Taking Axis for a Spin: New iOS Browser Is a Sweet Ride
May 25, 2012 5:00 AM PT
Axis, an app from Yahoo, is available for free at the App Store.
"Exciting" hasn't been a word linked to Yahoo for a long time, but if the moribund company has more surprises like Axis up its sleeve, that may change.
Axis is a combination iOS app and browser extension that creates seamless browser connections among devices. What's more, it does it with visual elan.
On the iOS side of things, the free software runs as an app on the iPad and iPhone. I installed the program on a first-generation iPad.
When you perform a search, your search results appear as a strip of thumbnails across the top of the screen. You can zip through the thumbnails by swiping the strip. To see a search result in full-screen mode, you tap the thumbnail.
As you type in the letters of your search term, Axis will dynamically display results in the search strip, as well as recommend relevant search terms in a window below the search bar.
A drawback to using thumbnails instead of text for results is it can sometimes be difficult to determine the relevance of some of those results. However, you may be surprised about how much you can tell about a result even in a low-res thumbnail.
At the bottom of the Axis screen is an icon labeled Tabs. Inside the icon is the number of tabs you have open.
When you tap the tab icon, a strip appears at the bottom of the display with thumbnails of pages you have open in Axis. As with the search results strip, you can move through your tab thumbnails by swiping them. Tabs can be deleted tapping the "X" found on each thumbnail.
At the beginning of the tab strip is a blank thumbnail with a plus sign in it. When you tap it, the software's home page appears.
By default, the home page contains three thumbnail strips: Read Later, My Favorites and Continue From Device.
Any Web page can be stored in the My Favorites, Read Later or any other folder you create within Axis by tapping the star icon at the top of the app's screen. When you tap the star, a list of folders will appear. Tap the folder and a thumbnail of the page will be stored in it.
The Continue From Device strip provides a way to jump from device to device without skipping a beat. If you have a Web page open in one device, when you go to another device or your desktop, you can tap or click Continue From Device and that page will appear in the other device.
Continue From Device will work, however, only if you log in to Yahoo, either with Yahoo, Facebook or Google+ credentials.
After logging in, Axis will automatically update your folders on your various devices, too. So if you add a Web page to a Favorite or Read Later folder on your iPad, it will appear in Axis on your iPhone and desktop, too.
Another way to access the Axis home page is by tapping the arrow-in-a-box icon beside the favorites star at the top of the screen. In addition to swift access to the home screen, the box offers options for sharing a page via email, pinning it to Pinterest and tweeting its link.
To the right of the options box is a "ribbon." Tap it, and you can manage the bookmarks in your folders. You can sort them by name or date, as well as search them.
At the top of the bookmark screen is a pencil icon. Tap that and you can delete bookmarks from your folder.
If you want to repeat a past search, there's a history function located in the program's settings.
As with all third-party browser apps in the iPad, you can't make Axis your default browser, so clicking on a link in an app or email will still open Safari.
An iPad Natural
On the desktop, Axis can be installed as a browser extension in Firefox, Safari, Chrome and Internet Explorer. I installed it on Chrome.
Creating a browser extension instead of an alternative browser is a smart move by Yahoo. Who wants to cope with another browser, right?
Within Chrome, Axis appears as a short bar at the bottom of the screen. When you click on it, the bar extends across the full length of browser window.
The software on the desktop essentially performs the same way it does in iOS -- without the swiping and poking.
Although Axis crashed a few times while using it and the Yahoo servers choked occasionally trying to serve up thumbnails of pages, I found the new browser fun to use and a natural fit for the iPad.
The automatic updating of bookmark folders and the pick-up-where-you-left-off convenience of Continue From Device is a great productivity feature.
Other software developers have dabbled with making their browsers more visual, but Yahoo has delivered the goods with Axis.