BDReader displays comics by panel...sometimes

BDReader200-175BDReader is a comic book viewer with ambition. It doesn’t just zoom to page width and wait for you to scroll: the program also supports “panel view”, which uses computer vision technology to detect the panels in a page, and display them in order. at the maximum possible size for your page.

There are one or two other comic readers which try to do the same thing, but they’re typically commercial products for tablets. Can an open source Windows tool really compete? We grabbed a copy to find out.

BDReader can open PDF, CBR and CBZ files, but its core viewer is extremely basic. Click Left/ Right or scroll the mouse wheel to scroll the current page, use the Up/ Down arrows to jump a page at a time, and that’s about it. There’s no variable zoom, no Pg Up/ Pg Dn or Home/ End support, no "jump to page" option, no "remember the last page you’ve read": nothing at all.

The developer had presumably spent all his time on the panel view, so we switched to that, opened a copy of the Walking Dead, and it worked very well. Apart from opening with a full page, for some reason, we were lead through every other page, from panel to panel, with no problems at all.

Was this a fluke? We tried a few others, and the results weren’t as good. While there were some other successes, for the most part, "Panel Mode" worked intermittently or not at all.

This isn’t a great surprise. The Walking Dead’s monochrome look and clean layout makes it relatively easy to detect what’s going on. Complex full colour pages with overlapping panels and no clear borders are far more of a challenge, and the fact that BDReader could work with them even occasionally is a plus.

The program clearly has a very long way to go. It needs proper navigation, better zoom control, some configuration options, maybe the ability to tune the computer vision component for a particular comic. That doesn’t have to be complicated: just view a preview page, adjust some sliders and see any detected panels highlighted.

BDReader does have some promise, though, and even a few basic additions could improve it significantly. Try it now if you’re a Walking Dead reader, otherwise wait a couple of releases and then take a look.

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