It seems doubtful that Felix, a new client for App.net developed by @billkunz, was named after the famous cartoon cat. The word felix means “happy” or “lucky” and, based on the positive response to the app evinced across App.net since its 1.0 launch yesterday, I think it’s more likely that Felix was so named because it aims to please.

I’ve been testing the app like a two year old tests the resolve of her parents, all the while keeping a sharp eye on the user feedback people post for Bill Kunz. Bill seems to read EVERYTHING Felix-related on ADN and responds to the majority of the comments.

So. The app is beautiful. Muted colors, soft shadows, and liberal use of Helvetica Neue warm the cockles of my heart. I also find it refreshing to see that icons float container-free against the background without descriptive text. The lack of labels makes it tough to remember exactly what everything does, but you soon get the hang of it.

The main problem with the icons, though, is that there are just way too many of them. A row of icons (reply, view conversation, repost, and star) accompanies every single post, and is therefore repeated over and over AND OVER on every screen that displays a stream. Coupled with the generous 256 character limit on App.net, this creates a situation where only two or three posts fit on screen at any time on my squatty iPhone 4S. I’d prefer it if these icons only revealed themselves after I tapped on a post (in order to save space).

Another issue with icons – and this one is super serious in my opinion – is that the exact same icon (a star) does triple duty in this app. As you might expect, tapping the star icon on a post adds it to your “starred” posts count across App.net. But in Felix, you can also “star” entire conversations. And as if two instances of the star weren’t more than enough, the app also employs the star icon as a follow/unfollow button.

Maybe someone would argue that starring a post, starring a conversation, and following a person are kind of the same because each of those actions results in somehow associating an entity with your user account. But in response to that I say: it is confusing. And also: no. Use three different icons.

There’s some room for improvement in other areas of the app as well. For example, Felix lacks a font resize option (an important feature for visually impaired users and a “nice to have” for everyone else) and I haven’t found a way* to incorporate hard returns into my posts from within the compose screen. I can’t prove anything definitively, but the app seems to drain my battery when I leave it open for any length of time. Dashboard stats (follower/post counts etc.) sometimes lag behind what I see in the App.net alpha and there’s no way to refresh the Dashboard screen. I also wish I didn’t have to refresh each stream of posts individually.

That acknowledged, Felix really is a lovely app. My most favorite interaction of all takes place on profile screens. It’s tough to describe these things succinctly and to capture the intense delight that you’d feel experiencing it yourself, but more or less: as you scroll down through items on a profile screen, the user’s name, cover image, and profile photo gradually shrink and come to rest against the bottom of the title bar. The black text of the user’s name turns white, pixel by pixel, as it slides up over the cover image. When you scroll back up to the top of the screen, the user’s personalizations enlarge, reverting to their original state. See? Lovely.

And while you’re at it, try dragging upwards when you hit the bottom of a user’s profile screen; you’ll discover the date the person joined app.net as well as their user ID number rendered in tiny text.

The dashboard tab in Felix surfaces some helpful information you won’t see in the App.net alpha: your total post count, the number of people you’ve muted, conversations you’ve starred, as well as app settings. You can also search for people and hashtags from the dashboard. I wish that I could change my cover image, edit bio text, and update my profile photo from within the app – but maybe that’s something for version 2.

Within settings you can manage push notifications, toggle @mentions on and off in your stream, adjust the default repost to include comments, dim IFTTT posts with @replies (which does wonders for the readability of the global feed), and manage media sharing and saving web content. Felix integrates with Droplr and CloudApp as well as with Pocket, Instapaper, and Readability.

The app costs $4.99 and I believe even with some flaws it’s well worth the price. And while I hope some of the ideas expressed on ADN and in this app review will make it in to the next version, I am also just happy Felix exists at all (and grateful for any opportunity to vent my hyperactive preference).

​Useful Links

http://tigerbears.com/felix/

App Store Link​

​*UPDATE: @treestman has most helpfully informed me of the following: “In Felix, Hit the “123″ key in a post and the Return key will appear on the right to enter hard returns.”

​(originally published on BAD YEWEX)