What should a SuttaCentral app be like?

Part of our long term plan will be to develop apps for Android and iOS. This will not happen any time soon, as we have a number of things that need completing first. But it doesn’t hurt to get some input as to what kinds of things we should be looking at.

The site itself has been designed in a fairly app-like way, and follows some of the standard design patterns seen especially on Android, such as the sidebar, the header that disappears and rolls back, the expandable search, and so on. So I’m think that we don’t need to do all that much to adapt it for apps. One obvious change would be for the user to select language(s) when installing it.

But then again, I don’t use apps all that much, so I don’t know what’s possible. Maybe you have a favorite app, or some idea that you think could be useful. If so, let us know your ideas.

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Perhaps an app would be nice, but the current site seems to work quite well on my android phone. Unless it would have all the files off-line (which is the case for the ATI apps) I’m not clear about the advantages, but of course there may be issues I have not thought of.

The most obvious advantage is offline capabilities, together with being available through the App Stores. Perhaps there are other things we could do, which is why I posed the question.

But on the whole I agree, I think that many of the things that make apps valuable are not really relevant for us.

I don’t like the idea of apps, to me it undermines what makes the web so valuable. And as phones get more powerful, and what we can do on websites evolves, the advantages of purely native apps get eroded all the time. All of which is why we haven’t made it a priority.

But there are some ways of making apps these days that are relatively simple, and this is what we would be looking into.

Yes, offline would be an advantage in some cases, though I understood that this would be quite large.

It might be good to look at the Wikipedia app, which clearly isn’t an off-line thing, and work out what the advantages are over just using the website on your phone.

Picking this up after a long time, it seems to me that there is less and less need for native apps.

We’re almost ready to start releasing our texts as ebooks, which means anyone can read them offline on any device. This further erodes any benefit to having an app. Unless we come up with a stronger case, I’m inclining to just take this off our 2do list.

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I don’t know, I’ve been hoping for a more modern and native alternative to ATI’s iPhone app.

How do you find SC on iPhone? What would be the most useful thing for you?

the only thing that leaps right to my mind is that the UI should be as much like that of the mobile website as possible. there’s a lot to be said for consistency.

thank you for asking! :anjal:

oop - never mind. just saw your post about the decreasing usefulness of native apps and the ebooks sound like a fine alternative. i already have the ebooks of Maurice Walshe’s and Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translations of the four major collections, but will definitely look forward to having such tasty little morsels as the KN on my phone. :fork_and_knife:

my experience is not extensive with SC in any form yet - i only discovered it a few days ago - but so far i’m liking the iPhone version a lot. largely because it is so consistent with the “real” website. i admire that hugely. crippleware “mobile websites” have been a thorn in my side since they first appeared, as one of the original crowning glories of the iPhone was a real web browser that allowed one to use real websites right on one’s phone (um…provided the sites didn’t rely on Flash. :unamused:) it’s all too rare, imho, that webdevs do what you guys have done with SC and essentially present the same exact thing on mobile devices that one encounters on one’s computer.

the only odd thing i’ve noticed so far about SC on my phone is that i keep getting new “first” badges for some action i just performed on my phone that i have in fact performed any number of times before on my computer; for whatever reason (and it could be a setting on my end), first quotes and first likes and other such badge-fodder don’t seem to be recognized when i do them on my computer - only on my phone.

that aside, i haven’t (yet) noticed anything i’d change about the mobile site. bravo, gentlemen!


It’s just my taste, and no offense intended to anyone, but I’ve been hoping for a less-Thanissaro-Bhikkhu-infused alternative to ATI. I prefer the more dignified and reverential tone of translations with more formal wordings, plus I don’t agree with all of Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s perspectives on the doctrine and so would rather read the translations of those with whom I feel more of an affinity (*cough* Bhikkhu Bodhi *cough*).

but that’s just me.


I also think the site works great on all devices I’ve used, so there is really no need for an app as long as one has internet.

However, being able to read the suttas off-line would be useful. When travelling it’s not always possible, or cheap, to use the internet a lot.

Of course the Wisdom versions are available, but they don’t cover everything…

Basically I designed the site for mobile, following standard patterns on Android, and it so happens it works well on Desktop too. On mobile, it maximises screen space, and on desktop it minimizes clutter and distraction.

