then it moves on to the next set of pages in line.
The comic book page, as a whole or broken down into panes all look really nice. The images are clear and crisp, as good as (if not better in some cases), any comic book page printed on paper today. As a bonus, in this mode there are specific features just for enhancing the digital comic reading experience including bookmarking pages, tweeting or updating facebook on pages you've read (including snippets of the page/panel it self), and leaving a comment/message attached to that page where other people logged into Graphic.ly can see and read it.
Every comic book fan boy needs news. Who'll voice Nightwing in the BATMAN:Under The Hood animated feature? Where will the up and coming Green Lantern film shoot? Who's publisher of DC Comics right now? All of these items have their place and are a part of the comic book experience, an experience that Graphic.ly understands as they've added a built in RSS feed reader and even preloaded it with a few choice feeds that my interest you:
The use of Adobe Air really makes these features not only smooth to use, but they really pop: each one standing out and demanding your attention.
Overall, not a bad way to read comics if I do say so my self, particularly when you take into consideration that this is simply the Alpha release with several features turned off and I'm sure a few new features waiting in the pipeline.
While I haven't gone over any of these things with Graphic.ly (although you can, in the "feedback" area of the software) per say it would be nice to be able to import comics not on their servers into the software so that you can read them. Say from a certain free digital comic book publisher?
Have any of you been able to give Graphic.ly a try? Would you like to? What would your ideal digital comic book reader have in the ways of form, functionality, and features?
Have a nice weekend,