One of the most common uses of Weekend Read is to open a script someone has emailed you.

Here is the “right” way to do it:

  1. Go to Mail.
  2. Find the email with the file attached.
  3. Tap and hold on the file, then choose “Open in Wknd Read.”

The trouble is, it’s entirely reasonable to go to Weekend Read first. We let you import a file from Dropbox or a clipboard URL. Why don’t we let you import from Mail?

Because we can’t. Apps are sandboxed, and there’s simply no way for Weekend Read to reach into Mail and see what files are there to be imported.1

Yet it’s a normal, natural instinct for a user to want Weekend Read to work this way.

So for Weekend Read 1.0.2, I asked Ryan and Nima to add a Mail option that would simply switch the user over to Mail. Basically, “Oh, you want to import a file from Mail? Here, let me take you to Mail.”

But you can’t even do that. Apple provides a URL scheme for creating a new message in Mail, but not to simply switch to the inbox.

iPhone screenshot

Faced with these limitations, we still wanted to make adding a file from Mail as pleasant as possible. I asked Ryan Nelson to come up with a new animation that would show exactly how to add a file. I’m really happy with the result.

Now, whenever the user chooses Email from the list of import options, she is presented with a card acknowledging what she’s trying to do: “It’s easy to import a file from Mail.”

If she clicks on the “Show me how” button, she gets a looping animation that walks her through the process.

It’s entirely possible that a user will forget how to add a file from Mail and click on it again. That’s okay. The experience is consistent and predictable. If you’ve forgotten how to get to a file in Mail, you can learn again in 12 seconds.

Here’s the animation Ryan made:

Screenshots can show you what something looks like; animation can show you how something works.

But they can also be really annoying. When Facebook’s Paper app launched, it was criticized for its intrusive hand-holding. But I think this is a different case. Here, the animation only plays when you specifically ask for it. You want to know how to do it? Okay, let me show you.

If you want to see what the animation looks like in context, Weekend Read is free in the App Store.

ETA: As I was writing this, a new release of Weekend Read (1.0.3) went live in the App Store, which addresses a minor display bug.

  1. GoodReader skirts around this by asking for your email login information and checking the mail server itself. That’s more responsibility than I felt comfortable having as an app developer.