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Possible NetNewsWire feature

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 23, 2002

Although NetNewsWire is a very smooth piece of OS X software, I haven’t been using it much. I finally figured out why this morning after downloading and trying out the new version.

NetNewsWire works just like most email clients with a 3-pane setup: feeds/folders on the left, headlines/subjects lines in the upper right, and the summary/preview in the lower right. But I skim news like I skim weblogs or Google search results, not like I read email. I want the headline and the summary all in one shot…I need more than just the headline to decide if I’m interested in reading the full story and clicking through all the headlines is a bit tedious. Here’s a quick mockup I did in Photoshop so you can see what I’m talking about. Perhaps a future version of NNW could have an option to toggle between 2-pane and 3-pane views to cover multiple reading preferences.

Reader comments

Steven GarrityAug 23, 2002 at 1:03PM

Makes sense. We Windows users are still waiting for a good RSS reader.

AdamdAug 23, 2002 at 1:04PM

You should take a look at AmphetaDesk http://www.disobey.com/amphetadesk/
That gives the title and small blurb.

SteveAug 23, 2002 at 2:23PM

Ya, that works much better. I like NetNewsWire but I find it tedious to click a headline in the top pane and then click it again in the bottom one to see the full article.

And what’s with those sites that include headlines but no descriptions? Stupid.

rickAug 23, 2002 at 2:32PM

I actually use Radio for my news reader, but AmphetaDesk is a great free one for windows. The reason that made me plop down $40 for Radio was that it remembers which posts I’ve already read in a feed. I don’t need to see every post if I scan my feeds every hour…

HewliganAug 23, 2002 at 2:37PM

Actually, I prefer it the way it is. I use NetNewsWire as a full blown replacement for my browser, when I can. I prefer the titles in one pane with the full text in another (if I select the title). Why? Well, because I like to read the entire story in NNW. I don’t use it to jump to a browser, hopping back and forth between NNW and IE (for example). Instead I work through NNW and all of my subscriptions on it, and then, once I am finished my morning reading, I will follow up any of the links that interested me on my browser.

Still, nice mock up :)

Steven GarrityAug 23, 2002 at 3:04PM

I’ve tried Amphetadesk - and I don’t really like it. I’d rather something that takes advantage of being a real windows-app rather that using the browser (like NetNewsWire does as a native OSX app). Radio is a really cool app too, but I’m not going to run the whole thing just to read news feeds.

Part of what makes a format like RSS great is that is doesn’t have to be delivered in HTML - you can write a desktop app that takes advantage of your OS GUI.

I’ll keep waiting.

judsonAug 23, 2002 at 4:38PM

Yea, clicking is tedious, but NNW can use the arrow keys and you can fly through the news like a champ :P i wouldn’t be opposed to that new set-up, but i probably wouldn’t use it. not many places give such long summaries either…

BenAug 23, 2002 at 6:56PM

I have just started using OS X and wish that the NetNewsWire reader had a all in one panel like Ampthetadesk on Windows but without the need install all the bits and pieces.

Additionally, the ability to read RSS feeds offline would be perfect.

Sitting on the tram last night I found that NetNewsWire hung and didn’t like being booted up without a live connection.

There are many times where I’d like to “sync” the RSS feeds and scan them while traveling.

SimonAug 24, 2002 at 4:49AM

For a really cool Windows RSS reader, try NewzCrawler (shareware).

I tried a lot of different apps before settling on this, and so far I haven’t found any major flaws in it. It has a nice interface, lots of room for customization, is feature-rich and seems fairly stable (at least on XP Pro - it crashes every once in a while on my home pc, which runs WinME).

Steven GarrityAug 24, 2002 at 8:21AM

Bam! Exactly what I was looking for, Simon. Thanks. NewzCrawler is a slick little program that doesn’t try to reinvented the GUI - which is nice for a change. Thanks.

adamAug 24, 2002 at 12:27PM

Jason, I find that the feeds themselves are more responsible than the clients for this problem — quite a few don’t send summaries at all.

I haven’t tried NewzCrawler, but I became pretty happy with AmphetaDesk once I installed the AmphetaOutlines hack template. It remembers which articles you’ve read (and hides them), has a collapsible view, and has plenty of other features. (Plus, according to the AmphetaDesk newsfeed [RSS link], it will probably be included as the default template in future AD releases.)

jkottkeAug 24, 2002 at 12:34PM

Brent Simmons, the programmer behind NetNewsWire, writes:

“I intend to add this feature, but I’m not sure yet if it will be Pro-only or if it will appear in the Lite version but after 1.0 ships.”

Rahul DaveAug 24, 2002 at 9:53PM

I wonder how an email client with this feature would be like…ie extract the first few lines of the email and show it there, for the new emails that came in in each folder. A toggle could switch back to all emails mode..

Steven GarrityAug 25, 2002 at 7:04AM

Rahul Dave: Outlook 2002 can do this. Choose AutoPreview from the View menu. Here’s a screenshot of my Junk Mail folder in this view. It seems like a good idea, but I’ve never really used it. I think it’s because I skim weblogs and news sites, but I have to read all of my incomming mail.

Tom CoatesAug 26, 2002 at 11:37AM

I think one of the most interesting aspects of this whole debate was the statement that someone made about how the RSS reader had replaced much of their regular browsing - and the statement by another person that they wished they could sync it with a palm pilot or something similar. I know that RSS isn’t really designed to hold the full text of a site, and that services like Blogger and Moveable Type have been rather working against this ideal situation, but it seems to me that they’ve got very good points -> I too use NetNewsWire as a combined app for reading everything online as an update monitor. I too wish it could sync with a Palm pilot so I could read things on the road.

Perhaps this is one of those times when we all realise that the potential uses for an adaptation of the technology exceed what people designed it for. RSS feeds are the palm-friendly templates that we’ve never all designed for, they’re the truly cross-platform designs for the site that open up issues of accessibility for people using alternative readers because of blindness.

Here’s a call then - let’s get everyone RSSing themselves up the Wazoo - and encourage everyone to put the full text of their posts into it as well. These feeds seemed frivolous once, but now they’re looking to me more like a new piece of infrastructure - the stuff that lies under the surface of the sites we build - sites that are beautiful and interesting, but which remain resolutely combined blocks of form and content fused together. For all time…

rasterAug 27, 2002 at 8:39AM

Hmmm, that gives me an idea. Create an app that reads in RSS feeds, and builds really simple html pages out of them, with a master index page. You can then create an AvantGo channel and sync them with your handheld device. (The app will have to live on a server that AvantGo can reach though, not your desktop.)

StephenAug 27, 2002 at 9:00AM

I’ve said it elsewhere, but I’d really go for an RSS reader that was just a toolbar in Internet Explorer and would generate a page within the browser of the latest interesting stuff. I don’t want to have to deal with another application at all. Just something that fits in with my normal web browsing, ahem, ‘workflow’.

ChristianAug 27, 2002 at 11:18PM

Doesn’t OutlookXpress has this feature included for free?

JoshAug 30, 2002 at 5:25AM

Another great Windows newsreader for Windows is Feedreader.

JoshAug 30, 2002 at 5:27AM

Sorry URL correction from above http://www.feedreader.com

RoSep 08, 2002 at 8:23AM

jkottke - I agree. I like your mock up. Uses the KISS principle: Keep it simple.

TravisNov 05, 2002 at 9:19AM

Raster somebody beat you to making a website to parse RSS… it’s at http://www.daypop.com

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.

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