My New Software


Like all of us, I get into routines. Especially when it comes to viewing news and weblogs. Where our parents had their morning newspaper, I make a cup of espresso, set Alex up with TellyTubbies and sit down in front of my news aggregator and check up on what's been written in the past 8 hours or so since I went to sleep.

Well, like I wrote last night, I've just switched apps and it's a whole new world. It's not a radical change by any stretch - from Mozilla to Thunderbird/Firebird isn't that much of a leap - but I also started using a different aggregator as well. So this morning *feels different*. It's a little exciting, actually! It's a little spice and change added to a constant routine and it's refreshing.

First Firebird was a pretty easy swap as all I copied over was my bookmarks.html file over from the Moz installation. I have to go through and re-add all my passwords to sites, etc. and right-click on advertisements again and choose "block images from this server". But this is stuff I can do as I go, so it's no big deal (as long as I remember the passwords!) After installing that awesome Tabs extension plug in I wrote about the other day, it works better than ever. And it's *fast*.

Thunderbird was a bit more of a challenge as there's *no import* from Mozilla! Why? I have no idea. I'm sure it'll come with time, however. So that meant I had to copy over my emails from my Moz Application Data directory with it's weird "security through obscurity" directory names, move them over to the newly created Thunderbird directory and then edit the prefs.js file. It took me a couple tries to get it right, but it wasn't a big deal as there was a pretty basic section of the FAQ on the Thunderbird site which goes over how to do all this. Thunderbird isn't bad and has some advantages over MozMail (integrated spell check).

Okay, so last night I tried out NewzCrawler, FeedDemon and Clever Cactus. They all have their advantages (which I was writing about in real time on #mobitopia). First I exported my feeds from nntp//rss and then massaged the XML it produces into a valid OPML file so that other apps could import it, then I installed the others and played.

First on the list was NewzCrawler as it is the preferred aggregator of the amazing Link Czar, Erik Thauvin. It handles his 1600+ feeds he peruses daily and allows him to post via the Blogger API to his website. I tried out the trial, and it was the same as the last time I tried it. It's okay, but it likes to open stuff up in its own browser a lot, even though I told it to use my preferred browser. Since it costs cash and I didn't like it enough over the others to shell out, I decided against it.

FeedDemon is second, and it's pretty great. I liked its slick UI and the little balloon that popped up with new feeds. I also like how I can make it show only new feeds in each "channel" so that I can see the new stuff without cruft. It's also fast and respects my browser settings, so each click opens up a new tab in Firebird (which I told to *never* open a separate window, ever, via the tab controls extension). It runs in my task bar, so it's out of my hair until I want it, and in generaly it's just really slick to use. If it could *only* have one more view, it would be perfect. It makes an HTML "newspaper" of the new links in a group for you, but doesn't just list all the new links. It'd be *awesome* to just go to one folder where all the new links from all the feeds where listed so you could just click-click-click and read the news without looking for updated feeds on the left.

And that's where Diego's java-based Clever Cactus shines. It pretty much does exactly that. All your feeds go in, and they all arrive in the same "space". As the feeds get updated, they just float to the top of that space. It's *very* nice and is 95% of what I want. I gave Diego some real-time feature requests to make Cactus the ultimate aggregator and I'm sure he'll add them to the list. Cactus does have some drawbacks because of its Swing heritage: No Anti-aliasing (Cleartype). That's a *real* deal breaker for me as it looks jarring when you're used to seeing everything nice and smooth to going back to the jaggies. Diego's got that on his list as well.

So in the end I'm going with FeedDemon for now because it's just really well done. I'd much rather have a cross-platform solution, so when FeedDemon comes out of Beta, I'll re-evaluate it again before I pony up the cash.

So anyways, it was really nice to sit down this morning and see all my feeds coming in my new aggregator. It's much better organized than the news reader in Moz/Thunderbird and the experience is just that touch more efficient when reading or editing feeds. And all the links opened up seamlessly in the background in Firebird waiting for the second pass through the stories that really interested me. And as I'm writing this, I got a little bubble that popped up and told me some sites I like have been updated as well. Perfect!

/me smiles at his new app setup.

Okay, too much time on IRC, I know.


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