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How to get started with Yahoo Livestand

Yahoo's magazine app for the iPad has an odd Microsoft feel to it and is harder to navigate than it needs to be.

The Livestand home screen features bookmarked topics and publications at the top and featured content below. Screenshot by Matt Elliott

Earlier this week, Yahoo released Livestand, its magazine app for the iPad, joining the likes of Evri and Flipboard. It doesn't look or act as slick as Flipboard, however, and it's not as easy to navigate as Evri. And unlike both, it doesn't let you view your Facebook or Twitter feeds.

What it does do is provide content from Yahoo's network along with magazines such as Consumer Reports, Forbes, and Surfer. Oddly, the interface feels vaguely Windows-like, from the blue background to the spinning circle you stare at while it responds to a command. The most useful part of Livestand is the ability to bookmark topics of interest to you, though both Evri and Flipboard make the process easier.

When you launch the app, you can jump right in and start browsing topics and reading articles, but in order to customize the app, you will need to sign in with your Facebook or Yahoo account. Since an iPad is often a shared device, Livestand lets you create up to four separate Livestand accounts. To access the log-in screen, tap the gear icon in the lower-left corner.

You can create up to four Livestand accounts. Screenshot by Matt Elliott

Once you have logged in, you can start personalizing the app with bookmarks, though the organization is confusingly split between My Library and your Personal Mix. When you are viewing the home screen of the app, you'll see floating featured topics thumbnails in the lower two-thirds of the screen, with a row of thumbnails listed in the top third, labeled My Library.

Sometimes a topic gets added as a thumbnail to the top shelf of your library, and other times it gets added as a topic in your Personal Mix, which happens to be the first topic under My Library. I figured broad topics and entire publications would get added to the My Library, and more-specific topics would get added as bookmarks to your Personal Mix. But the distinction isn't always clear. For example, Mashable gets added as a thumbnail in My Library, whereas Engadget gets added as a bookmark in my Personal Mix. Adding to the confusion is your ability to bookmark both articles and topics, in addition to adding other topics and publications to the top shelf of your library.

Tap the Explore All Content link from the home screen and you'll arrive here, where you can browse by subject area. Screenshot by Matt Elliott

To browse more than the featured topics from the home screen, tap the Explore All Content link in the lower-right corner. Here, you'll see a list of topics such as Art & Culture, News & Politics, Sports, and Technology listed on the left and thumbnails of the selected topic on the right. Swipe sideways to view more topics on the right.

To bookmark an article, tap the bookmark icon on the left. Screenshot by Matt Elliott

To bookmark a topic, tap the green square with the plus sign. If it turns into a stack of books, it has been added to your library's top shelf. If it turns into a red bookmark, it's just that: a bookmark. Now, if it's a bookmarked topic, it's accessible from two spots: your Personal Mix and and from your list of bookmarks, which you can view in a slide-out column by tapping the small bookmark icon along the left edge of the display. This bookmark list contains both bookmarked topics and articles. To bookmark an article, tap the bookmark icon along the left edge, which pops up a small window with two options: Add Bookmark and Show Bookmarks.

Other buttons in the menu bar along the left edge: a back button for moving up one level, a table of contents button for viewing the TOC of the publication you are viewing, and a Library button for returning to the My Library view. You can delete and rearrange the thumbnails in the top shelf of your library by tapping the Edit button.

Here, you can see the bookmark list of topics and articles, next to a glimpse of my Personal Mix. Screenshot by Matt Elliott

Your Personal Mix includes your bookmarked topics, each of which is given a column with handful of headlines and a link to open the topic. I don't believe there is a way to rearrange the order of the columns, but to delete a bookmark, tap the bookmark icon on the left, find the topic listed, swipe on it, and hit the Delete button. Evri's method of simply tapping a star next to each topic is a much more straightforward way to manage your bookmarks.

A few other notes: any magazine content offered in Livestand is free; you won't encounter a pay wall anywhere in the app, which, again, is free. On the downside, there is no search functionality, so you'll need to hunt around the app for content instead of simply searching for particular publication or topic. And given the chaotic system of bookmarking, search would be helpful, not only for finding undiscovered topics but also for locating those you've previously bookmarked.