Monday, May 16, 2022

Podcast app Overcast gets a major design overhaul

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Overcast, a popular podcast player for Apple devices, is getting an update that brings a major design overhaul to the main screen, as well as a new theme system that lets you choose the colors used in the app. For Overcast users like me, the update is another coat of paint for a well-made app, and power users will likely find plenty of new tweaks and settings that they can use to make the app work even better for their use.

In a blog postThe app’s developer, Marco Arment, says the 2022.2 update, available for download Friday, is “the biggest redesign” the app has ever received, and promises some exciting future updates.

The changes are obvious from the moment you open the app – there’s a new recent carousel, which allows you to quickly resume episodes you were listening to and see which podcasts have new episodes (you can even long-press the tiles for more options), and the interface is full of updated icons. Playlists, which are at the top of the screen, have gotten a major overhaul: they now appear as customizable colorful bubbles with icons, instead of gray rectangles like before, and you can now create playlists that show you all your queues, starred episodes, downloaded or running episodes.

The old Cloudy home screen, on the left, versus the new, on the right.
Image: Marco Arment and Image: Marco Arment

If you want one of those pre-made playlists, you can easily add them to your home screen from the Add Playlist menu — and if you don’t want them, you can ignore them entirely. (The Add Playlist menu also includes the option to hide and show the recent bar, if you’re not a fan.)

Below the playlists and the Recents section is your list of podcasts. In the previous design, the home page had sections for playlists, podcasts, and podcasts played. The last two have been replaced by a list that allows you to switch between three modes: not played, active and inactive. Unplayed shows you podcasts with unplayed episodes, active shows all your followed podcasts, and inactive for “podcasts you don’t follow that have no episodes added, or that appear to be inactive”. (Those podcasts also get a cute little moon icon all over the UI.) You can pin shows too, keeping them at the top of the list.

In addition to the new functionality, the app is also just looks like more beautiful. I wouldn’t say Cloudy has ever looked bad, but in my eyes the update makes it a lot more modern. Arment mentions that he’s updated the app’s typography and spacing, but probably the most exciting thing is the addition of a new theming system. You can keep Overcast’s light mode orange and dark blue if you like, but I imagine a lot of people will enjoy looking through the palette of available colors and selecting something different – and yes, you can have different colors for when the app is running in light or dark mode.

The app lets you choose from 12 different colors, and the one you select will be used for just about every button in the interface.
Image: Marco Arment

There are also some minor tweaks, such as a redesign of the menu that appears when you tap a podcast episode in a playlist. Now there’s a button that lets you mark an episode as played, which Arment says was “by far the most requested feature from the user.” You can also mark an episode as played by swiping right on it and tapping its icon.

A list of podcasts in a playlist, showing the font and menu updates.
Image: Marco Arment

Friday’s update is mainly focused on improving the experience of managing your podcast library – once you start playing one, the design will be much the same as the previous version, except the theme color you choose will be used throughout. . Arment does promise that the currently playing screens and individual podcasts will get their own new coat of paint in a future update, so there’s something to look forward to.

After trying the update for a while, I am impressed. In the two years I’ve been using Overcast, I’ve never really clicked with the playlist or queue system, but the new design makes me want to at least give it a try.

And while I haven’t been able to use it long enough to see how much of a difference some of the bug fixes and improvements to the background notifications will make, I did enjoy some of the minor quality-of-life tweaks (nitpicky details, as they’re labeled in the Cloudy menu settings) too. I’m excited to see what Arment has in store for the new playback screen, as that’s the interface I end up using the most.

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