Okay, so this is here on Discourse that you’re talking about. Discourse is basically a third party app that we’ve lightly modified, but this sounds like a bug with Discourse, we haven’t changed any of these settings. You don’t by any chance, have cookies disabled or any other modifications in your browser?

Well, I’m working on my own set of translations, so they’ll be ready in a year or two. However they might not make you happy as they’re less formal than Ven Bodhi’s. But they are open source, so you can change them if you like!

Yes, good offline use is a plus. We do have a downloadable version for offline use, but it is of limited use as you can’t choose the languages you want. We hope to address this soon.

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I am running various extensions and plugins in Firefox, but only third-party cookies disabled.

how cool is that? :smiley:

and neither - at least through Apple’s App Store - are they free and open-source.

Well, that’s probably it then. I don’t know much about this, but so far no-one else has reported this problem. Try white-listing the site and see how you go.

very cool indeed!

A certain percentage of the suttas have been released under a Creative Commons licence, namely, the ones we have here on SC. Despite lengthy negotiations I was unable to persuade them to release the rest, even when I offered to pay a licence fee. Hence my current project to do a complete set of new, free translations. Which, anyway, gives me a perfect excuse to do what I love doing!

Thank you - I might do that or I might just not worry about it. Whether I get “badges” is hardly an issue to me; I just thought it was interesting. I care more about controlling cookies.

Well I, for one, appreciate your efforts to persuade them. :anjal:

Hooray for that!! =)

Hi Bhante,

it would be great to have really extensive search functions. For example: search results including the word found in Pali compounds, or listing alternative inflections of a noun or verb, searching for combinations of words, for certain sentences, searching for similar words…

Perhaps a dictionary like PTS or CPD but with clickable links to relevant passages.

I have not tested this website too much so perhaps similar functions are already available here. But I guess that an App may be more powerful for these kind of things. This would be great for studying a certain topic or for finding other contexts to determine the meaning of a term.

Stuff like that. :slight_smile:

Hi Sunyo,

I’d suggest have a play around some more with the search on the website, we are doing some pretty cool things there, eg. see this: https://suttacentral.net/define/vesāli

As for linkifying the dictionaries, as it happens we have been discussing that in the past week. Other search issues can be seen here. We will revisit search from time to time, so suggestions we will considered.

As for a possible app, I haven’t had any experience, but my understanding is that it will be harder to build search for that. Online we run elasticsearch, which is a beautiful but ravenous beast, and I don’t think you can run it in an app. My guess is we’d have to use SQlite or something like that, which would be much less powerful. Or else we could run the searches through elasticsearch online, but then you lose offline functionality.

Google is introducing native app search in upcoming Android editions, so perhaps this would be the best solution.

In any case, I think we’re less and less likely to build an app as time goes on. I get the feeling that the age of the app is passing. If an app gets built, I think it will be by a third party.

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As a partly related point, there has been discussion on this point in the Discourse community, and they are beta testing an iOS app. Note that the defining purpose of this for Discourse is push notifications, which is irrelevant for a static site like SC.

However, when it has matured a little, and is available on Android, we might look at making Discourse apps available, if there is interest.

Something I do with my kindle versions of Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translations is scribble lots of notes when I listen to sutta classes. I’ve got all sorts of little abbreviations for different ideas from different teachers. However there’s no easy way for me to collate my notes or link them to the recordings. I don’t know if this is something other SC users do, but I find it helps because I am more of a visual and auditory learners.

I like that people are linking to talks via discourse in the AV section but they aren’t always tagged with the relevant suttas.

This isn’t really app specific but just how I’d like to use SC.

  • notes (probably private, possibly shareable)
  • links to AV (and maps)
  • offline mode (which I use Evernote for currently)
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They don’t need to be tagged, as long as the proper SC ID is included somewhere in the post: title, body, or tag, we link them all. If you see a sutta missing, just add it as a comment!

This is something we may be able to offer in the future. It is very much a cutting edge web technology. We discuss it here. However it will have to wait until my translations have finished (because that will give us a robust set of IDs to attach notes to.)

The AV links are there already. As for maps, is there anything specifically you were thinking? I’d like to extend our mapping service, but we don’t have any concrete ideas.

You can download and use offline. But some functionality, like search, is not available. We are currently rewriting our backend, and one of the goals is to be able to select languages for download/offline use. Having said which, the reality is that, for better or for worse, the reach of the internet is rapidly expanding, and as it does so the use cases for offline apps shrink accordingly.

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