As the CPU power getting stronger and stronger, and screen refresh speed keeps improving for E-Ink devices, more and more people start to use E-Ink devices to browse the internet. It works; however the experience is still not good enough. Existing browsers are not designed for E-Ink devices. There are so many UI elements added for normal Android devices: fancy animations, dimming background when a dialog pops up, etc.
To make a browser suitable for E-Ink devices, two principles should be followed while designing UI interactions:
- Fewer repaint counts
- Make repaint area as small as possible
Fewer Repaint Counts
To meet this criteria, the first step is to remove animations. Animation means showing the gradual transition status from one state to another state. It’s very nice to see transitions for normal devices; however, on E-Ink devices, due to its refresh rate, the transition is usually not so smooth. Removing animations not only reduces CPU processing, but also reduces screen refresh counts.
In addition, while browsing web pages, it’s very common to scroll down the screen to read more content. This behavior may produce ghost image residuals on E-Ink devices. It would be better to browse the web just like reading a book, page by page. To fulfill this, specific buttons can be added to handle pageUp/pageDown. If the E-Ink devices has physical volume keys, we can also use them for pageUp/pageDown the web page.
Make Repaint Area as Small as Possible
When the repaint area is large, it’s more likely to create more ghost image on E-Ink device. So, reducing the area means fewer ghost images. An obvious example is showing a dialog. On mobile devices, it’s very common to display dialogs asking user whether they want to do something or not; or showing option dialogs to allow user choose from multiple choices. When dialog pops up, to make user more concentrated on the dialog, system usually dims the rest of the screen. The intention is good, but this causes E-Ink device to flash the whole screen. If the dialog is well designed to achieve the same goal, the dimming effect could be removed.
So far, I haven’t seen a dedicated browser for E-Ink devices yet. I decided to make one, based on a Github project written by Gaukler Faun. FOSS Browser is a lightweight browser that supports many features, including ad blocking, tab control, gesture control, etc. I took some time to refactor the codes and make necessary modifications to make it more appealing for E-Ink devices.
Now it has following E-ink related features:
- Reader mode (remove headers, ads, sidebars, footers, for easier reading)
- Vertical reading mode (suitable for Chinese and Japanese)
- Use volume key for pageUp/pageDown.
- PageUp / pageDown / Back button in tool bar
- PageUp / pageDown by touching screen
- tool bar configuration (show/hide actions, or re-arrange order)
- Desktop mode feature
- All icons in high contrast colors
- Refactor most popup dialogs, so that there’s no longer animations.
- Remove gray mask when dialog pops up.
And more generic features
- Re-organize menu items so that they can be accessed without switching between tabs.
- Fix Google Login issues.
- Modify floating action button design, so that it only outlines the button without blocking underlying content.
- Add Multi-Window support
- When adding a new tab, by default, keyboard will popup, so that users can start input the search keyword, or input the url directly.
- Add Web count in tool bar
Feature Introduction Video
EinkBro - Apps on Google Play
Simple, lightweight, fast, but powerful, and particularly tailored for Eink devices.
EinkBro | F-Droid - Free and Open Source Android App Repository
It's a lightweight browser to provide powerful features designed for Eink devices.
Github Binary Release
Releases · plateaukao/browser
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