Why I Like NewsGator

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Date: Wednesday, February 15th, 2006, 08:44
Category: Software

I’ve been using dozens of various RSS and Atom readers and aggregators lately. This is in no small part because it has been a requirement these days, and where I was once happy with NetNewswire Lite I have had to use various web-based, mobile, and even a few Windows (!!) readers.
Like many of you, I don’t have just one computer. I want to read my feeds on a Mac or two at home, a Mac at the office, a company-supplied Thinkpad, or my SE P910 smartphone. So it really doesn’t make any sense to use a desktop client unless I want to keep reading the same things over and over again.
So I’ve focused a lot on the web-based readers out there, and what follows is my short tale of discovery on what is out there, and why I like NewsGator Online so much.
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I’ve been using dozens of various RSS and Atom readers and aggregators lately. This is in no small part because it has been a requirement these days, and where I was once happy with NetNewswire Lite I have had to use various web-based, mobile, and even a few Windows (!!) readers.
Like many of you, I don’t have just one computer. I want to read my feeds on a Mac or two at home, a Mac at the office, a company-supplied Thinkpad, or my SE P910 smartphone. So it really doesn’t make any sense to use a desktop client unless I want to keep reading the same things over and over again.
So I’ve focused a lot on the web-based readers out there, and what follows is my short tale of discovery on what is out there, and why I like NewsGator Online so much.
Bloglines
I used to love Bloglines. I didn’t mind that its interface was a little weird and I didn’t even mind that Ask Jeeves picked ‘em up in a stroke of brilliance. Good for them! Bloglines was one of the first and manages to still lead in several areas.
Bloglines as an application is pretty nice. It does a lot of really cool things, such as letting you author your own weblog, from right there in the reader. I also like how easy it is to publish a list of your favorite subscriptions though I have a hard time exporting my list via OPML unless I’m using Firefox. I reloaded, logged out, reloaded, logged in and still couldn’t get to that option in Safari. Weird.
Bloglines also has a lot of third party widgetry and gadgets to make it more accessible, which is nice but doesn’t really do much other than harass you about all your unread items. As if I could possibly read them all and ever make the flashing, throbbing insanity cease.
Google Reader
I really wanted to like this application, but I just don’t see how I can.
Question: What are two things any good web-based newsreader should have?
Answer: A mobile interface and the ability to search your feeds.
Google lacks both. That’s right: Google Reader lacks the ability to search your feeds. It seems completely simple and I don’t know why they don’t offer it. I really don’t care, either, since the lack of a mobile interface to it just soils the whole experience. I can’t rely on a service that is only available to Ajaxified web browsers on desktops.
It doesn’t even bother me that Google Reader is a little heavy on the eye-candy. Really I don’t find it bad at all, and I like the scrolly bit and the ability to use vi(1) keys to navigate. Its handy, and really easy to surf through things.
But the Googlesque “Search, don’t sort!” method doesn’t work when you can’t search your own pile of feeds. You can search the web, or you can search for feeds. I find that this severely limits the usability of Google Reader.
NewsGator
You know, I was a little apprehensive. But they bought NetNewswire, so they’re not dummies. A coworker told me I should check them out and I thought it was going to be a travesty but in all honesty I really liked it.
Their UI is clean, and not fuzzy and cartoonish, the Ajax-y bits are gracefully used to organize items into folders or to rearrange things, which is perfectly appropriate.
NewsGator also lets you setup custom search feeds, which you can do for free elsewhere and subscribe to inside of NewsGator of course, but they may do a better job. I haven’t played around with it enough to make a decision there.
NewsGator also lets you visually see how many items are in each folder waiting your perusal, similar to Bloglines.
The mobile piece of NewsGator is interesting though. They don’t give it away for free, so you have to sign up for service. That may seem a bit lame, but you do get an extra email feed (yeah, NewsGator lets you have a POP account to POP feeds for whatever reason, I still haven’t figured out why I’d do that) and those fancy custom searches and some other mojo for a pretty modest fee.
Personally, I kind of like paying a few bucks because then I don’t feel like a schmuck when I ask for an upgrade, such as the one I asked for today.
NewsGator’s mobile edition is nice. You can pick what feeds get populated on your mobile device, as you’d expect (in case you have high-priority news you want to see there, for example) but they don’t make you tap in a username and password! They give you a goofy URL based on a PIN you choose, and you just open that URL up in your browser of choice.
I like that even though I have checked off “mark as read,” in the web interface when I even see the articles, in NewsGator Mobile its an option to make them read. That really is smart behavior. I’m more likely to walk away, switch apps, or pocket the darned thing when its my mobile, and miss articles and notifications because of it.
As for my feature request. I have requested that NewsGator Mobile have a widget on posts in the mobile side to access save/clip when I’m mobile.
I don’t know why they omitted it, and it was really my only complaint. The service is way fast and has been totally reliable in the week I’ve used it so far, but they didn’t remember that when you’re on a mobile device, you don’t want to download that podcast!
And as a nice side effect, I can clip/save an article I want to read in-depth later and mark the rest as read. This lets me sift and cycle through a bunch of crap, flag the things I want to pay more attention to later, turning idle time into triage. I’m usually not super focused on what I’m doing when I’m glancing at my mobile.
All told, I’m really happy with NewsGator and I wish I had given them a shot earlier. I don’t really care about their Outlook do-dads and such but their web offering is top notch and their mobile solution is good but could be getting better if more people beat on it and provide some guidance to the developer team.
I have been using NewsGator mobile on Opera Mini, Opera, and the standard P910 “Internet” browser (WAP2.0/XHTML). By the way, Opera Mini is pretty sweet. It skunks “fat Opera” on my handsets.
In case you want to pile on my request, my feature request ticket number is 52846. The more, the merrier.
Originally posted here.

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