Friday, October 20, 2006

Qwest for Good Free RSS Readers

A few things in this world are really free AND excellent. In the world of software, free mostly means poor quality or perhaps ad-driven - a catch somewhere. In my search for a good RSS reader, I came across several unmentionables, but here are a few that are free and good (except for the issues I mention against them). It is definately true that no free software is perfect!
  1. FeedReader: version 2.90. No simple way to delete headline you just read/don't want. Usually hitting the 'Delete' key takes care of it, but even the right-click popup menu doesn't have a delete option. You are stuck with what gets downloaded until the application purges it. Secondly, dates are displayed unconventionally such as "20:00 19.10." to mean 10pm Oct-19 (hopefully 2006?).
  2. RssReader: version This was was just plain weird. For example, if you selected a headline, it shows that headline's summary in the browser pane (which is okay). Now if you 'Delete' the headline, the next headline automatically selected shows summaries of ALL headlines in the feed! In addition, feeds are organized under an unsightly 'My Feeds' directory which cannot be renamed. [We know these are your feeds ...]. The program doesn't allow you to create new top-level feed groupings to make things worse.
  3. Awasu Personal Edition: crashed as soon as I started it!
  4. HeadlineViewer: crashed every time I tried to delete categories (of feeds).
This short list shows the kind of readers you might come across on a typical search. The observations made are from using each application for less than 10 minutes. 10 minutes is enough time for an average user to accept a program; needless to say, I won't be using the above. The ones that crashed might just be unstable on my operating system (Windows Server 2003 SP1) or version of Internet Explorer (v7), as I didn't see them listed in support pages.
I've been using SharpReader (v0.9.7) for a while now, and I liked it until I began getting scripting problems. Pages that use ActiveX would encounter errors and you'd find yourself responding to several popups notifying you of script errors. Because I have debugger tools installed, it also attempted to 'debug' by opening Visual Studio. Non-programmer users will not appreciate this kind of functionality. Additionally, there's no way to suppress browser errors that happen within the context of the reader.
I highly recommend RSS Bandit (v1.3.0.42), which I started using a few days ago. This is so far the best of the bunch. It's clean and easy to use, and Windows users will like the Outlook lokk and feel. I also like the tabbing feature that allows you to view full stories separate from the headline/preview pane. It even keeps headlines you have deleted in a 'Deleted Items' folder just in case the deletion was a mistake. It's all-around the best reader I have encountered after toying with over 13 RSS readers.
One thing to remember is that all the [Windows] readers so far rely on Internet Explorer, and do not offer a means to change the default browser engine used. I'm a Firefox guy, and this irks me.
Also, a lot of readers come with predefined feeds. HeadlineViewer, for example, came with 738 feeds! Who in the world reads all those?
My reader of choice reads news feeds, blogs, secure sites, emails, and library archives. RSS Bandit even allows you to search amongst the headlines you have, and to bookmark headlines. How nice ... Best of all, this is a product of open-source software development - even more proof that proprietary software may one day cease to be the de facto development platform.
There's plenty of readers you can pay for as well, but I didn't care to review them. Prices are in the $30-$50 range. These likely add enterprise features not exactly avaialble in the free versions. If you hunger for information less than me, there's no need to buy anything.

1 comment:

Jeff Caylor said...

Jubz: Have you tried Netvibes? It's what I use. It's web based so you can dial it up from any computer and it's very user friendly. They've opened the API, so people are writing modules for it every day. I'm a fan.