I’ve been using RSS Bandit as my RSS reader since February, and have been quite happy with it. However, I started getting read errors that I reported on the RSS Bandit forums, and after 6 messages back and forth, the errors remain unresolved. I’m quite a bit behind on my reading, so I like to keep a long history of RSS feeds, and unexplained interruptions are annoying. After a week of not getting resolution, I started shopping around for another Windows-based RSS reader again.
One feature that makes moving from one reader to another relatively simple is OPML. Export the list of subscriptions from one package, and import them into another. There’s a few complications that make moving from one package to another less than completely straightforward, that I’ll describe further below. Here’s a trace of my reasoning for selection, based on a process of elimination.
|RSS Bandit v.188.8.131.52||GreatNews 1.0 Beta (Build 370)||RSSOwl 1.2.1||Feedreader 3.05||Abilon 2.5.3 build 196p|
|OPML||Export and import||Export and import||Export and import||Export and import||Export and import|
|Tolerates Blogspot Atom 0.3 errors with Microsoft tags||No||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
OPML: In theory, the ability to import and export OPML means that it should be easy to move from one RSS reader to another, if something doesn’t work out. In practice, this turns out to not quite be true. I had 2 levels of folders in RSS Bandit, and trying to import that into other packages didn’t work that well. One level of folders seems to be okay, so thinking flat has merit.
Tolerates Blogspot Atom 0.3 errors with Microsoft tags: Now that Blogger does RSS 2.0, it’s a bit moot about whether an author chooses to use Microsoft Word as an editor or not, resulting in Atom 0.3 non-compliant feeds. However, this symptom speaks to a greater issue about whether a developer is responsive to practices-in-use, or prefers to stick with standards as written. In the world of browsers, web page writers are always checking that content works on IE, Firefox (and even Safari), so it’s annoying, but the alternative of telling web users what packages they should use is not very helpful. Thus, from my list, I eliminated RSS Bandit (which I actually liked a lot) and RSSOwl.
|GreatNews 1.0 Beta (Build 370)||Feedreader 3.05||Abilon 2.5.3 build 196p|
|Ongoing development and support||Active||Active||Dead|
Ongoing support and development: RSSOwl has a pretty active open source community, so it’s too bad that I eliminated it on the above grounds. RSS Bandit has had a history of active development, but the key resources seem to have been busy for quite a while, so updates have been recently been slow. Abilon was written up by PC World, and is downloadable from their site, but the original site of abilon.org is no more. The developers have moved on. If Abilon was really a killer package with features way beyond the others, then I might consider it. Abilon would do the job, but the lack of any future support worries me, so I eliminated it from the final choices. Although GreatNews and FeedReader don’t appear to have large developer communities, they are signs of continuing development..
|GreatNews 1.0 Beta (Build 370)||Feedreader 3.05|
|Notifications and alerts||Refreshes can be set feed-by-feed||Refreshes can be set feed-by-feed|
|Look-and-feel||Buttons readily at hand||Cleaner interface, options hidden|
Notifications and alerts: It doesn’t take long to refresh even a long list of feeds, but sometimes I just don’t think about my RSS reader, so it’s good to prompt me on certain feeds that I consider more important. In RSS Bandit, it was possible to set the refresh rates at the folder level, and all of the contained feeds would inherit those periods. In both GreatNews and Feedreader, they’re set feed-by-feed, which is rather annoying, but not enough to stop me from using them.
Look-and-feel: This part is most subjective. I had gotten used to RSS Bandit’s layout flexibility — the ability to move the reading pane to the top, and button bars onto the right side. Feedreader hides most of its options behind the menus, whereas GreatNews surfaces the options, and there’s more options available. As one example, the size of the panes in Feedreader can be adjusted by dragging the borders. GreatNews has the additional feature that clicking on the centre border instantly maximizes the reading pane. GreatNews just feels like a package with an interface that a frequent user would build … not that Feedreader couldn’t get there some day.
For now, the winner … by a nose … is GreatNews. It’s possible that this could change over time, and using an OPML export and import makes moving from one to the other somewhat easier. Going through a long list and resetting refresh rates one by one is enough to deter me from making the switch back-and-forth with any frequency.
Now that I’ve used GreatNews for some time, there’s two features that I miss from RSS Bandit.
These may or may not be features on someone else’s priority lists, but for now, I’m pretty happy.
daviding July 1st, 2006
Posted In: web technologies